Recording iChat or Skype on the Macintosh

As a fair weather participant in PodcastMN — a Minnesota-based group of podcasters — I answered a question on the listserv today about Skype or iChat recording that I realized would make a good post others might find useful and yes, this is Mac-centric since I no longer use a PC except when needed via Parallels.

I’ve used both Skype and iChat extensively for interview or conferencing/project scenarios and have recorded them both (even using their respective video capabilities…but that’s another post topic). Two ways I’ve found to be optimal for audio recording:

1) The easy way is with Audio Hijack Pro (AHP) or Wiretap. I’ve had the best success with AHP so that is my recommendation. They have set up a no-brainer quick Skype or iChat recording function and have detailed a how-to on their web site (and you can also download a demo so you can try it out first).

There are other software solutions (like CallRecorder) but they’re limited and you won’t be able to grow with them as you get better. The kicker with AHP is that as you grow and become more sophisticated in what you want to accomplish, the software has deep and highly functional capabilities that you can spend hours playing with to get a more perfect sound and geek-out with routing audio signals!

2) Setting up a “mix minus” from your mixer or Firewire/USB box so that you can record the iChatters or Skypers on one channel and you on the other channel so you can fix any problems or normalize audio levels in post production. My preference is to record *both* an internal recording on my Mac with AHP *and* a backup recording out to my M-Audio Microtrack to make certain I’ve captured it and there are no hiccups. Saved my bacon twice when doing sessions for one of my clients earlier this year.

By the way, I’ve set up a new user account on my Mac called “clean user” just for audio recording. The only thing that runs is AHP and either iChat or Skype so NOTHING else is running and interfering with the recording process. I also open Activity Monitor (in your Utilities folder…hit Command-1 after launching it to open a list of your current running processes) to make sure that some system-wide process isn’t running that’s eating up CPU time or causing disk activity like a backup program that starts automatically.

Once you’ve done this stuff to set up recordings a couple of times, it literally takes just a few minutes to get up and running for recording. There have been times that I’ve started a recording session on-the-fly since someone has asked me to do so in a conference session and, since I’ve done it several times, I don’t even think much about it anymore since the workflow is ingrained in my brain.

The audio guru Doug Kaye has three excellent posts on Skype recording — with the first two telling you how to setup a mix-minus for (either iChat or) Skype recording — with his latest post being fabulous if you want to get REALLY great Skype recording without those annoying digital “hiccups” — since the two of you will have an incentive to tweak your own networks and connections to get better-n-better results:

a) Interviews via Skype

b) Interviews via Skype revisited

c) Recording Skype interviews

NOTE: for those of you wanting to explore Skype recording software solutions, here is a great page.

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1 Comment

  1. APV on August 31, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Hey Steve,
    I want to thank you for your email about a month ago concerning the state of newspapers online. I wanted to get that conversation going, but being an intern my time is not usually my own. I’ve got about half my response put together…

    In the mean time I keep reading your blog and thought I’d share my recent post on the topic of recording Skype calls: http://audiophotovideo.typepad.com/aaron_paul_vogel/2007/08/fantastic-freew.html

    It seems that every discussion about this topic I’ve found never includes this amazing little piece of software called Soundflower (http://www.cycling74.com/products/soundflower) from Cycling ’74. It basically is a software version of the hardware hacks others have been using.

    In short it redirects the output from one program to the inputs of another. You set your Skype (or iChat) output to Soundflower then set your input in your audio recording software (Garageband if you’re on a Mac is pretty good, or Quicktime Pro or even Audacity I think). Bingo, that’s it. I talk about the two different setups I’ve used it for in my post, but it’s definitely something you should guys should check out.

    Now… back to that email conversation…



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