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How To Record Genealogy Interviews With Relatives From Around The World
Today’s computer’s and technology makes it easy to record, edit and publish interviews with relatives from around the world without you having to travel all over the place to get them. Although this article will focus on a Macintosh solution, the same principals can be applied to Windows. You just need to find the proper software. Although I am fluent in using a PC, I work as much as I can on my Mac because it makes is easier to do creative stuff like this. If anybody knows of the Windows tools needed to accomplish the same thing, let me know and I’ll update this article. I’ve heard of PC users using Hot Recorder and Powergramo and Skylook, but since I have never use them, I don’t feel comfortable recommending them.
Most people will feel more comfortable talking over the telephone than sitting in person with a camera shoved in their face. So with this technique, you should be able to obtain a more genuine and natural response to your interview questions. But there are a few general guidelines you should use so that you can remain friendly with your relatives and get a great genealogical interview permanently recorded.
Always call in advance of the interview to let them know what you are attempting to accomplish and be sure to obtain their permission to record them.
Prepare your interview questions in advance. You may want to consider giving them to the relative in advance so they look things up.
During the interview, keep your interview questions in clear view, on the top of your desk so it’s at your fingertips when you need it.
Clear the room - evict the kids and the pets. Turn off the stereo and the TV. Close the door.
Be sure to clearly ask you rehearsed questions and then sit back and listen.
Don’t interrupt or interject. Avoid saying things like “hmmmm”, or “that’s interesting”. If you ask the questions correctly the person at the other end of the phone will likely go on for several minutes without interruption.
Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink while recording.
Do keep a glass of water handy, in case you need to wet your mouth.
Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
Avoid heavy breathing that may be picked up by your microphone
So now that you are familiar withsome general interview guidelines, what hardware and software will you need?
1. A Personal Computer.
Any modern computer will do (remember, the software below is Mac only). Audio recording works best when there is plenty of free RAM (Random Access Memory). While most people spend lots of extra money beefing up their system with humongous hard drives, they often overlook the sometimes more important aspect of having enough RAM. I don’t have any computers with less than 1 GB of RAM. You may be able to use less, but it all depends on a bunch of variables including; how many applications are running? What other system process are running? In most cases, audio recordings are stored in memory using RAM and only written to disk when saved. So if you spend 45 minutes recording someone, the whole thing is stored temporarily in RAM until you choose to save it to the disk. If you run out of memory at 30 minutes, you likely just crashed your computer and lost the interview. The good news is that audio recordings are generally small when compare to video so you may be able to get away with less RAM. Only testing will tell you for sure.
2. A Broadband Internet Connection.
Because we want the highest quality recordings possible, it is best to use a broadband connection. This includes most DSL, Cable, T-1 or fiber connections.
3. Skype Internet Telephony Software
Skype is software that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet. Calls to other users of the Skype service and to toll-free numbers are free, while calls to other landlines and mobile phones can be made for a small fee. In fact, a new subscription service lets you make unlimited landline calls in the US for as little as $2.95 per month. Chances are that you will need to call some of you relatives on their landline as they may not be as computer savvy as you. But don’t worry, it’s not expensive to do it this way. The interview will be well worth the cost. So be sure to buy some Skype credits so that you can call landlines (traditional phones). Of course, if they have Skype too, it will not cost you a penny!
4. A Tool To Record The Skype Conversation
Option One: Wiretap Anywhere ($129)
My favorite is a Mac program called Wiretap Anywhere. WireTap Anywhere is an advanced suite of components that lets you take the audio output from any Mac application or hardware input device and bring it into your favorite audio recording application for editing or publication. For instance, record both sides of a Skype or iChat conversation directly into Garage Band or Sound Edit for recording and editing. With WireTap Anywhere you grab the audio from specific applications, all system audio, any hardware input connected to your machine or any combination of the three and edit or mix them on separate audio channels!
Consider WireTap Anywhere as a virtual patch bay for your Mac. WireTap Anywhere does not do any recording by itself, but takes the functionality of the WireTap Studio (below) source menu and adds it to any application that has an input source menu. So any recording application can have the ability to record from any combination of application specific audio, all System audio, or any hardware device recognized as input in the Sound pane of the System Preferences. So with this solution, you do need software such as Garage Band or Quicktime to record the audio. Consider this a plugin to a audio editing application.
Option Two: WireTap Studio ($69)
WireTap Studio (by the same makers of WireTap Anywhere) is a professional audio recording, editing, and management solution, allowing you to manage and manipulate your audio. Discretely record from a specific application, record all of your Mac system audio simultaneously, or even record from any hardware/line-in device of your choice. After recording, you can edit your clips with WireTap Studio’s completely lossless editor. Lossless master recording technology enables you to edit your recorded audio without any loss of quality or content. Come back days, months, or even years later and undo the changes you’ve made. With this solution, it does do all the recording for you. No other recording software is required.
Option Three:Ecamm’s Call Recorder ($14.95)
Call Recorder is the easiest and least expensive way to record Skype calls and interviews. Call Recorder is an add-on for Skype which automatically transforms your audio or video calls into QuickTime movies. I think the quality may be a little less than the two solutions above, but for most people, it should be more than acceptable. Calls are recorded with each side of the conversation isolated on a separate sound track for easy editing. Call Recorder makes it easy convert your QuickTime movies into MP3 files. Simply drag a recorded QuickTime movie to the “Convert to MP3″ icon and it will create an instant MP3 file out of your movie, which can then be emailed or posted to a website.
5. A USB Headset
I strongly recommend using a USB headset on your end to improve quality and prevent feedback. While it is possible to get a quality interview without one, it does make testing a heck of a lot more important if you choose not to use one. I have a variety of headsets and/or microphones I use, but the most convenient is the Logitech ClearChat Pro USB Headset. It sells for about $40 at Amazon.com
Armed with these tools, you are no longer confined to in-person interviews. Now you can call across the country or around the world and interview your relatives. So don’t wait until it is too late! Don’t think it’s OK to wait until next years trip to Ireland to get that much desired interview with Aunt Mary. Use the technology that is in-front of you every day to create a permanent genealogical record of your family!