In keeping with the spirit of our tight-knit community, we’re bringing users together to help each other out with podcasting, sharing their best advice and tips. Power users will be providing you with detailed tutorials on how to use different features and options with Spreaker. Starting us off is David Smalley of Dogma Debate, offering us a thorough guide on how he uses Skype with Spreaker.
Volumes all over the place? Are you terrified of Skype ruining your next show? Do you want to know how you can take live calls during your broadcast? You’ve landed in the right place.
From a guy who started a podcast in 2008 with two X-Box Headsets and three listeners, and now has a full studio with more than a quarter-million downloads, I’ve taken some lumps that I’ll try to save you from. Here’s a summary for those looking for quick answers like I do when I’m troubleshooting:
- Get a mixer (Mackie ProFX8~$240)
- Have Skype separated on a dedicated computer, then into the mixer
- Uncheck the “automatically adjust my volume” setting that is visible during Skype calls
- You now have 5 volumes to adjust
- Mixer Out – to the computer so your guest can hear you
- Mixer In – from the Skype computer so you can hear your guest
- The Skype Mic volume that you can adjust during the call
- The Skype Speaker volume that you can adjust during the call
- The main volume on the dedicated computer for Skype
- Upgrade your Internet upload speed to at least 10mbps
- Get a Skype call in-number for $12 and ask a friend to screen calls then transfer to your Skype
- Set your Skype to auto answer incoming calls and disable sounds
- Test. Test. Test. Test.
Now for some background.
Skype has probably been the greatest gift offered by the broadcasting gods, yet at times also seems like the most horrendous curse ever put on any broadcaster. When it works great, we love it, and when it doesn’t, well, we pull our hair out.
So today, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about broadcasting with Skype that will hopefully save you a lot of headaches.
First of all, if you’re serious about broadcasting a good quality show, get a mixer. A Mackie PROFX8 has a USB out (that goes into your broadcast laptop or pc) and only runs about $240 at Guitar Center, slightly more at other music equipment outlets.
The mixer is important because it stops the technologies from fighting one another. Skype loves to fight, and if we can put him in time-out, he behaves. It also runs better when it’s the only thing running on the computer. If you have it all on one machine, and you’re running Spreaker, iTunes, a web browser for research, Skype, and chat – you’re going to have problems with something. Skype is a sensitive app, and needs special care and attention.
The trick is, with a dedicated computer, install Skype, and close everything else. One cable goes from the Mixer Out – to the Mic In on the computer. That means what you are broadcasting also goes through the mixer and into the Skype conversation as your microphone. Then, you go from your Skype computer’s headphone or speaker jack out, to a channel on the mixer. (Mine is channel 4).
Now, I can use the slider on channel 4 to adjust the volume of the Skype guest, and the guest can hear me loud and clear. If the guest says you’re too loud or over-modulating, check your mixer output volume, and also check your Mic Volume setting on Skype, as well as your computer volume on the Skype dedicated machine.
The science here is that these technologies are smart enough to be dangerous. They want to automatically adjust themselves, and in a normal conversation setting, they work great. Skype wasn’t designed as a broadcast tool, so when we use it that way, we need to make some tweaks. That first tweak is to turn off the automatic adjustments.
During a test call, click the button that looks like mobile phone signal bars. Then, uncheck the automatic settings on the Microphone tab and the Speaker tab. Pull the volumes down just below halfway, set your Skype computer volume to halfway, and use the mixer to adjust volumes from there. The settings changed during the test call will be remembered for the next call.
I cannot stress enough, to test, test, and test. Your listeners will only tolerate so many technical issues before they bail. Getting it right is very important.
This one took me a while to figure out, but turns out to be quite an easy fix.
- Create two free Skype accounts
- Upgrade one account for $12 to get a Skype phone number
- Have someone you trust log in to that account during the show
- You log in to your account during the show
- Add each other to your respective Skype contacts
- Announce the new number to your listeners
- When a person calls the number, it rings your friend’s Skype
- Be sure to disable sounds on Skype
- It’s best if this person’s PC is not plugged into the show or mixer
- When the friend screens the call and is ready to put them through, they simply transfer the call to you
- Your Skype should be set up to “auto-answer” calls in the settings
- So, they call, your friend answers, your friend transfers, your Skype auto-answers
- Just like that, the caller is on hold, on your Skype computer, and can hear the show
- When you’re ready for them to talk, turn up the volume for their channel on the mixer
Great David, thanks so much!