In December Marjorie and I got up the gumption to approach Steve Sansweet for an interview, and we were shocked (shocked!) when he accepted. How to interview him became an issue.
I had been listening to a podcast called “Fan Audio Made Easy” by Nathan Butler, who I consider the godfather of Star Wars fan audio shows. He suggested using a speakerphone and a microphone. You point the microphone at the speakerphone and everyone uses one microphone, with the people keeping distance from the microphone to keep the volume levels even. That’s one option…but I know us and I just don’t think we’d be able to keep everything level. We had 70 minutes for the interview and I know we can’t stay hunched over for that full hour. Instead I decided to use Skype.
For those unfamiliar with Skype, it is an Europe-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service which allows us to get telephone calls to land lines using our computer. We set this up for our Voicemail after hearing it used by such podcasts as Geeks On and Star Wars Galaxies With Yivvits & Mr. Bubble. Because it’s internet based we were able to pick any available phone number, and we wanted one that ended in JEDI or SITH…we finally found one, but in the 415 area code. This is why you’re calling Northern California when you call US, even though we’re in Central IL. Isn’t the internet great?
Well, with Skype you pay for a year of voice mail, which we did. Outgoing calls are 0.02 euros per minute, bought in batches of 10 euros. It uses your computer’s sound card, so you speak into your microphone, while the outgoing audio goes out your computer’s speakers. It’s worked perfectly for our Voice Mail, even if the quality is not all it could be.
In December we started testing Skype with my wife calling me from her cell phone and me doing recording tests. I had hoped to do this all on one computer; since the audio is being recorded by and playing from one PC I thought I’d be able to record that audio internally on that PC using Steinberg WaveLab. Unfortunately, the same recording settings apply to WaveLab as apply to Skype. This means the person on Skype would talk, and it would play on my PC, but being recorded by my PC it would “echo” back to the person on the phone. This was quite noticeable and distracting…it would not work.
The next step seemed simple enough. I’m not just the best Internet radio show host this side of Hoth, I’m also a computer guy. I have four PCs hooked up literally within three yards of each other; a primary Windows XP box, a Windows 2003 server, and a Windows 98/DOS old game box, plus a Windows XP laptop. The Windows XP box (named Christine) is the primary computer on which all SWAN episodes are recorded. She also has Skype loaded. If she couldn’t both handle Skype and recording without the echo, we’d have to use one of the other PCs for recording.
I became excited by this idea, because Skype’s volume on the voice mails is often low. In addition, Marjorie and I have just been plugging into the same microphone input slot using a Y cable. I worked in radio with over 24 mixing channels, yet here I was using a Y cord and trying to balance each of our volumes through vocal modulation. This situation was perfect for me to get a mixing board, giving Marjorie and I each our own mixing channels for easier leveling. In addition, we can plug Christine into the mixing board and adjust the Skype volume so we seem to have a level volume the entire time. It was PERFECT.
I had hoped, in fact, to record to two or three different computers at once, that way if one suffered an OS crash midway through or some other recording anomaly I’d have a back-up. A few splitters should make that easy enough…