Foolproof Call Recording?
June 15, 2020 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I need to record a large conference call so that I can transcribe it later. What's the easiest, most rock solid way to do this? (Tech details below the fold)

I'm on a Pixel 3 running Android 10, but I also have access to a landline. My laptop is a MacBook Air running Catalina.

Audio only, format does not matter at ALL, quality only needs to be good enough for me to listen back to it and transcribe the call. Everyone involved will know they're being recorded.

If there's no easy way to do this via phone, I can use an app or cloud service of some kind. However, there will be at least 7 people on this call, which I know not everything supports, and not all of them are tech savvy so it would have to be dead simple.

We won't be able to do a dry run of this as a group, unfortunately, but I can practice on my own or with a friend.

Right now, my inclination is to put the call on speaker phone with the landline phone, record it with a voice memo app on my pixel, and just deal with the bad audio quality. (If I go that way, I could also record audio with my laptop as a backup.)

This is a one-time thing that I can't do over if I screw up, so it's ESSENTIAL that I end up with a complete recording.

Recs and guidance hugely appreciated, especially if you have a lot of experience with this sort of thing!
posted by Narrative Priorities to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
Are you using a conference call service? If so, I'd use their built-in recording function and then export it.
posted by Lexica at 3:13 PM on June 15, 2020

I'll second the conference call service idea. Before we switched to Zoom at work, we used GoTo meeting for conference calls, and that recorded audio.
posted by jonathanhughes at 3:23 PM on June 15, 2020

Zoom can record. audio calls. That's what i used when I needed to do this very thing.
posted by miles1972 at 3:25 PM on June 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Zoom can record a call and you can extract audio from that
posted by kokaku at 3:25 PM on June 15, 2020

I would say Zoom recording and then ALSO record with your phone as a backup.
posted by mekily at 3:34 PM on June 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Zoom + Otter for transcription. (Otter even transcribes in real time as the call is happening!)
posted by pinochiette at 3:59 PM on June 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

I did this recently at work, using Zoom's "record to the cloud" feature (it doesn't work if you record to your computer). Once the recording is over Zoom will create an audio recording in (I think) mp4 format and text a transcript in .vtt format. You can use a service like Subtitle Tools to convert .vtt into plain text, and then import that into Word for clean up.

It works fairly well, but had some issues with a few of my coworkers with heavy accents (Haitian and Spanish), and also had some trouble with my southern accent in places. But it saved me the hours it would have taken to transcribe manually.
posted by ralan at 4:00 PM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Otter's transcriptions are surprisingly accurate if people avoid speaking over each other. I use it for a group I'm involved with that's not at all good about that (we are an overly chatty bunch) and when I look at the transcript it's pretty easy to identify the points at which the speech recognition algorithm threw its figurative hands in the air and sulked briefly.
posted by Lexica at 4:27 PM on June 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

If it is really essential you're going to need multiple devices recording and at different locations.
posted by McNulty at 5:43 PM on June 15, 2020

Use a conference call service. There are specific and non-trivial legal issues with recording calls, they'll have that covered. You may not record a phone call without anyone/everyone's knowledge. A Zoom or other videoconference with no video might be a gray area. The volume from individuals will be at least somewhat leveled on a managed call. Otherwise, it will vary a lot. Most of us are using IP telephony now, and call quality can vary; if anybody has an actual land line, it may have better quality. Many wired phones are not land lines, most office phone systems are IP phones. Many office phone systems can make a decent recording.

If you use a speaker and record it, the quality will be very poor. You might be able to borrow someone's android phone, add that phone to the call and use the audio port to record via computer or some audio device. My old android phone could record calls, and I think Google Keep or Evernote might do this. If it's that important, have at least 2 callers record the call, 3 is better.
posted by theora55 at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2020

Zoom can support 7 people, but I think you'd have to pay the 14.99 for a month subscription because the free version only supports 1 on 1 calls.

Zoom is so super easy to use. This route would require everyone in your group to make an account. When youre ready to start the call, text or email the link to each person and all they have to is click the link to enter the call. If you end up using Zoom, you can record on your phone's voice recorder, too.

If you go the smartphone route, I think your plan to record on your computer and on your phone's voice recorder app is probably the best option, and I dont think it's a bad option.

I guess the main risk is that someones call will drop or they'll go in and out of service. But you could always ask them to be stationary during the call/go to a place they know they get good service and don't leave! (I dont know what Android's voice recorder is like, but I'm always impressed with the quality of Apple's).

Good luck!
posted by ygmiaa at 8:02 PM on June 15, 2020

I actually already have a paid Zoom account, I didn't realize its recording options were so robust!

Otherwise I'd be using my account with folks dialing in on their normal phones.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:23 PM on June 15, 2020

I also would use Rev for the transcription (after using Zoom’s record feature). I do this all the time. Rev is cheaper than my hourly rate (and I don’t like transcribing).
posted by amaire at 4:20 AM on June 16, 2020

Another plus to the paid Zoom account is that you can save the audio as separate files for each speaker, making it possible to clean up in a DAW later on a track by track basis.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:07 AM on June 16, 2020

It's not free, but I routinely use GoTo Meeting to record big calls and webinars. It works fine, but it ain't cheap.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2020

I ended up recording the call via Zoom and paying for professional transcription on Rev, all of which worked perfectly. Thank you again to everyone for your suggestions, it was a huge help!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:21 PM on July 9, 2020

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