This article will explain the basics of recording telephone calls from either a traditional landline or a cell phone. It is not a comprehensive review of all the possible products available so I will only be discussing specific products I have used myself. You may have equally good results using a different product as the basic principles are still the same. Recording a telephone call is not legal in all states so be sure and check your local laws before continuing.
For a regular landline phone, you will need to purchase an “in-line tap.” This device will connect between your telephone and a wired handset. It will NOT work with a wireless phone so you might need to make a quick trip to Wal-Mart to get a old school wired phone instead. Buy a cheap brand name phone (AT&T models worked well for me).
For cell phones, the setup is quite similar except that you will be connecting a different tap between the headset jack of your cell phone and the actual headset. I used a Radio Shack cell phone tap (part number #17-855) and it worked very well with both a Samsung and Motorola cell phone. One note: remember that muting your cell phone will NOT prevent your voice from being recorded since the headset portion is still active.
Someone has pointed out several websites which provide phone recording services for a small fee. I haven’t used any of these so I cannot personally recommend them, but buying your own recording device will always be cheaper in the long run if you plan on doing a lot of interviews or other such calls.
There is many different types of CD and DVD discs making it very confusing for a buyer who might not understand all the various options available. I will try to educate you on what you should look for when you buy blank CDs or DVDs.
The first thing you should consider is to make sure you buy high quality media. In general, name brand discs (such as JVC/Tayio-Yuden, Verbatim, or Memorex) will be manufactured to higher quality standards than a cheaper store brand. I actually purchased a case of 100 discs once that were so poor quality that the plastic layer on the disc was already separating from the recording layer right out of the box! Since CD and DVD discs store data digitally, using a lower-quality disc doesn’t mean that your data will look any different. Instead, the disc just won’t last as long and some devices have problems when playing lower-quality media. Save yourself the trouble and spend the extra money for good discs.
For both CDs and DVDs, you will have the choice of purchasing re-writable discs (usually marked as RW). For most people, this isn’t necessary. RW media was more popular several years ago when discs were much more expensive, but they have little use today. There is also a special re-writable DVD format called DVD-RAM which is supported by very few devices and should not be used unless you have specific hardware that requires it.
Next you’ll have a choice between two competing DVD formats: DVD-R and DVD+R. Most devices made since about 2005 or so support both formats equally so don’t sweat this one unless you have a lot of older electronics. In general, DVD-R is considered to be the most compatible if you have the option to purchase either one.
One more thing you might find is that blank CDs are often labeled as either Music CDs or Data CDs. The discs themselves are identical except for a hidden “flag” that some electronic devices can see. If you are just burning music from a computer, save yourself a few extra pennies and buy regular data discs as they will work just as well. Some standalone audio recorders require Music CDs so check your owners manual if you are not sure.
Many people have taken the time to create large complex PowerPoint presentations only to discover there isn’t a simple method of converting these files for playback on a DVD player. Several companies offer software to facilitate this process, but the software often messes up the timing, music, animations, and fonts contained in the original PowerPoint. While this might be acceptable for simple presentations, more complex ones will require a different solution.
- VGA or DVI Scan Converter
Several video hardware companies have created scan converters which will convert the RGB video feed from your computer into a regular NTSC video signal. You could then take this signal and capture it back to your computer using a DV camcorder. The main problems with this arrangement is there will be some quality loss depending on the hardware you decide to purchase. It’s also a multiple step process that is very time consuming. I do not recommend this method.
- Camtasia Studio (http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp)
TechSmith has created an excellent piece of software called Camtasia that (among other things) functions as a plug-in to Microsoft PowerPoint and enables direct screen captures of the presentation while it is running. This is superior to most software as it still uses Microsoft PowerPoint to play the presentation. As long as your computer is capable of simultaneously playing and recording your PowerPoint there are rarely any playback issues.
I recommend Camtasia Studio as the best method for converting PowerPoint files to DVD. This software can be purchased for $299 from techsmith.com.