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Recording podcasts via Wire on macOS

August 8, 2017

This is a guest post by a podcast show host and privacy enthusiast Justin Carroll.

Before Michael Bazzell and I started The Complete Privacy & Security Podcast, I listened to a lot of other podcasts. Eventually I invited myself onto a few of them as a guest to promote my content. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was learning the tools and tricks from the hosts who brought me on their shows.

When Michael and I finally launched our own podcast, we followed others and started used a VoIP product that begins with the letter “S”.

Audio capture from Wire

Why did we initially go with Skype? There were three reasons. First, everyone else had it. Being a brand-new podcast, we wanted to accommodate our guests by being user-friendly, and offering an option they already had access to. Next, the quality was usually good enough for most podcasters, including us. Finally, Skype has a good 3rd party options for recording calls.

We were never fully comfortable with this solution, however. Even though our podcast was going to be broadcast publicly, we still wanted to record it over a secure platform. We like to practice what we preach, both for our own security and privacy, and to demonstrate to our audience that encrypted messengers actually work.

We also don’t want to increase market share for insecure applications that are not respectful of privacy, nor do we want to install these apps on our machines. We tried a number of hardware- and software based methods to record from secure messaging apps, but nothing really worked.

Hijacking the audio

When we finally arranged an interview with Wire’s CEO Alan Duric, we had the impetus we needed to find a way to record Wire audio calls. We didn’t want to ask the CEO of a messaging company to download a competing product, so our search became a priority. After a lot of research, we finally settled on a paid product called Audio Hijack.

The Complete Privacy & Security Podcast episode with Wire’s CEO Alan Duric.

Audio Hijack is an easy-to-use recording app that lets you record audio from any application on your Mac. (Rogue Amoeba, the maker of Audio Hijack, recommends Total Recorder for Windows, but we don’t have personal experience with it.)

Simply open the application and click “New Session”. Choose “Audio Application” and click on the Application icon. This will pull up a full list of applications on your device. Select Wire and click “Record”.

Audio Hijack will record both sides of the conversation: your end, and any audio being received over the application. It also lets you monitor your own audio; as soon as the recording begins your audio is pushed to the left headphone and the guest audio is output to the right.

Audio Hijack costs a one-time fee of $49 but has been invaluable to us. We have used it to record every episode since we purchased it.

Recording workflow with Wire

My audio workflow when recording a podcast usually looks like this:

  • I open Wire.
  • Next, I open Audio Hijack and begin a new session with Wire as the input application, recording to an MP3 (it supports a number of formats).
  • I then open GarageBand to record my own audio locally. Michael does this too — this lets us separate tracks and makes the editing process a little easier. If you’re a podcaster you will understand the value in this.
  • After coordinating with our guest, we place a group call on Wire, which by the way, is the only encrypted group call solution that we know of.
  • As soon as the guest is on we hit “record” and as soon as the episode is over we are able to export the MP3 from Audio Hijack into GarageBand.

Before relying on any recording program you should take some time to get familiar with it first. I broke this rule and paid for it when I used this setup the first time.

One thing that Wire helps with is managing audio levels. We rarely find the need to change audio levels when calling with Wire, as the automatic settings are usually spot-on.

Wire as a primary platform

Since finding a reliable way to record Wire calls, it has become our go-to application for conducting podcast interviews. The call fidelity and stability are excellent, and the app is extremely easy to use.

We now recommend Wire to our guests as our preferred contact option. This lets us support Wire by spreading it to a wider audience that might not otherwise be aware of it. For example, we recently recorded an interview with a representative from the Tor Project who set up Wire for our call, and we hope will continue to use it going forward.

This is possible because of Wire’s user-friendliness and cross-platform availability. Anyone can access Wire from any platform, and intuitively know how to use it. This is important not only for podcasters, but for encrypted messengers generally.

If something is too hard to use, it will only be used by power-users, and we are impressed to see Wire taking the philosophy of simplicity to heart.

We strongly value privacy and security, as the name of our podcast indicates, and try to use secure communications methods as often as possible. Even though we are recording a show for public consumption, our “off-air” recordings contain stuff that we wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with the public. Audio Hijack makes recording podcasts easy, and Wire makes sure our calls are secure.

Listen to past episodes of the The Complete Privacy & Security Podcast on their _SoundCloud page or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes._

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