Build a multi head skype system for podcasting on a budget

Ever wonder how the really big podcasts get 5 or more people in on a skype call?  they build what Leo Laporte calls a "SkypeZilla".   It's just several computers that are all used at once to make multiple skype calls,   but routing audio can be an issue.     You need the output of all skype computers going to the input of all other skype computers but not it's own.   This requires a matrix mixer.

Audio Routing
You send all the inputs from all the skype machines and the host microphone audio into the matrix mixer.  Inside the matrix, you send the audio from everything except the same machine back out to each machine.   For example we have Skype1, Skype2, Skype3,and Host   you send audio from Skype2, Skype3, and Host to Skype 1.   Then you send Skype1, Skype3,and Host to Skype2.   and so on.   you have a final 5th output that is ALL inputs mixed for recording.  

How do you do this?  well some people actually use a mess of DA's and mixers.  I have seen for a 4 head setup, 4 DA's and 4 mixer nightmare, or a giant 40 in 8 out mixer used along with a lot of money spent to get the audio just right.   But you dont have to do that.   In the past 15-20 years we have had rack DSP's that can do all this and more.   Biamp Nexia, Audia and others give you full mixer capabilities PLUS a ton of other advantages like compressors, filters and EQ capabilities.  But are expensive,  They start at $600 on the used market for a 4 in 8 out (good for a 3 skype zilla and one host.) and on up.  It's still cheaper than a 4 mixer or large mixer setup.   But you have other options.   A company called "lectrasonics"  made a matrix mixer called the MM8  this is a 8 in 12 out.  You can find these for under $125.00 on ebay and will do what you need for mixing the audio.

You do lose the advantages of the far more advanced biamp devices, but if you are very low on cash,  they are far more affordable.

This works great for the audio, but what if you want to have video as well?  the easiest thing to do is to get VGA to composite converters (they used to be sold as VGA to TV adapters)  convert each to NTSC composite video and set skype to fullscreen.  take that composite video and run it into a low cost NTSC video mixer.   You can go the expensive route and get a new Tricaster for a couple of grand,  or on a budget get a used Videonics MX1 4 in 1 out video mixer for around $300 on ebay.  the output of this goes to a video capture card along with your audio from your audio matrix to the computer recording the podcast.   You also need to add a NTSC camera for yourself, any old camcorder will work perfectly for this.

For under $1000 in gear, buying used audio and video equipment as well as used computers you can set yourself up to have what the top podcasts have in equipment.   


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