How to Record a Google Hangout

Google Hangouts is a great tool for anyone wanting to have a round table discussion with a group of people without requiring everyone involved to install specific third-party software or hardware to do so. Thanks to Google Hangouts, we’ve been able to enjoy meeting with members of the LockerGnome community in a more personal face-to-face way that IRC and other chat methods just don’t quite deliver.

A recent ice storm has left Chris Pirillo without power for a couple days now. During that time, the regularly scheduled live video feed on YouTube has been left in the hands of the LockerGnome team and our Gnomies. In order to keep the content flowing, we quickly needed to coordinate and test a new technical setup that allows us to not only maintain a consistent flow of content, but to minimize the strain on the existing staff.

So, we found several viable solutions to the problem. Here they are.


Perhaps the most solid and professional solution for creating a video out of a Google+ Hangout has been Fraps. Interestingly enough, Fraps automatically detected the primary (single-speaker) area of the Hangout and took to it almost immediately. Setting up a hotkey through Fraps allows you the freedom to stop and start recording without having to toggle through various settings and hotkeys, and the recordings themselves are generally very high quality. Google Hangouts even adds letterboxes in cases where the aspect ratio of a user’s camera doesn’t match that of the window. While these can easily be removed in post, they weren’t particularly distracting or difficult to work around.

You might be wondering how you can capture your audio, the audio of the other members of the Hangout, and still manage to capture clean video. Fraps has been a leader in video game live recording for years, and it is extremely optimized for capturing video even in times when your GPU and CPU are nearly maxed out. The quality will be there as long as you aren’t already overloading your existing system with the Hangout alone. As for the audio, here are some steps you can take to record both your microphone and the other speakers.

  • Open Fraps.
  • Select the Movies tab.
  • Toggle both Record Win7 Sound and Record External Input.
  • Select the audio input device (microphone) you’d like to add to the recording.
  • Set a Video Capture Hotkey for easy capture. I chose Num –.
  • Minimize the window.

Once you’ve done that, you should see a frame rate overlay over the Google+ Hangout screen when people have connected. Hitting the hotkey you set earlier will begin recording of just the main speaker, so you might want to make sure you’re not trained on one person’s camera during the entire Hangout. Manually switching will give you more control over what appears and when, though you may only want to use this option when you really need to.


Camtasia is a great program for doing quick and easy screen recordings, editing them on the fly, and making them ready for upload to YouTube, a podcast, or any other distribution channel you prefer. I’ve used Camtasia extensively over the past year, and have found it suitable for recording just about anything on the Mac shy of some games.

Google Hangouts are a great way to put Camtasia to work. Once you have Soundflower installed (which is prompted once you select System audio in the recording tool, you should be ready to to get your screen recording on.

What’s especially cool about Camtasia is that it allows you to capture a specific region of your screen by preset resolution or a custom one you can set up by simply clicking and dragging your cursor over the area you’d like to capture.

Here’s how to get screen recording set up to capture a Google+ Hangout:

  • Launch Camtasia.
  • Toggle on the Microphone icon so it appears green.
  • Check the levels by talking softly and loudly into your microphone.
  • Toggle the System Audio icon so it also turns green.
  • Select the down arrow next to the region area on the left in order to select the area that you’d like to record.
  • If you select Custom Region, you can choose a recording region by clicking the red crop icon.
  • Here, you can do a single-click to record a specific Window or click and drag to set a frame.
  • Once you’ve chosen your recording space, hit Record and you’ll receive a brief countdown before recording begins.
  • When you’re done recording, right-click on the movie strip icon in your task bar and select Stop Recording.
  • This should open your editing window where you can trim, master, and publish your recording.

Other Tips

There are plenty of other screen casting options available to you. ScreenFlow is a great choice for Mac users that don’t care too much for Camtasia but still enjoy the basic functionality of recording segments of the screen, editing the videos, and publishing them all within a single program.

I’d recommend having a separate audio program open to capture audio in the event that your primary recording has any issues. GarageBand works great for the Mac and Audacity for Windows or Linux. Alternatively, you might find professional programs such as Pro Studio or Adobe Audition more to your liking. I’m personally a huge fan of Adobe Audition, though a lot of its core functionality can be found in its open source counterpart, Audacity.

Make sure you do a test run before recording any long broadcast. Testing your video and audio before you go live is a great way to avoid problems such as overdriven audio, bad drivers, and settings issues from ruining an otherwise good presentation.

Google is testing a Hangout recording process with Partner accounts that will record Hangouts directly to YouTube. The core functionality of this feature is very promising, though it does record Hangouts in a way that includes all the little thumbnail videos of everyone involved, which may not be exactly what you want to get out of your presentation.

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