Record silent Instagram videos

Love Instagram's new moving pictures, but hate the cacophony of random noise that comes with them? Learn how to disable your phone's microphone to record silent videos.

I love animated GIFs. They're quick, there's an art to them, and as obnoxious as they might be visually -- they're silent.

My big problem with this whole Vine and Instagram video boom is that the end product is often unintentionally noisy -- sometimes even jarring. I used to browse my Instagram feed like I was walking through an endless art gallery made by my friends. But now it seems like every few posts there's a video sucking down my bandwidth and assaulting my ears with a cut-up of ambient noise.

Close your eyes and your Instagram feed sounds like it was composed by John Cage.

Personally, I prefer to have people focus on the visual. By stripping away the audio, your Instagram or Vine video feels immediately elevated, like a little work of art.

Currently, neither app supports a microphone mute or a way to import videos that could be stripped of their audio externally. To get around this, I figured I'd just find a way to disable the phone's internal microphone.

Easy, right?

Well, it turns out that it is surprisingly difficult to override your phone's internal microphone. If I wasn't worried about the NSA's ability to monitor me through my phone before, I certainly am after researching this piece.

The above video does a good job explaining the two solutions I found. I knew that that when I plug in a headset with a built-in microphone into any smartphone, that the phone's internal mic is bypassed in favor of the headset mic. With that in mind I tried simply cutting the cable on a cheap headset and leaving it to the unique TRRS minijack connection to convince the phone to bypass the internal microphone in favor of a connected mic that wasn't there. I thought I was being pretty smart.

The severed end of a TRRS headset cable. Donald Bell/CNET

Well, that trick did work for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 I had handy, and it may work for other Android devices as well. It did not, however, work with my iPhone.

It turns out that Apple hardware requires a specific resistance in the headphone components in order for the device to sanction the connected headset. By cutting out the mic from the cable (as well as the surrounding circuit board of tiny resistors and diodes), I stripped out the very thing I needed for the trick to work. My iPhone knew I was up to no good and it resorted to using its internal microphone instead.

Not one to give up easily, I tried a number of different TRRS jack adapters, such as the weird USB charging adapter from the iPod Shuffle, and even a VGA A/V cord. No dice.

Finally, I hit on a solution. I have at my desk a guitar cable adapter made for iOS devices called AmpliTube iRig. The adapter runs around $40 new and comes with a great app for playing and recording your guitar. But assuming you're just using this to disable your iPhone's internal mic, inexpensive alternatives can be found for around $10 (though I make no guarantees on their compatibility). Just plug it into your headphone jack and leave the instrument input empty, and you've got an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad with a bypassed microphone, capable of creating silent videos for Instagram or Vine.

Convenient? Not really. But until either company sees fit to include a simple microphone mute button (if they ever come to their senses) at least this is a workable solution for silent video purists.

Think I'm nuts? Know of a better way to make this work? Let me know in the comments section.

Read the full CNET Review

AmpliTube iRig

The Bottom Line: If you're a guitarist with an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, the AmpliTube iRig offers an inexpensive, practical solution for rehearsing over headphones, but it falls short as a songwriting tool. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPhone 5

The Bottom Line: The iPhone 5 completely rebuilds the iPhone on a framework of new features and design, addressing its major previous shortcomings. It's absolutely the best iPhone to date, and it easily secures its place in the top tier of the smartphone universe. / Read full review

About the author

Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.

 

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