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Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?

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Mark Suszko
Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 25, 2010 at 4:26:55 pm

If you do, I'd love to pick your brains for suggestions on the tech setup you use.


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James Hoppe
Re: Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 25, 2010 at 7:39:56 pm

Not by choice. We have a decent PC feeding a Scan-Do converter, the Skype receive we run full screen once connected. The video out of the converter goes to a frame-sync via a small 12x1 router. If we had to replace the Scan-Do we would get another Matrox Convert-DVI, that makes BEAUTIFUL pictures (analog OR HS/SD-SDI) AND has built in Genlock capability. For less than $1k US

Hoe this helps, let me know if you need any details on our rig.

James Hoppe
WILX-TV
Engineering


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Mark Suszko
Re: Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 26, 2010 at 1:43:33 pm

I am interested in your tech details, though my specific need is more on the "send" side, going out TO stations from where our content expert/guests would be. The setup I want to put together would be a sort of back-up for when the uplink is tied up, a window was unavailable, or the clients just want something cheaper.

The way I figure it, even though to broadcasters Skype looks bad, I can make it look LESS bad by using our good studio cameras, properly lit set, and good mics, and for simple non-moving talking-head shots, it may work out okay as an "added value" option.

SO what I need most is a good reccomendation on the rack-mountable PC and interface/ video cards I would need, assuming I have access to "fat pipes" (I do). I have a 42 inch diagonal custom teleprompter we had built for us, which I can feed the incoming Skype video to from the station reporter-interviewers, so my guest can make perfect eye contact, instead of that borderline-"Rainman" off-axis eye line look you often see.

I'm curious from an operational standpoint, as well: Skype can be 2- way picture and sound, but do networks and independent stations that use it actually bother with the "back haul" of video AND audio to the guest subject? I can see doing it with the audio, because it saves the hassle of setting up an IFB, but my guess would be that often the reporter on the other end of the skype connection may not be visible to the guest, as is common in the way we do satellite remote interviews today. Or would we still want to keep using an independent telephone IFB? Why? Just for mix-minus ability?


So, hardware and operational questions, any advice, please?


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James Hoppe
Re: Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 26, 2010 at 3:25:50 pm

The system that is used to receive is a P4 2Ghz with 512MB Ram and a Quadro NVS card. Obviously not the most powerful system around. This is powerful enough to run the incoming Skype video fullscreen into a Scan Do scan converter. The audio we feed from the onboard sound into a Henry matchbox and then into our house system.

For an outward bound system, think and basically PLAN for a non linear editor (minus the storage of course). That said, We haven't used Skype for OUTBOUND interviews, although we have used it in some situations where our ENG truck couldn't give us a signal or weather conditions prevented raising the mast. Those systems are Dell Precision laptops with a Canopus analog to firewire encoder and then using a 3G network for the remote connection.

We do have an issue with 2 way audio via Skype so far, probably just a setting we haven't tried yet.

James Hoppe
WILX-TV
Engineering


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Mark Suszko
Re: Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 26, 2010 at 4:03:10 pm

How smooth is the 2-way, does it hang or freeze on air often, and does eliminating the video/audio on one side of the skype link improve that significantly? Say, if I kept my audio as a phone call thru IFB, and didn't bother to feed the reporter's webcam, just our outgoign audio/video skype stream, would the reduced processing and compression overhead reduce the chances of a visible hiccup to the stream or not?


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James Hoppe
Re: Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 26, 2010 at 4:38:31 pm

The times we've used it the video is only 1 way (incoming), and since we have an issue with 2 way audio on this system the same is true there. I would recommend using a dial-in IFB for the remote person to hear YOUR audio.

When we've tested Skype on our in-house network 2 way video was relatively smooth (admittedly a Gig-E network helps). I'm sure having a higher horsepower system for the Skpe box would help enormously.

Look at Skype's system requirements and your budget. Get the most powerful computer you can afford. For a Scan Converter I would recommend the Matrox Convert-DVI, it's about as "future-proof" as any I've seen in the under $1k price range.

James Hoppe
WILX-TV
Engineering


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James Hoppe
Re: Do you ever use skype for news interviews vs. satellite?
on May 28, 2010 at 5:54:58 pm

Ok, we THINK we have that audio issue solved. The Skype software doesn't like using a LINE LEVEL input on the computer to send the audio. Pad your IFB output from your mixer board down to a mic level and you SHOULD be able to get 2-way audio via the Skype connection.

James Hoppe
WILX-TV
Engineering


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