Skype provides a great way for guests and correspondents to remote in to a live broadcasts, unfortunately relying on consumer hardware is fraught with glitches and interruptions. Packaged neatly within a 1RU rackmountable frame, the VS-100 TalkShow Video Calling System from NewTek is a bespoke computer running Skype TX software that is purpose-built for integrating Skype calls into live TV/Web broadcasts. It features dual Ethernet ports for TriCaster and 3Play users plus HD-SDI video in and out as well as balanced XLR audio in and out for hardware-based switchers. Quality settings and scaling are handled within the built-in software, helping eliminate many of the artifacts and aspect ratio issues encountered when simply scan-converting the output of a computer. It also features controls for tweaking the caller’s audio, helping ensure both picture and sound are up to broadcast requirements.
Apart from quality, the VS-100 mitigates other pitfalls associated with relying on normal Skype software and consumer computers for critical live applications. In particular, interruptions from other calls, personal data getting mingled in by accident, or IT related problems such as the software freezing or crashing. And in case something goes wrong on the caller’s end, there is an option to automatically cutaway to a user-defined still image until a good quality signal is restored or the director is able to cut to a new subject.