The Video Call Center redefines live video shoots, as production moves away from conventional studios and interviews happen everywhere, with smartphones and small cameras used to capture video.
With Work From Home as the rule now and, apparently, something that many will adopt even after the pandemic is gone, modern television is offering its audiences, today, a whole new experience, through self-shot interviews, from reality star confessionals to athlete commentary. News anchors working from their kitchen, musicians playing from their porch or garden, these intimate and completely unexpected broadcasts are only possible due to technology.
Widespread accessibility to internet connectivity and high-quality smart device cameras have made the experience possible. As the global population continues to shift toward a remote workforce, the role of these interviews is rapidly growing. A majority of remote shoots originate away from traditional studio environments with dedicated camera setups, instead relying on smartphone, tablet or laptop cameras to capture video. It’s a challenge for producers, and that’s where The Video Call Center (VCC) believes it has a part to play.
A solution used by clients as FOX or WWE
In fact, integrating these real-time feeds into a broadcast quality production introduces a host of challenges that The Video Call Center (VCC) aims to solve for content producers. Combining off-the-shelf tools like the AJA HELO H.264 streamer/recorder and the AJA ROI scan converter with the patented VCC video call production platform, The VCC extends the production capabilities of clients like A&E, Discovery Networks, FOX, TLC, Vice and WWE with high quality video remote and automated production workflows and services.
The VCC’s solutions make it easy for productions to procure, manage and integrate low-latency, broadcast quality video feeds from any number of smartphone, laptop or tablet callers into live or recorded programming, or captured for post. During live shows, the VCC works to optimize each remote as needed based on the particular smart device, calling apps and internet connection, and adjusts lighting, angles and more to ensure a high-quality, clean video feed. Often this process is executed in seconds or minutes at air time.
Time permitting, as in the case of the VCC’s NFL Draft production earlier this year, The VCC team may walk participants through a test run of calling into the main broadcast. In this case, the VCC Call Manager Pro (CMP) system is used to launch and manage the video call feeds, and run a final test call using an available endpoint. Once launched, the call is monitored using HELO’s output.
AJA HELO plays a crucial role in The VCC solution
An AJA ROI scan converter enables standard video raster size and frame rate output from a variety of devices with non standard video rasters and facilitates audio embedding. When ready to broadcast the caller, The VCC simply cues the client’s control room and the feed is sent through on-premises hardware for seamless switching into the production.
For the NFL Draft, VCC helped produce live video interviews with 58 draft prospects eagerly awaiting pick reveals from home. Ahead of the event, the athletes received an iPhone kit, and VCC worked with each on shot framing and connection testing through a series of dress rehearsal calls. On the night of the draft, the prospects waited in the digital wings and were given a two-minute warning prior to going on air. Working from their respective homes, the VCC Call Producers assigned the feeds to the appropriate endpoint through the Queue Manager and using Call Manager Pro launched the call and set it up to ensure a stable signal before handing it off to the NFL. Part of the VCC’s toolkit for video remotes, HELO played a crucial role in monitoring the quality of all the video calls.
Previously endpoints and Call Producers needed to be in the same location, but HELO provides an alternative, allowing Call Producers to remotely monitor real-time feeds from anywhere. “HELO is one of my favorite tools. It allows us to run our business the way we want, while also allowing our clients to reap the full benefits of our solutions; we can monitor, take care of quality and framing control from anywhere with an internet connection, without adding additional latency,” shared Jackie Lennon, Manager, Marketing & Administration, VCC. “Having that flexibility is crucial, and we also appreciate the option to record simultaneously with HELO.”
Produce a show with video callers
AJA’s HELO allows users to simultaneously stream video signals to Web Content Delivery Networks while encoding and recording H.264 files to SD cards, USB storage or network-based storage with the push of a button. Supporting a range of professional workflows, the H.264 streaming, recording and encoding device includes 3G-SDI and HDMI inputs and outputs and the power to handle up to 1080p recording formats among other features.
The AJA ROI Mini-Converter has also proven a steady workhorse for The Video Call Center, enabling video outputs and supporting a diverse range of audio formats that clients request. She added, “ROI Mini-Converters are instrumental to ensuring a stable, high fidelity remote video caller output and give us the flexibility to adapt to audiovisual needs and match formats at our client sites.”
Although a majority of VCC’s more than 30 HELO units are located at client facilities, a select few remain on-site at its headquarters for clients that leverage its Host Automation Tool (HAT). The VCC HAT workflow allows call producers, a line producer, and a host to run a full, broadcast quality program. With the system, clients can produce a show with video callers from anywhere, and Call Producers can enhance the feeds as they’re able to see the video output using the HELO to monitor the feed remotely.