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SMW '18: VideoLink's Kevin McCarthy Talks ReadyCam Studios

Learn more about live production and streaming at Streaming Media's next event.

Read the complete transcript of this interview:

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Streaming Media West 2018. I'm Tim Siglin, contributing editor for Streaming Media magazine and founding executive director of the not-for-profit, Help Me! Stream. Today I've got with me Kevin McCarthy who's the director of production at VideoLink. Tell me about VideoLink.

Kevin McCarthy: VideoLink is a full-service video promotion company. We're based in Boston, Massachusetts. We offer a wide variety of different services for clients both Fortune 500 companies, institutions, but also we service the broadcasters and other media outlets.

Tim Siglin: And you're owned by a parent company, that I'm familiar with, in the AV integration space, AVI-SPL. What was the impetus for them to acquire a production company?

Kevin McCarthy: So AVI-SPL is a world leader in audio-visual integration. We've been a part of them for almost two years now. The partnership has been great. What we're finding is that part of the client's or corporation's audio-visual infrastructure also included the ability for their executives or for their subject matter experts to speak to a broadcast/cell or media outlet at a moment's notice.

What VideoLink brings to the table is their network of ReadyCam studios. So what a ReadyCam studio is, it's basically a remotely controlled insert broadcast studio. It allows an executive or a subject matter expert to simply walk down their hall, go into their studio, sit down, clip on a microphone, and then we take it from there. We make sure we turn on the lights, we turn on the audio, we connect the camera directly to the broadcaster and they can connect a live interview with the broadcaster.

Tim Siglin: Hence the integration portion of that.

Kevin McCarthy: Correct.

Tim Siglin: So where are these ReadyCam studios? Are they sitting in corporate offices or are they sitting in business parks that multiple corporations would share?

Kevin McCarthy: The majority of them are sitting in corporate office or institutions, educational institutions, financial institutions. If an organization has an executive or subject matter expert that has content that they need to share with a broadcaster or any other media outlet, then these studios are beneficial. We have hundreds of them across the country, I think close to 200 of them across the country. We also have, what we call co-located studios where we can have people who are unaffiliated with a certain institution come and use that studio.

So it kind of expands their studio facilities. We have studios in Boston and Philadelphia and Baltimore, but the ReadyCam network allows us to expand that nationwide and, in some cases, internationally.

Tim Siglin: Do you essentially run a network operation, a broadcast operation center that, as you say, turns on the lights, make sure the feed is connected directly and that type of thing? Are you running all the several hundred from a central location in the Boston area?

Kevin McCarthy: We do have central locations that operate the ReadyCam. We call them the ROC, or ReadyCam Operation Center. We have those in all our bureaus in Boston and Philadelphia and Baltimore. But what makes the technology so unique is that it's all IT-based, it's all internet-based, so we can actually operate a camera, a ReadyCam studio with a laptop. So you don't physically have to be in a an operation center, you could do it from your home, you could do it from a car. We've actually done that once for last-minute turnaround interview.

That's the beauty and functionality of the ReadyCam studio.

Tim Siglin: Nice. In some ways, it almost reminds me of in the old days where Kinko's had Polycom video conferencing systems and you'd go rent it by the hour. For the ones that are co-located is it a per-use base, monthly fee, or how does that structure work?

Kevin McCarthy: The majority use of the ReadyCam studio is for broadcasters. So a broadcaster will contact us, it'll contact the corporation or the executive and we'd like to come out and do an interview with you. They'll let us know, we'll pick the time, pick the duration, and we'll connect it to and operate the camera. But it doesn't stop at just broadcast interviews. The ReadyCam can be used for other purposes, for town hall meetings, for satellite media tours, otherwise known as SMTs, for webcasting. It's a great tool, great origination location for executive or a subject matter expert that has content they need to share with an audience, whether it be a broadcast audience or an internal audience for a company message. They can simply go to their studio, give that message, we can connect in a number of different ways.

Tim Siglin: We're here at the streaming show and you're talking broadcasting, and you mentioned webcasting as well, how does sort of the streaming ecosystem fit into that whole solution?

Kevin McCarthy: In terms of ReadyCam, the ReadyCam can stream directly to a number of different platforms. It's a newer service, newer offering of what the ReadyCam can do. We have partnerships with a number of different platforms, social media platforms. Of course your Facebook and You Tube, but also some other robust streaming platforms, such as Qumu or On24 or TalkPoint. One of the beauties, again, of the ReadyCam.

But outside of the ReadyCam, a lot of our services we do on the production side for VideoLink, is we're providing majority live-streaming production for corporations, whether it be in a studio setting or a remote setting. A remote setting's becoming more frequent, where again, it's kind of quick turnaround needs. Where a client needs to do a company meeting or a company announcement, maybe it's an acquisition, maybe it's a quarterly meeting and they want to do it from a remote location, maybe it's a hotel ballroom, maybe it's their offices. So they want to have that broadcast-quality video production element but they want to stream it or deliver it in a way that a large number of people can see it. That's where the streaming element comes in.

Tim Siglin: Got it. And how do you handle connectivity issues in venues like hotels and like that? Are you sort of saying, we'll only do it in these particular hotels because you know you can guarantee the streaming delivery or are you forced to, on the fly, deal with some sort of cellular bonding or that type of thing?

Kevin McCarthy: It'd be great to say, we can't do it here because the lack of bandwidth. Unfortunately, we can't do that. So, of course, we like to use what's existing at a venue, whatever procedures will work in our remote locations. We survey the location, we communicate with the location to find out what they have. If it's going to be robust enough for us to do what we need to do. And some cases it's not. So we build in redundancies. We have backup plans. What happens if this bandwidth or this interconnection, internet connection doesn't work? And we do utilize bonded cell technology as a backup whether it be live view or another means. You have to be able to do that nowadays. So certain locations just don't allow you to have the connectivity you need for streaming, especially when it comes to corporate offices. They have, some corporate offices, certainly working with Fortune 500 companies, they have such strict firewall situations where we just can't gain access to our platform, so going another route like bonded cell is a really great solution.

Tim Siglin: You're right on that point, it's not that they don't have the bandwidth, it's the policy prohibits you from actually doing that. Kevin, thank you for your time. Kevin McCarthy with VideoLink. We'll be right back.

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