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3 Tips for Getting More Out of Skype in Live Video Productions

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Skype has been turning up in television and online video shows for years, but until recently producers have had to use the standard consumer version of Skype. That changed recently when Skype introduced Skype TX, an appliance created for media use.

At the recent Streaming Media West conference in Huntington Beach, California, Matt Jordan, senior technical account manager for Skype in Media, delivered a keynote address on Skype's media applications. Afterwards, he sat down for a red carpet interview to offer expert tips for better Skype performance.

"One of the things I joke about is that Skype's so easy that even grandparents and CEOs can use it without technical support," Jordan said. "Even still, there are best practices that can really optimize the on-air experience when you're talking to any Skype user anywhere around the globe... One, download the latest and greatest Skype. If you're interviewing a remote participant, ask them to go to Skype.com and from whatever device they are using, ask them to download the latest and greatest. That will make sure it has the latest functionality as well as the latest codecs and really is the best experience possible."

Jordan's second tip is to have a dedicated, unfettered internet connection for the on-air Skype account, especially for HD performance.

"The third thing is really something that all of us professionals in this gig know is you've got to set your shot. Make sure that you have the lighting right, make sure that you don't have a big, bright window right behind you so that when you take the shot, you look like you're in witness protection."

For more on Skype use by media, watch the full interview below.

 

Troy:   Hi everyone, this is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media West in sunny Huntington Beach, California. I'm joined today with our second day keynoter, Matt Jordan, Senior Technical Account Manager for Skype in Media. What does that mean? For Skype use in Media.

Matt:   Certainly. Skype in Media has been around as a part of the overall Skype organization since 2007. We got our start with a great partner with Oprah Winfrey when we started streaming live events on oprah.com. Since then, we were able to take that success and mirror it across the globe be it editorial, entertainment, broadcast television, film, radio, or online.

Troy:   I know that there's a big story that you guys started at NAB this year, and it's continuing today, you had some announcements. Could you tell us about that?

Matt:   That's correct. We've announced Skype TX, and what Skype TX is, is really a purpose-built appliance that runs Skype at its core and is able to talk to any Skype client anywhere in the globe but that appliance—it's a hardware/software solution—is actually optimized for broadcast and media use. You can take that Skype call and have the output go right into your streaming solution.

Troy:   Before this were broadcasters using the consumer version of Skype?

Matt:   That's right. They were making do with the best practices and the resources that Skype and Media team made available online on our website so that people could use that off-the-shelf experience and still go to air with some really great compelling content, but now it's a real game changer with Skype TX.

Troy:   What does TX bring to broadcasters?

Matt:   What Skype TX can offer is improved quality, reliability, and control of Skype calls to any of the 300 million Skype users out there in the globe.

Troy:   Tell us some of the big media clients you've got.

Matt:   Oh, my goodness. If we're talking about sport, we've done the X Games for the last several winter and summer events. We also have partnerships in the news arena with BSkyB, CNN, and a myriad of other network providers all around the global. Then when we're talking about online, we have our partnership within a larger Microsoft, so we have MSN and we have Bing, and I was able to share that example during my keynote today.

Troy:   Excellent. I'd like to dive into some best practices, give people some practical advice that they could use. Could you share some best practices for our media viewers?

Matt:   Certainly. One of the things I joke about is that Skype's so easy that even grandparents and CEOs can use it without technical support. Even still, there are best practices that can really optimize the on-air experience when you're talking to any Skype user anywhere around the globe. There's three simple tips. One, download the latest and greatest Skype. If you're interviewing a remote participant, ask them to go to Skype.com and from whatever device they are using, ask them to download the latest and greatest. That will make sure it has the latest functionality as well as the latest codecs and really is the best experience possible.

Secondly, use a dedicated unfettered internet connection. Skype can work on 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, but if you're talking about really a production-grade experience, you want to have that dedicated bandwidth. If you can get an Ethernet connection into your device or if you can isolate the Wi-Fi traffic so that the device that is using Skype has the necessary bandwidth, then Skype can go all the way up to 1080 HD. The second bit is the unfettered Internet connection.

When we're talking about HD, we're talking about sometimes some high bitrates. It's maybe 1.2MB up and down to get 720 or maybe 2.5 up and down if we're talking about 1080. It's really, really important if you want to get that HD quality to have that robust internet connection.

Then the third thing is really something that all of us professionals in this gig know is you get to set your shot. Make sure that you have the lighting right, make sure that you don't have a big, bright window right behind you so that when you take the shot, you look like you're in witness protection. Or use an HD webcam as opposed to built-in webcam in the bevel of a laptop. By doing so, you can take it from a standard definition call all the way up to 1080 HD, like I said. Download latest and greatest, unfettered internet connection, and set your shot.

Troy: Excellent practical advice, great keynote today, great advice for our viewers. Thank you so much. Skype TX, Skype for Media, check it out, coming to you from Streaming Media West, this is Troy Dreier on the red carpet.

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