Widespread accessibility to internet connectivity and high-quality smart device cameras have brought live, self-shot interviews to the forefront of modern television, from reality star confessionals to athlete commentary. 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. 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. 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, The 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 The 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, The VCC. "Having that flexibility is crucial, and we also appreciate the option to record simultaneously with HELO."
The AJA ROI Mini-Converter has also proven a steady workhorse for The VCC, 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 The 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.