While the web swoons over the new Facebook “graph search”, Microsoft web communications service Skype is aiming towards a more musical crowd. Honestly, it may be a similar audience, but the announcements today still seem far apart. While Mark Zuckerburg occupied the stage earlier, Microsoft was letting everyone know that the pop star would be available for a group video call very soon.
“Now’s your chance to see Lady Gaga live, uncut and offstage. Watch as our lucky sweepstakes winners talk upcoming music, costumes and backstage moments — all live, and face-to-face, with Lady Gaga”, stated Skype’s Leanne Johnson in a blog post earlier today.
The event will take place on Thursday, January 17th at 2pm PST. You can submit a question in hopes that she may actually answer it. Microsoft has set up a special web site at Skypeball.com/skypewithgaga for the occasion.
Over the past 3-4 years I have been very successful in incorporating Skype into my various podcasts. Earlier this year I upgraded my windows based 2 channel SD Skype solution to one that is HD Mac based. I have depicted below the solution I am currently using. Be aware that my end goal was to always have the guest appear full screen in my video production and not just filmed on the monitor. For those shows that want to simply focus a camera at the monitor you can eliminate a large portion of this design.
I have a two channel solution, so you would need to double the gear shown here to have two people participate. You can easily utilize a different video ingestion system. I happen to use a Tricaster 855 for my studio. Some content creators use a Video capture card from BlackMagic design to ingest the Skype video into there system for use with something like Wirecast.
Feel free to copy the design or improve upon it. If you do improve upon the design be sure to leave a comment on what you did to improve the design.
Gear as Shown:
Mac Mini (Base Model)($599.00)
EBTECH Hum Eliminator ($80.00)
Mackie Mixer (Any Mixer with Mix Minus will work)
Atlona HDMI Distribution Amplifier ($299.00)
HP Monitor ($265.00)
Black Magic Design HDMI to SDI Converter ($295.00)
Tricaster 855 or Other Video Injest Card / System
Canopus ADVC 300 Analog to Digital Video Converter
Note: When the Internet connection is slow, and I have two guest on sharing the same Internet connection sometimes the Skype Video reverts to SD this is Skype’s way of throttling to keep the video quality up. I only push SD video back to the guest to preserve bandwidth.
Example of HD Skype Video Recorded on Master Recording.
Example of Two Guest on HD Skype System from camera shot.
First thing you are going to ask, what the heck is the Ohana Saurus. Well its the Skype setup I use to bring guest into my show. For the past couple of years we have been operating with a older pc based system that frankly needed to be updated. I did a lot of research and was trying to maximize the utilization of what new gear I would buy. I settled on building my new system with Mac Mini’s as they can also be used in the render farm when I am using Final Cut.
Here is the new Setup and Video / Audio Flow.
Skype Video – Out
Mac Mini – HDMI Video Out to Atlona
Atlona 1×4 HDMI Video Distribution Amp to HDMI 1 & 2
HDMI 1 – Show Monitor HP ZR2240W
HDMI 2 – Black Magic Design HDMI SDI Converter to Tricaster
SDI Video Feed to Tricaster Channel 5/6
Skype Video – In
Tricaster - Video Out to Kramer 1×5 Video Distribution Unit
Kramer 1×5 VDU to 2x Canopus ADVC 300
Canopus ADVC 300 to Mac Mini Firewire Port
Mac Mini to EBTECH Hum Eliminator
EBTech Hum Eliminator to Mackie ONYX 162oi
Note on Audio we use Aux sends on the Mackie for cross talk across the two skype channels.
There are a dozen ways to make one of these systems. But we have true 1080i video that is feeding the tricaster and the monitors. Our shakedown show today and everything went perfect. We have some light leveling to do on the monitors but this upgrade was long overdue.
Todd talks with Eric from Invoxia about their latest office product, a stylish dock that converts iPhones and iPads into a VoIP desktop phone. Winner of a CES 2012 Showcase Engineering Award, it’s really quite stunning.
The NVX 610 can use Skype or a SIP telephony provider and control of the desktop phone is via an app on the iPhone which uses Bluetooth to communicate with the dock. The unit has built-in speakers, creating a hands-free phone and a music dock all in one.
Available on-line now for $599. Cool but pricey.
Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.
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The sci-fi vision of the videophone being as commonplace as the telephone hasn’t materialised but Skype and Google+ Hangouts have made videocalls with webcams popular, especially with families who are a spread across the world. Having said that, it’s still not as convenient as picking up your phone and dialling a number.
Biscotti hopes to change that will their TV Phone, which has just been announced as a 2012 CES Innovations Honoree. It’s a small camera unit that sits on top of your TV, connecting to the TV via HDMI and to the network via WiFi, allowing owners to make high-definition video calls to other Biscotti owners and Google video chat users. After an initial setup which only takes minutes, the Biscotti TV Phone is ready to make or take calls.
The TV Phone uses a pass-through technology, meaning that there’s no need to change channels to receive a call. The TV Phone notifies users of incoming calls while they are watching TV via a pop-up message on screen. By using Google video chat, the Biscotti TV Phone can connect to any device that has a Google chat client, whether it’s Android, iPhone or a PC.
“Biscotti is designed for people who value real-life, personal interaction. It’s a single-purpose, dedicated TV Phone that’s always ready to connect, so you can make and receive calls without interrupting your lifestyle,” said Dr. Matthew B. Shoemake, Biscotti’s CEO and Founder. “HDTVs are selling faster than any other consumer electronics product on the market, fueling the demand for high definition video calling. By 2015, we’re predicting 25% of homes will be making high-definition video calls daily.”
If it’s as simple to use as they claim (and there are some videos here), it could be a little winner. The Biscotti TV Phone is now available for $199 and no monthly fees. There’s no word on a twin pack, which is what I’d be interested in to link granddaughter with grandparents.
If you want to catch up with the Biscotti TV Phone, they’re on display at CES in South Hall 1, Booth #21442.
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