No! Absolutley not.
My initial concept for In:Quality was to provide radio contribution facilities in people’s homes and offices using LuciLive software which connects over the internet to Comrex Access units which have become somewhat of a standard for at least some broadcasters.
I quickly realised that it would be an oversight not to also include some sort of video facility. I researched the potential technology and became particularly interested in vPoint. vPoint is essentially video conferencing software which connects over the internet. BBC News have been using it for some years to enable live reports from remote parts of the world where more elaborate satellite equipment is impractical.
I bought an evaluation copy of vPoint for a substantial sum which very quickly became worthless! It transpired that the BBC have their own version that tunnels through their firewall in a way that the off-the-shelf release doesn’t. If anybody would like a piece of fairly obsolete software at a bargain price, do get in touch.
There is other technology on the market such as QuickLink but as with LuciLive for audio, there is no standard between broadcasters. This left me with Skype. Despite the fact we’re called In:Quality, the TV offering was never supposed to be amazing. There are companies which provide such a service for a premium.
I just wanted something that if a broadcaster really wants to talk to a particular guest and there isn’t time to arrange a truck or to get to a studio, they can at least do an interview in-vision in reasonable quality. The news channels do this with Skype quite a bit now anyway but most of the time it looks and sounds rather awful.
We’ve had some successes with Skype but it’s a bit hit and miss. There are too many factors that can cause a problem. We’ll stick with it for the time being as and when there’s demand but I’m actively investigating other options.
One good reason for going with Skype initially is that every broadcaster can (if not will) use it. It’s become the default video-messaging service for most of the world so in terms of compatibility it’s an obvious choice. If a request from a non-BBC radio station comes in, we generally don’t get far in suggesting LuciLive because they’ve never heard of it. This would too have been the case if we’d gone with vPoint, QuickLink or similar.
It just so happens that the answer to all of these problems is here. As we speak, a Google-led consortium are developing technology which allows real-time 2-way streaming in the web browser. No additional software or plugins are required. The audio codec they’ve chosen looks impressive on paper and our initial tests have backed this up. Video streaming tests are similarly pleasing.
In the next few weeks I’m hoping to carry out tests with the major UK broadcasters. There’s very little for them to lose as there’s no unknown software required – and no additional hardware.
So if this technology exists in a standard web browser, what are we selling? Why do contributors and broadcasters need our service? What we’ve done is made it all work. We’ve bought the right sort of microphone, the best camera for the job, proper headphones, a discreet earpiece and a computer that’s up to the job. We’ve attached it all to a stable internet connection, configured all the devices and we’re there to make sure it works before it’s too late to find out that it doesn’t. For good measure we’ve installed some lighting and made sure the acoustics of the location are appropriate.
So no, we’re not selling Skype. We’re selling the fact that our facility exists, has been configured for the job in hand and our assurance that we’ll try our best to get the guest on air with the minimum of inconvenience to themselves or the broadcaster.