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CallMe – Reliable Contributions From Guests And Reporters

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Using reliable dedicated hardware and software and dedicated broadcast server built for the job.

Whilst free apps might have their place, dedicated software and hardware provide a more reliable solution for Broadcast.

We live in exciting times and we do things now that we would never have even dared dream about a decade ago and for virtually no money – free even. Once connectivity moved from dial-up and the internet became a real-time resource, for the first time allowing streaming from virtually anywhere, applications came along such as Skype when you could talk to the family on the other side of the world – and for nothing (assuming you had the internet) – and with moving pictures. Then with the advent of the SmartPhone, Skype became possible from anywhere, FaceTime came along and everyone had a movie camera in their pocket. Calls might be a bit ropey – the image would often freeze – but it was not bad for free and for that you can put up with quite a lot.

On the other hand, there was a time – and not so very long ago – when in broadcasting even a second of "dead air" was investigated and an apology for "losing the line" was rarely heard. No more; listening even to flagship programmes, contributors can often sound phasey with a bit of an echo, calls drop-out and the content is lost in poor quality. Similarly watching mobile phone footage whilst it may have an immediacy, is fine if it is shot in landscape which fills the screen but when broadcast in a kaleidoscopic "Hall of Mirrors" is again distracting. How much better it would be with a few curated still frames and intelligible audio?

The use of domestic and semi-professional equipment and software can have its place in Broadcast and whilst it can provide immediacy in the absence of something more reliable, using it as-a-rule is broadcasting on-the-cheap and a disappointment.

Having said this, properly integrated, "free" stuff can work well and Vortex takes advantage of the latest browser capabilities with its cloud-based audio codec called CallMe Click-and-Connect. Contributors connect to the studio with high-quality 15kHz audio by simply clicking on a web link in their browser – sent by the studio – which takes them to the station's branded CallMe portal through which they are connected to one of the studio's dedicated codecs. By using a resilient managed CallMe server and reliable back-end codecs far better results with stable connections are the norm, as opposed to trusting the broadcast to a computer which may be running lots of different applications and with indifferent sound.

And on the subject of hardware codecs, it became clear to us that many smaller community and hospital stations simply could not afford even a bottom-end full-blown codec and were relying on the combinations described above. True, it was better than nothing, but how much better if there was a reliable, simple, low-cost IP audio codec available? And that is how CallMe-TS was born (S for Studio); designed as a hardware back-end for CallMe, it sits on the internet at the station and contributors and reporters connect to it using CallMe Click-and-Connect using their mobile phone browser or desktop computer providing live two-way 15kHz stereo audio; maybe not as good as a multi-streaming codec with all the bells-and-whistles but a huge step up from the domestic solution.

Moving on almost by accident, it was suggested that if two CallMe-Ts could connect to each other, it would make an ideal low-cost solution for converting the huge installed base of ISDN Codec/Mixers for use on IP. Instead of dialling over ISDN, the output of the mixer which is well-liked, is fed into a CallMe-T box which connects to the studio over IP. Simples. However, the request was for some "Quick Dial" buttons and CallMe-TR (R for Remote) was born with four buttons that connect to pre-set destinations, making it easy for reporters to connect to the studio without the need to use the CallMe-T's web interface.

So there we have it – three products in one – the CallMe family – all produced to meet customer demand for guests, for reporters – for everyone.

Image: CallMe runs on computer, smartphone or tablet with CallMe-T low-cost studio back-end.

This article is also available to read in the October edition of Broadcast Film & Video here, page 10.

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