Is Skype the Future of Live TV?

Almost everyone has used Skype these days, whether it is for a business conference or to stay in touch with loved ones and friends face-to-face. However, Skype is also being used in the newsroom.

According to Poynter Online, a WTSP-TV anchor/reporter Janie Porter was on TV, reporting live from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on the run-up the week’s national college football championship game. Interestingly, she didn’t have a big live truck accompanying her, an engineer tuning in a shot or a photojournalist standing behind the camera and setting up lights. All she had, was her computer.

Porter set up her own camera, opened her laptop, connected the camera to her computer, slipped a wireless connection card into her laptop, called up Skype and used her Blackberry to establish IFB (the device TV folks wear in their ears to hear the off-air signal). Put this all together, and you have a pretty decent live shot without all the hassle of a crew and a huge camera.

This type of reporting marks a new day. It is more than backpack journalism or one-man-band reporting. It is a potential cost-saving way to use fewer people and to send in live reports without using expensive trucks.

According to Poynter, WTSP News Director Darren Richards said, “The process was surprisingly simple. We used a camera with firewire video out to a reporter laptop computer. We then used Skype to send the picture via a wireless AirCard. Back here at 10 Connects, we called up the video via Skype in a computer in our control room that we have on the router. We then punched it up like a regular live video source on our switcher. We ran some tests in advance and they all worked great — very smooth with only a slight delay, probably a little shorter than a SNG (satellite truck) shot.”

The key to a smooth shot seems to be having solid high-speed connection. The slower the connection, the worse the signal becomes. It also helps to have a fast laptop.

Well, If this doesn’t sum up the future of reporting, I don’t know what does. I’m very proud to say that I did my own live shot recently for QNN – The Quinnipiac News Network via Skype. I’m so glad that our professor is using Skype as a journalism tool and is helping us get some live shot experience while still in college.

Here are some examples of live shots using skype.

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