Skype Interactivity Brought to India’s Got Talent Through Riedel System

Interactivity is being increasingly integrated into professional broadcasting productions, as shown by the recent run of reality search-for-a-star shows. India’s Got Talent (IGT) selected Skype to extend contributions from not just round the studio but the entire country. Skype connectivity was made possible through a Riedel Communications STX-200 interface device, which was also linked to the main programme network and intercom system.

Riedel Communication's Skype TX in Media offering was launched in 2014 to provide broadcast-quality HD-SDI and balanced XLR audio I/Os for TV production. The STX-200 interface is fitted with professional Microsoft Skype TX software and also includes remote management and monitoring of the calls. This gives broadcasters live access to more than 300 million regular Skype users internationally with good enough quality to go on air.

The producers of IGT decided to exploit this to get viewers involved in the talent contest, while at the same time producing additional footage away from the main broadcast studio. Fans were able to interact with the show, which is screened on Hindi-language entertainment channel ColorsTV, through both desktop Skype clients and mobile units such as tablets and smartphones.

Riedel Skype TX rack for India's Got Talent.

Riedel Skype TX rack for India's Got Talent.

This included Skype-to-Skype calls, group video chats and instant picture messaging. By using the Skype ID 'IGTonColors', viewers were able to pose questions to the presenters and judges, as well as communicate with each other. In addition to this level of activity, Skype users could take part in exclusive IGT competitions and had access to show highlights, outtakes and interviews with the competitors.

At the IGT production facility in Mumbai Riedel engineers built an infrastructure that integrated eight STX-200s running Skype TX Studio with a MediorNet Compact media network and an Artist digital matrix intercom. This set-up carried programme video and embedded audio from the studio to the production switcher and then fed it to the control room.

Signals were also routed to Skype users, which included the contestants, using smart devices, such as Surface tablets. In this way the hosts - Bharti Singh, Nakuul Mehta and Siddharth Shukla - could contact a contestant to say he or she was going into the next round, while producers were able to arrange impromptu calls from the family and friends of those taking part.

A dedicated Skype control room was set up, from where an operator could monitor and run all eight STX-200s. The units are equipped with quality control features that produce a still image if the video feed falls below a set parameter and prevent sound dropout. There is also provision for clean-feeds of calls, with no notifications, commercials or pop-ups.

This year's series of IGT was the sixth run of the show. The winner in the grand finale on 27 June was aerial dancer Manik Paul.

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