‘Green Room in the Cloud’ from Video Call Center

Talk show management systems developer Video Call Center (VCC) has added to its offering of Skype-based products with a new application that acts as a virtual green room. Caller Queue operates in the cloud and is designed as a holding place for large numbers of video calls before they are put on air.

The new feature joins VCC's established call management products, Caller Acquisition Technology (CAT) and the Host Automation Tool (HAT). These came out of the original VVC project started by ex-NBC News executive and Wall Street media analyst Tom Wolzien in 2010. Observing that conventional linear television was starting to compete with new media platforms such as streaming, mobile and video-on-demand services, Wolzien concluded that talk radio on TV was a way to produce low budget programming people wanted to watch.

Wolzien saw Skype as a key part of this and began writing code for a call management system based on the internet communications technology. Research was funded through Wolzien LLC, the consultancy company owned and financed by Wolzien and his wife Valerie, a writer of mystery novels. A patent was applied for and a prototype produced in 2012; the latter was hardware based and featured a HD Broadcast Pix switcher with Matrox video converters for dealing with a high number of incoming calls.

During 2013 this system was used as part of live programmes on the web under the TalkCenterAmerica banner. These early broadcasts were not without their technical problems and personal friends of the Wolziens were persuaded to call in to keep interest going. Another former NBC employee, Larry Thaler, joined the operation to take charge of the R&D side.

Caller Queue producer screen

Caller Queue producer screen

Thaler, previously vice president of distribution technology with NBC Universal and founder of the Positve Flux consultancy, aimed to replace the original code and hard-wired technology. Working with hardware/software designer Alexander Maisey and automation code writer Will Milne, Thaler helped produce the CAT system to receive, manage and distribute calls and HAT for a presenter or production team member to run a programme with live calls.

Call Queue is able to work with any video call application used on smartphones or devices such as desktop computers and laptops. In addition to Skype these include FaceTime, Gruveo (WebRTC) and Facebook Live, with new apps being added as they appear. It is designed to make screening calls more straightforward through the regulation of incoming call numbers. This is done by holding callers in the cloud and allowing them to watch the programme as it proceeds. In this way those calling in are not confronted by an engaged tone and call screeners are able to take information about potential contributors as they wait.

VCC chief executive Larry Thaler comments that network productions using video call contributions had been looking for a way to handle a large number of callers during a show. "While it may seem a common thing to use video calling applications such as Skype to bring a speaker to air, what most people don't realise is that even the biggest network programmes lack the infrastructure to support more than a couple of callers at the same time," he says. "Caller Queue makes it possible to screen any number of callers and keep them engaged while they wait for their opportunity to join the live programme, without investment in massive amounts of hardware or large numbers of call screeners."

Call Queue can be used as a stand-alone cloud app or integrated into a full VCC system.

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