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Insert studios vs. free video calling – Is there a difference for live TV?

July 14, 2014

Occasionally, when watching the news, you’ll notice that some live interviews take place over Skype or Google Hangouts. Although this software is free and easy to use, is this the best solution to get your executives on-air? How does the quality compare to that of an insert studio?

Insert studios are small broadcast-ready, video studios that can transmit a feed directly to TV networks. They are usually operated by a professional staff and, like Skype or Hangouts, can eliminate travel to network stations.

Although both of these methods enable quick and convenient on-air interviews, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each.

Convenience: With video chat software, guests can easily connect with major networks from the comfort of their own home or office. The requirements are simple: a basic internet connection and a webcam. This option is useful for getting a remote guest on-air as quickly as possible, for example, in the case of breaking news or for a guest who can’t leave his or her location.

Insert studios are available in most metro areas and can also be installed on-site in offices or conference rooms. They, too, offer convenience for guests who are located nearby, eliminating unnecessary travel to network studios.

Transmission and Quality: Most webcams are SD (standard definition), meaning they will not visually match the quality of the network program. This will also likely impede on-air interviews in the future as networks move exclusively to HD (high definition) broadcasts. Additionally, video conferencing software will often have lag time due to buffering; the video can become extremely pixelated, or the image could drop out completely because of limited bandwidth.

On the other hand, an insert studio is most likely HD quality. Many insert studios offer multiple transmission methods (fiber, IP, etc.). When transmitting over the internet, insert studios offer a much more reliable connection and more bandwidth. You won’t experience latency, pixilation, or have the connection cut out like you might when transmitting over a regular internet connection.

Costs: Most video calls are free to use and transmit over the free internet. Insert studios are free to the guest, as well. Networks pay for the cost of a live shot. However, if you plan to install an on-site insert studio at your location, you will be paying for the initial installation and maintenance of the system.

Branding: Insert studios enable you to brand your live event. You can custom design the backdrop to be relevant to the conversation. Your brand will be displayed throughout the live TV interview. Alternatively, conferencing software doesn’t include backdrop options. Anything behind you will automatically be visible in the live shot. If your brand image is important to you, your backdrop is something to consider.

Conclusion: Insert studios offer convenience, as well as branding control, image quality and reliability. Skype and similar technologies are a fair substitute to a studio when urgency and convenience are paramount, as in a crisis situation. Your choice of video technology depends on your immediate situation and the importance of controlling your brand image and quality of your live TV appearance.

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