Skype Redefines ‘Postgame Show’ With X Games Extra Out of Airstream Studio
For the second consecutive year in Austin, TX, Skype (a Microsoft-owned company) deployed a full studio housed in an Airstream trailer to produce X Games Extra Presented by Skype. The nightly digital show, streamed on XGames.com immediately following the ESPN primetime broadcast, offered an interactive format allowing fans to engage directly with medal winners, talent, and celebrities via Skype.
“It’s a lighter interview show with winners from the day and lots of other athletes,” said Mark Wass, broadcast operations manager, Microsoft/Skype, during the Games. “We bring in fans or contributors [via] Skype to interact with them remotely. They get a chance to interview them and ask some questions that fans want to know the answers to that most journalists never really ask.”
To produce the nightly show, Skype deployed a full production team and shipped from Europe a flypack built around a Ross Video Carbonite switcher. Other gear included a NewTek TriCaster to help with recording and playback, a Yamaha audio console, Riedel communications, and plenty of Audinate Dante audio-over-Ethernet technology to help reduce the weight of the flypack.
“Since this kit lives in the UK and we air-freight back and forth, we can save tons of weight by [routing] everything on Cat 5 [cable],” said Wass. “It streamlines our production massively because we can move everything — all of our video commands, our comms — over one fiber link with Ethernet. And it allows us to [ship] so much of this kit, so we are a lot less reliant on the facilities here from ESPN.”
The Airstream studio, linked via four single-mode fiber connections to the flypack in Skype’s trailer in the truck compound, features six Blackmagic Design studio cameras. Four 4K and two HD cameras (all converted to 720p) were used: a handheld, three hards, a super-wide shot attached to a truss, and another super-wide on the COTA track.
ESPN provided a dedicated feed over its fiber circuit to deliver X Games Extra to Bristol, CT, for distribution. In addition, Skype was tied into ESPN’s EVS Portal, allowing the production team to instantly pull clips to be integrated into the X Games Extra show that night.
“ESPN hosts us beautifully here, and we have a great workflow with those guys,” said Wass. “The workflow is very much tuned so that we can utilize the huge infrastructure that ESPN has here.”
Skype also looks for unique ways to integrate its video-conferencing technology into more broadcast-centric applications for X Games.
“Last year with Chad Kerley on BMX Street, we fixed a Microsoft Nokia Lumia [smartphone] to his handlebars [and] linked that as a Skype call. Then, from [our production compound], we set up a Skype call to his handset and brought in multiple Skype callers so they could interview him and ride around the track with him on the handlebars of his bike.”
CLICK HERE to read all of SVG’s in-depth coverage of X Games 2015 in Austin.