NAB 2022

NAB 2022 Perspectives: The Video Call Center’s Larry Thaler on AirFirst, Solutions To Meet Increase in Live Remote Productions

New platform provides cloud-controlled management for IP-based models

Long before COVID transformed live sports production, The Video Call Center was pioneering solutions that allow content creators to get camera feeds from virtually any device into a live-production environment. From their Caller Cloud and Caller Queue solutions to HAT (host automation technology), The VCC has been at the forefront in harnessing the power of smartphone cameras as a live source while also opening the door for operations folks to rethink the conventional control room. 

At NAB 2022, The Video Call Center showcased its newest service: AirFirst. The company calls the first cloud-controlled management system for live IP-based remotes. SVG caught up with The Video Call Center CEO Larry Thaler to learn more about how AirFirst enhances operational efficiencies and to get his take on the first in-person NAB Show since 2019.

The Video Call Center team at its NAB 2022 booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s new West Hall: (from left) Tom Wolzien, Valerie Wolzien, Bonnie Optekman, Larry Thaler, Josh Koller, Scott Leibowitz (Photo: Larry Thaler)

What was your company’s strategy heading into this NAB Show, the first one in-person in three years?
It was the first time that we’ve publicly shown AirFirst, the new platform that we’ve put out. We’ve been doing remotes through smartphones for seven years now, and all of our knowledge is in this platform. All of the efficiencies gained in our operation are built into AirFirst.

Inevitably, for example, [prospective clients we met with] were saying, “We install all these Skype TX boxes, and we’re struggling to keep up with the volume. It’s too much work. People don’t know their Skype names; we don’t know whether they’re downloading Skype TX or have downloaded Skype for business, which doesn’t work at all. We’re getting lousy results.” We can help you, and we could take hours and hours out of your day by making the connections really efficient. There were lots of people who came to us and said, “We’ve been jury-rigging with Zoom or [Microsoft] Teams.” Those people were really drawn to the platform, and having the opportunity to show that to them was just great.

Can you tell us more about AirFirst? What does it deliver to the live-production industry?
AirFirst was really the only thing we were showing at [NAB 2022]. Of course, we still have our services business, Caller Cloud, but, quite frankly, what we wanted to do is to show that this capability can be in anybody’s hands and that we not only are willing to share that technology with people but are willing to train people in what we do. Attendees were very excited.

We had a very major broadcaster from the Middle East who came by who was struggling to do the volume of remotes that they have. One of the things that we were sharing with people was that we have a very large news customer now who’s doing approximately 25,000 remotes a year and we took 20 minutes or more off each of those remotes. When you multiply that out, that’s a big number of hours saved. We’re very excited to be doing that — not only for them but for other people as well.

Were there any additional trends or common pain points that emerged as you talked to NAB 2022 visitors throughout the week?
I think the thing that we heard the most was that, at the beginning of the pandemic, people installed whatever they could find as quickly as they could in order to get on the air. An “any port in the storm” kind of strategy. Nobody expected it to last this long. Not only are they having to use those same workflows that were hurried together, [but] they are seeing the volume of work that they’re doing in that way growing, and they can’t handle it. That’s when you need something that can handle the volume and can handle it across the whole team. That seemed very valuable to them.

What was your general assessment of NAB 2022? How did it feel being back at an in-person trade show after so long?
We had a great show. First of all, it was great to get in touch with people in person again. It felt really nice. It felt like the world was a bit more normal. We found that people were drawn to what we had, and it was great to see some old faces and meet so many new people as well.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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