Five months after first announcing Skype TX, software that enables broadcasters to incorporate Skype video calls into their television production workflows, Microsoft announced that the product has been released to manufacturing.
First unveiled April 7, during the National Association of Broadcasters' 2014 NAB Show in Las Vegas, Skype TX is a toolset that allows television companies to broadcast full-frame Skype video and audio. The solution is compatible with the TV broadcast serial digital interface (SDI) standards and also supports HD-SDI for high-definition programming.
"We've built on the existing Cat and Mouse technology to deliver a high-quality hardware and software Skype integration direct into a studio environment," Angie Hill, general manager of Skype Consumer Marketing, said in a statement at the time. Microsoft had previously acquired Cat and Mouse, a U.K.-based video over IP broadcasting software specialist, whose CatCall platform included call quality optimizations, switching capabilities and multi-feed management.
Skype TX blocks notifications, ads or pop-ups to make Skype video sessions, which are typically conducted on PCs and mobile devices, suitable for broadcast. Additionally, the technology automatically adjusts for aspect-ratio mismatches. Other features include auto fallback to still, which displays a still image in the event of an interruption, operator previews and call quality monitoring.
Soon, broadcasters will be able to implement the tech with the help of new hardware partners, announced Microsoft Principal Project Manager Simon Lucas. The former Cat and Mouse managing director said the company was "delighted to announce its release to manufacturing whilst also welcoming three brand-new hardware partners to the Skype family: Newtek, Quicklink and Riedel," in a blog post.
San Antonio, Texas-based NewTek is a provider of hardware and software for broadcasters. Its new Skype TX-compatible TalkShow VS-100 video-calling production system allows TV show producers to added Skype calls to live programming.
"While there's been a growing trend to incorporate social media—such as live Twitter feeds—directly into these programs, integrating a two-way dialogue over Skype dramatically shifts the experience to a more engaging and participatory event," said Andrew Cross, president and CTO of NewTek, in prepared remarks.
U.K.-based Quicklink is planning a similar product, the Quicklink TX. The Skype-powered hardware aligns with the company's goal of enabling "producers, technical directors, writers and editors to produce the best content possible by capturing the highest quality broadcast results from anywhere around the world," said CEO Richard Rees in comments released by the company.
Riedel Communications, a maker of communications and networking solutions for the broadcast and events industries, announced a bundled Skype TX offering called the STX-200. Able to handle high-definition Skype video calls, the STX-200 equips broadcasters with "live access to quality video from the more than 300 million regular Skype users around the world, and the STX-200 equips them to take the best of this content to engage the imaginations and minds of their audiences," said Thomas Riedel, CEO of Riedel Communications, in a statement.