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Product Review: NewTek TalkShow

August 28, 2015  •  By Larry Jordan

[Originally published on Aug. 28, 2015 by Larry Jordan.]

logo-NewTekWe’ve been using the NewTek Talkshow Skype interface box virtually every week for our live Digital Production Buzz since it was released about eight months ago. (We have serial #2.)

Because we’ve been using it longer than anyone outside of Microsoft, I wanted to share our experiences with you.

NOTE: Megan Paulos contributed to this report. She is our production supervisor and responsible for installing, maintaining and running this unit every week.

BACKGROUND

TalkShow01

The NewTek TalkShow VS-100 is “a studio-grade video calling production system built exclusively for delivering Skype calls in live, broadcast-ready HD.” (NewTek website)

This 1 RU rack-mounted unit allows connecting Skype audio and video into a video switcher. Though designed for the NewTek TriCaster, we are using it with a Blackmagic Design ATEM switcher. In addition to the TalkShow, you will also need a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

The TalkShow provides a pro version of Skype, along with all the connectivity necessary to integrate it into a live production environment.

NOTE: Michael Kammes, of KeyCode Media, provided a Tech Talk covering the TalkShow for The Buzz last week. You can watch his five minute video here.

LARRY’S OPINION

TalkShow02

Personally, I’m of two minds about the TalkShow:

  • It does what it says is does
  • It is overpriced, limited in scope, and very difficult to set up.

My biggest concern, aside from the price which should be about 50% less, is that it is single channel. If you want to have a conversation between an in-studio host and two guests, you need two boxes. For the price, it should be at least dual channel.

From an image quality point of view, it isn’t that great. We originate at 720p. In almost all cases, the images it provides are grainy, somewhat stuttery and subject to compression artifacting (single-color rectangular blocks floating through the image).

We have also had a variety of echo problems which may be a problem with the TalkShow or could be due to how we place mics in the studio. We are still working on this.

Whatever you do, get professional help installing and configuring this box from someone who has installed these before. Setup is not trivial, nor intuitive. We are still finding audio issues that we need to correct.

I’m also not impressed with the TalkShow’s ability to scale an image to fill a 720p frame; and it would only be worse going to 1080p. All too often we are looking at fuzzy images.

One other note, the TalkShow is really noisy. Yes, its designed to be rack-mounted in the machine room, but, still, there’s no reason for the fan to be as noisy as it is. In our rack, filled with 22 other electronic devices, the TalkShow is louder than the rest of them put together.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it about a six. Its OK, but for the price it should be a LOT better.

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