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Skype makes sure X Games fans get in on the action

Take one airstream, some of the most talented action sport athletes in the world, and an array of eager super fans wanting to get closer to their heroes. Welcome to X Games Extra, the official X Games Austin post show, presented by Skype.

For the second year running, Skype TX aided the production of this interactive online program. With the world’s finest athletes including pro skateboarder Bob Burnquistand Nyjah Huston, as well as motor cross dare devils Jarryd McNeil and Thomas Pages, this was an interview show with a real difference — the fans got to ask the questions.

Mark Wass, broadcast operations manager at Microsoft/Skype says of the show: “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.”

It all seems seamless and smooth when you watch it. But is it as easy as it looks to bring eight remote fans together with their heroes? It is when you know how, here’s how…

Skype shipped a flypack built around a Ross Video Carbonite switcher from Europe, together with a NewTek TriCaster to help with recording and playback, a Yamaha audio console and Riedel Communications. The flypack was kept lightweight with lots of Audinate Dante audio-over-Ethernet technology. By routing everything on Cat 5 cable helped streamline the entire production — allowing video commands and communications to be moved over one fibre link with an Ethernet cable.

The excitement of the show all takes place in The Airstream studio. This is linked via four single-mode fibre connections to the flypack and features six Blackmagic design studio cameras. Four 4K and two HD cameras are used during production, including handhelds and super-wides.

Skype was tied into ESPN’s EVS Portal, enabling the production team to instantly pull clips to be integrated into the X Games Extra show that night. Wass says of the process, “ESPN hosts us beautifully here, and we have a great workflow with those guys.”

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