"Hmmm. Nice lampshade."

"Hmmm. Nice lampshade."

How to Improve the Credibility of Your Skype Contributions to Broadcasters

"Hmmm. Nice lampshade” or similar sarcastic words to that effect is a phrase I have heard on more than one occasion in a TV studio gallery. They are said during those contributions, delivered by experts, or a reporter, over Skype or similar systems, usually via the contributor’s laptop. We see their head and shoulders and, due to the angle of the screen, the light in the centre of the room, or perhaps a crammed book case against a wall. Frankly it looks naff.

And then there is the audio: Only today I saw a contributor wearing white iPod earbuds so he could hear the studio questions. In this case, behind him wasn’t the usual light fitting backdrop, but a brick wall.  It looked like he was about to be shot for the crime of listening to his MP3 player.

 

"We aim to please!"

I’m sure you recall Professor Robert Kelly’s Skype interview that went viral, not through what he said but because his children gate-crashed it during the interview. It’s here if you want to see it again. And when you do, notice the picture: He is nicely framed, we are not treated to an examination of his ceiling, the sound is ok too, although a little “off mic”.

Robert Kelly Interview

Gate-crashing kids aside, the picture and sound added to the credibility of what he had to say.

Related to TV contributions are, of course, those for radio or podcasts, again most probably using Skype. I was working on a production that required a remote contribution and the producer insisted on it being via Skype. With a quality line, Skype can give results easily superior to a phone interview. But when the microphone and speaker is nothing more than what comes with a laptop, then things fall apart.

Whatever the interviewee had to say was marred by the mic picking up clicks, buzzes and whirrs from the laptop. Although I was sending clean-feed to him, the mic was still picking up the laptop speaker a little, meaning there was a semi-feedback ringing sound to the presenter questions. Of course I could have ridden the fader of the interviewee, bringing it down when the interviewer put a question and bringing it back up for the answer, but doing that too much made for a distracting listen as the background hash from the laptop came and went.

On balance it would have been better to stick to using the phone.

Getting good sound on Skype style interviews is not that difficult and framing a good image of yourself is not a stretch either. All it takes is a little investment in the right kit. And I mean little, because frankly the gear you need to make massive improvements in quality is easily affordable.

If you are positioning yourself as an expert, like Professor Kelly, and offering “colour” or analysis to news and documentary programmes, be it on the TV, radio or a podcast, then I urge you to think seriously about investing in the sound and picture quality you deliver.

As I said, the gear to do this is easily affordable and advice on its setup and use easily obtainable too.

Both of which are available from AV Resilience.

Drop us a line at and we’ll be happy to help.

Because it will all add to the credibility of what you are saying and the viewer will concentrate on that and not on the lampshade behind your head.

Iain Betson