Video call

Video Call Center’s Larry Thaler on AirFirst, Solutions to Meet Rise 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 pioneered solutions that allowed content creators to get camera feeds from virtually any device in a live production environment. From their Caller Cloud and Caller Queue solutions to HAT (Host Automation Technology), VCC has been at the forefront of harnessing the power of smartphone cameras as a live source while opening the door to operations to rethink the conventional control room.

At NAB 2022, The Video Call Center introduced its brand new service: AirFirst. The company calls the first cloud-controlled management system for IP-based live remotes. SVG caught up Larry Thaler, Video Call Center CEO to learn more about how AirFirst improves operational efficiency and to hear their thoughts on the first in-person NAB Lounge since 2019.

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

What was your company’s strategy leading up to this NAB Show, the first in person in three years?
This was the first time we publicly showed AirFirst, the new platform we’ve implemented. We’ve been making remotes through smartphones for seven years now, and all of our knowledge is on that platform. All efficiencies gained in our operations flow into AirFirst.

Inevitably, for example, [prospective clients we met with] were saying, “We’re setting up all these Skype TX boxes, and we’re having trouble keeping up with the volume. It’s too much work. People don’t know their Skype names; we don’t know if they are downloading skype TX or if they have downloaded skype for business which is not working at all. We get bad results. We can help, and we could take hours and hours out of your day making the connections really efficient. There were a lot of people who came up to us and said, ‘We rigged juries with Zoom or [Microsoft] The teams. These people were really into the platform, and having the opportunity to show it to them was just awesome.

Can you tell us more about AirFirst? What does he bring to the live production industry?
AirFirst was really the only thing we showed to [NAB 2022]. Of course, we still have our service business, Caller Cloud, but quite frankly what we wanted to do was show that this capability can be in anyone’s hands and that not only are we willing to share this technology with people, but that we are ready to train people in what we do. The participants were very enthusiastic.

We had a very large broadcaster in the Middle East who struggled to do the volume of remotes they have. One of the things we shared with people was that we now have a very large news customer who does about 25,000 remotes a year and we took 20 minutes or more on each of those remotes. When you multiply that, that’s a lot of hours saved. We are very happy to do this, not only for them, but also for other people.

Were there any additional trends or common pain points that emerged as you spoke to NAB 2022 visitors throughout the week?
I think what we heard most was that at the start of the pandemic, people were setting up whatever they could find as fast as they could to get on the air. An “any port in the storm” strategy. No one expected it to last this long. Not only do they have to use those same workflows that were rushed together, [but] they see the volume of work they do increase in this way and they cannot manage it. That’s when you need something that can handle the volume and can handle it across the team. It seemed very precious to them.

What was your overall assessment of NAB 2022? How did it feel to be back at an in-person trade show after so long?
We had a great show. First of all, it was great to reconnect with people in person. It was really nice. It was like the world was a little more normal. We found people were drawn to what we had, and it was great to see old faces and meet so many new people.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.