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  • Questek's visual radio changes the mentality of listeners

    At IBC 2014, VidiGo’s broadcast solutions were among the most talked-about offerings at the exhibition. When the show drew to a close, the Dutch-based company walked away with the IABM Design and Innovation Award for Best System Automation and Control for its Studio Automation solution. Software-based and designed with ease of use as a major priority, Vidigo’s products and solutions have begun to develop a sizeable footprint across the globe.

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    At IBC 2014, VidiGo’s broadcast solutions were among the most talked-about offerings at the exhibition. When the show drew to a close, the Dutch-based company walked away with the IABM Design and Innovation Award for Best System Automation and Control for its Studio Automation solution. Software-based and designed with ease of use as a major priority, Vidigo’s products and solutions have begun to develop a sizeable footprint across the globe.

    VidiGo’s offering consists of a handful of products that can be deployed in varying combinations and targeted solutions: Engine, a complete AV workflow manager; Live, a multicam live production suite; Toolbox, which enables the integration of any web or PC content into the broadcast environment; Graphics, enabling the creation of fast, high-quality graphics during production and broadcast; Social Media Hub, an add-on for Graphics and Live to allow the incorporation of social media into broadcast; Visual Radio, which utilises automation and graphics to add visual elements to radio broadcasts, and the award-winning Studio Automation.

    ‘Changing the mentality of video production’

    Among those production and broadcast operators who are putting VidiGo solutions to good use, is Primedia Broadcast, the company behind radio stations 94.7, KFM, Cape Talk and 702, as well as the online news platform, Eyewitness News (EWN). At its hub in Sandton, Primedia uses VidiGo to drive its visual radio work on 94.7 and 702, as well as its EWN news and talk studio.

    The recent addition of VidiGo to Primedia’s operations has changed the way the company, which is primarily concerned with radio, thinks about the creation of video content. According to Chief Operations Officer Ryan Till, much of what they do with VidiGo would not have been possible four or five years ago. The product has been deployed at the company’s Sandton headquarters in the 94.7 and 702 studios, with three-camera set-ups to capture visuals from the main desks, as well as specially designated interview or performance areas, with simple control rooms where the shows can be produced by single-person-operation thanks to the tools that VidiGo provides. Elsewhere in the building is the newly completed EWN studio, a compact production space that includes a news desk and two talk show style set-ups. Fully automated, the studio requires no operators on set. It is configured for full single-person operation from the adjacent control room, using templates set up in the VidiGo system.

    Since the content is created for web and mobile consumption rather than television, the emphasis is on generating and distributing the content as quickly as possible, rather than creating content that is technically perfect. The content is thus mixed live and then uploaded or streamed live. “Technology has enabled us to do that before without investing substantially more than I think would be reasonable for a radio broadcaster to invest in video content,” says Till. “It has fundamentally changed the mentality of video production in this business. Before VidiGo, our content producers wouldn’t even have worried about how to create live video content because it just wasn’t an option. Their roles have changed as they move towards this live mentality as they are now able to make things happen fast enough. It’s the technology that has led us to this point.”

    The video creation process is heavily dependent on pre-production: the creation of templates in VidiGo, as well as careful planning of the content. Once these are in place, operating the system during the show is relatively easy. “Like any live show, you have to pre-produce well,” says content producer Ruth Edwards. “You need to know what your programme is going to be like during the show, what graphics will be required, what advertisers and sponsors need from a branding and graphics point of view.” Once these are in place, the videographer’s job during the show is essentially to remain watchful and know which button to push, when.

    The graphics aspect of VidiGo is not only a great resource from an aesthetic and information point of view, it allows producers to add value for clients, through branding and advertising opportunities. Currently Primedia offers this value-adds for its clients but the possibility exists for producers to monetise such offerings.

    Reduced turnaround times, reduced costs

    Another user of VidiGo’s solutions is Randburg-based convergence agency Don’t Look Down Productions. The company produces TV content for a number of DStv channels, stages big events with live multicam OB broadcasts and manages digital social media properties for a variety of DStv brands. It makes extensive use of VidiGo’s Graphics and Social Media Hub products, which it acquired in late 2014, for the social-to-TV content it produces. Executive creative director Anton Cloete explains:

    “We deploy a variety of on-air systems for our social-to-TV productions, ranging from demanding solutions in both monetary and software development needs, to simple turnkey systems that provide our broadcast clients with display solutions at an affordable price. In VidiGo Graphics we found such a simple turnkey partner at a price point that no other solution could match. The solution is deployed on DStv youth properties, enabling us to produce moderated viewer comments to air from multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as manipulating the tool to produce simple line-ups for the evening’s schedule.”

    Aside from the price point, Don’t Look Down, like Primedia saw value in the ability that VidiGo provides to create simple templates that make the on-air workflow much simpler. Cloete says: “the VidiGo solution has provided us with a simple composition tool for social-to-TV, enabling us to get simple moderated content to air faster and more cost-effectively than ever before. Prior to this solution the lead time in getting our clients on air would be months. This has been reduced to weeks.”

    Primedia’s experience with VidiGo solutions seems to agree with that of Don’t Look Down. “Presets, formats, templates – these are all very much a part of what VidiGo offers us,” says Till. “You can do basic things quickly. Once your pre-production is in place, you need to be able to literally flick a switch and go. That turnaround that VidiGo has enabled for us is very important.”

    As these testimonials suggest, VidiGo offers highly cost-effective solutions that ease production workflows, allow for quick turnaround times and help producers create a high-quality product. The solutions are still relatively new to South Africa but if the experience of these users is anything to go by, seems likely to become a popular choice in the country’s broadcast industry.

    VidiGo solutions are distributed and serviced in South Africa by Questek Advanced Technologies. For more information contact us HERE

  • Distance-defying collaboration is possible when you have the right tools

    Video Conferencing expected to be Preferred Business Communications Tool in 2016 According to New Survey on Global Video Conferencing Trends and Etiquette

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    Video Conferencing expected to be Preferred Business Communications Tool in 2016 According to New Survey on Global Video Conferencing Trends and Etiquette

    • Polycom and Redshift Research survey of 1,205 business decision makers in 12 countries shows video conferencing becoming a business communication standard, with 76 per cent of respondents saying they use video solutions at work today, and 56 per cent of video conferencing users participating in at least one video call a week
    • 96 per cent of business managers and leaders say video conferencing helps companies defy distance and break down cultural barriers to improve productivity

    George van Gils, Director of Questek Advanced Technologies and a local systems integrator for Polycom’s extensive product range confirms that South African trends echo the recent survey conducted by Polycom.  “Video-conferencing is the way forward.  From corporate to education, healthcare to legal/judiciary, video conferencing greatly reduces travel expenses, connects and increases productivity between dispersed workforces and teams and as a green technology obviously reduces carbon footprints.

    Video Conferencing Becoming Pervasive in Business

    The survey found that video is becoming more pervasive in businesses across the globe.  When asked to choose their preferred methods of communications today, respondents ranked video conferencing third (47 per cent) after e-mail (89 per cent) and voice/conference calls (64 per cent), and those same business leaders and managers expect video to be their most preferred collaboration tool in three years (52 per cent), followed by e-mail (51 per cent) and voice/conference calls (37 per cent).

    Survey Uncovers Recommendations for Ideal Videoconferences and Distractions to Avoid

    The survey provided sharp insights from video conferencing users into which behaviours constitute an ideal video meeting, and which are distracting for business decision makers.

    • The survey found the top three most important criteria for an ideal video meeting are:
    • The ability to hear everyone clearly (69 per cent)
    • Technology that is straight forward and easy to use (60 per cent)
    • Good eye contact with colleagues/ everyone is clearly visible (58 per cent)

    Respondents who use video conferencing said the most distracting things, which should be avoided during video meetings, are:

    • Mobile phone going off during a meeting (58 per cent)
    • People attending from inappropriate places – e.g., public transit, in stores (52 per cent)
    • People who are multi-tasking or look distracted – e.g., tapping on keyboard – (51 per cent)
    • Inappropriate background distractions such as colleagues, music, noise (50 per cent)

    What one country finds distracting, another doesn’t mind

    The Polycom survey shed light on different opinions between users of video collaboration in various countries, where one activity may be distracting in one country but accepted in another.

    • Appearance matters (sort of).  When asked if people not wearing business attire was a distraction, respondents from India, Singapore and Poland topped the list (30, 26 and 21 per cent, respectively), and on the other end of the spectrum, 13 per cent or fewer of respondents in the UK, France, Russia and The Netherlands find attire to be a distraction.
    • APAC sees video as critical tool for global business.  In the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, international communications (between colleagues in different countries) ranked as the most important use of video conferencing (65 per cent), versus 57 per cent for inter-country communications.
    • Close the deal. India leads the way in using video conferencing for new business with 60 per cent of respondents saying they use or would use video conferencing for new business, followed by Russia and Brazil at 49 and 44 per cent, respectively.  Across the globe, 38 per cent of respondents use video, or would use video, for new business.
    • See me, hire me.  The U.S. leads the way in leveraging video conferencing for recruitment and hiring, as 32 per cent of video respondents said they use or would use video for this purpose, followed by APAC at 28 per cent.
    • Flexible working.  In the Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) region, respondents were mostly using video conferencing to empower flexible working environments, which was cited as the second highest reason for using the technology, after “connecting with colleagues across the country.”

    Occupational variations:

    As access to video conferencing increases to virtually all employees with a mobile device or laptop, the survey found that video users in various business functions within organisations use video to defy distance in slightly differing ways:

    • CEOs and founders rated flexible working and inter- office/local meetings (50 per cent each) as their top reasons they use or would use video conferencing, followed by international meetings (46 per cent), new business/sales and company/department meetings (39 per cent each).
    • During an average week, the marketing function uses video collaboration the most frequently (64 per cent use video at least weekly) in an organisation, followed by IT/engineering and facilities (62 per cent use video at least weekly).  However, when it comes to daily usage of video at work, the HR function is the power user (32 per cent indicate they use video conferencing daily), followed by sales executives (28 per cent indicate they use video conferencing daily).
    • The IT/engineering and manufacturing/supply chain functions are most likely to use video collaboration for international meetings, with 61 and 58 per cent of respondents, respectively, saying they use or would use video to collaborate face to face with colleagues internationally. In fact, according to the survey results, these are the two job functions that use video collaboration more for international meetings than local, in-country video meetings.

    Note to Editors:

    The survey, “Global View: Business Video Conferencing Usage and Trends,” was conducted by Redshift Research on behalf of Polycom, Inc.

  • Make decisions better, faster, smarter in Parliament, Council Chambers and Convention centres

    Traditional conference systems used to be audio-only, designed to optimise intelligibility for all delegates in the room and to facilitate meetings that follow on certain protocol.

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    Traditional conference systems used to be audio-only, designed to optimise intelligibility for all delegates in the room and to facilitate meetings that follow on certain protocol.

    Nowadays, conference rooms are becoming collaborative meeting environments, fuelling the need for multimedia conference systems.

    Televic’s multimedia conference system from Questek Advanced Technologies – uniCOS – delivers high quality audio, live HD video, documents and interactivity to delegates in a meeting room.

    “Traditionally, the process of merging all the technologies required for a conference led to complex systems, which demanded lots of cabling and interfacing,” says Questek Director George van Gils.  “A multimedia conference system such as uniCOS significantly simplifies system complexity – built around a high-speed, packet-based conference network that interconnects delegate units in a daisy chain or loop using a single Cat5e cable.   We are seeing more and more corporate and government institutions turning to dynamic and interactive conferencing such as Televic’s uniCOS to embrace the technology resulting in more productive meetings.”

    HD low latency live video

    When displaying live video in the conference room (ie. a close-up view on the speaker), it is extremely important that the live audio is in sync with the image. If not, lip-sync is off. This is extremely annoying and doesn’t add to intelligibility. The Televic uniCOS system maintains lip-sync as it brings live video to the delegates and to any point in the room in pristine HD quality and with an extremely low delay of less than a video frame.

    Keeping your meeting under control

    Offering your meeting delegates live video, document viewing, agenda details, messaging, voting and other advanced functionality is great. It adds to the meeting experience and is intended to increase the efficiency of the meeting. However, there is a fair risk that delegates will become distracted by all these extras and that meeting efficiency will actually go down or that delegates miss an important element in the discussion.

    uniCOS therefore offers you the ability to keep control over the meeting through its screen-locking feature. At any point during the meeting, a chairman or operator can direct all delegate screens to certain functionality. When it is time to vote, the chairman can force all delegate units to the voting screen and lock them there, so delegates can’t navigate away until voting is over.

    In this way you offer great tools to your delegates, but keep them focused on the essentials.

    Open standards, yes, but…

    With uniCOS, Televic has conscientiously chosen a closed conference network and decided to move all interfacing to the network edge. There the central unit acts as a bridge to the outside world using open standards, such as Dante.

    This way of working offers the best of both worlds by combining the benefit of being compatible with open standards with three other major advantages.

    Firstly, by making the network proprietary, Televic has been able to optimise its performance and allow the network to deliver HD video to the delegates with an extremely low delay. Secondly, from a security point of view it becomes harder to eavesdrop on the network and it becomes more difficult for viruses to enter the system. Finally, in a network where third party devices are allowed, accountability discussions can arise in case of problems and this is an integrators’ nightmare. The proprietary conference network eliminates all this and allows optimal reliability for mission-critical installs.

    “We are seeing more and more corporate as well government institutions turning to dynamic and interactive technology such as Televic’s uniCOS to optimise collaboration, productivity and efficiency,” concludes Questek’s Van Gils.

  • South Gauteng installs video conference in High Court

    Questek Advanced Technologies has recently installed a new video conferencing communications solution in the South Gauteng High Court that sees greater efficiencies in judicial proceedings, cost savings and drastically improves security.

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    Questek Advanced Technologies has recently installed a new video conferencing communications solution in the South Gauteng High Court that sees greater efficiencies in judicial proceedings, cost savings and drastically improves security.

    Working with Electrical Engineer Dave Warren of D. Warren & Associates who designed the  system, Questek supplied, installed and configured the equipment that would allow the Department of Justice to operate in a more safe, efficient and transparent manner. The Department needed to speed up the process of court cases, while keeping potentially dangerous criminals behind bars, instead of transporting them from the prisons, to the courts. The following criteria needed to be met:

    1. Normal court room operations:  Recording of all the cameras and microphones in the room, in real-time, time and date stamped on a per court room and court case basis.
    2. Video Conference (VC) operation: In this case the video conference system is added as an additional input which also needs to be recorded.
    3. The system must be able to switch between the two scenarios seamlessly, since the court will only activate the VC operation on a “need to have” basis when expert opinion, or a witness in a remote location is required to testify.
    4. The system will be managed by the Clerk of the Court, including distribution of images to all screens, sound levels, recording functions etc.

    The equipment supplied and installed by Questek, includes:

    • 12 Sony 720p IP networked cameras
    • 2 Sony PTZ IP networked cameras
    • Seetec Enterprise Software.
    • Auditel Envoy audio systems
    • 2 Polycom HDX7000 dual camera Video Conference Systems
    • 2 Extron control systems
    • 24 Extron HDMI and USB CAT-5 extender systems
    • Extron amplifiers and sound processors
    • JBL speakers
    • Shure wireless microphones
    • Various Samsung and Hantarex screens
    • And a lot of cabling, installation and programming

    The Polycom HDX7000 Video Conference system installed in the court, communicates ( video and audio ) with a similar unit in the prison. So the prisoner never has to leave the confines of the prison. All the proceedings within the court, as well as the video conference communication, are captured, recorded, and stored for future reference.

    People in the public gallery and press area can view all the proceedings on overhead screens mounted onto the ceiling bulkhead allowing them to get a close-up of the judges, the attorneys, defendants, witnesses etc, without having to leave their seats.

    Should any relevant paperwork need to be displayed, and recorded, this is simply done by placing the printed material onto the document camera.

    The other Sony cameras can be manually controlled, or pre-programmed to pan-tilt-zoom and focus onto specific positions in the courtroom, so that none of the court action is lost.

    The Polycom video conference system can also communicate with other video conference systems, in other courts, in other cities, or even other countries if necessary. Witnesses and experts no longer need to travel thousands of kilometres to be part of the court case. Their evidence and their testimonials can all be presented, seen and heard locally. In addition, if necessary, any one of the attorneys present can question the person at the remote site making the process completely interactive.

    All the equipment is controlled by the Clerk of the Court. It’s high-tech, but the control system was programmed for ease-of-use, automating most of the required switching which needs to take place during court proceedings. In fact the only real intervention required is to start the court proceedings and conclude it at the end of the day. The Clerk of the Court does however have the facility to override the automatic control at any stage.

    Every audio and video channel is recorded onto a state-of-the-art Raid server for future retrieval and review. At the end of the day’s proceedings, the Clerk of the Court can provide the presiding Judge with a recording, on a USB stick, for review.

  • World’s first flat seamless video wall installed by Questek

    Questek Advanced Technologies recently installed a seven meter wide seamless video wall at Dark Fibre Africa’s (DFA) state-of-the-art network monitoring centre in Sandton.  Adding to Questek’s track record of delivering ground breaking visual technology to the African continent on projects such as Telkom’s National Network Operating Centre (Centurion) and ABSA Tower’s 2,880 square meter single canvas LED wall, the Dark Fibre Africa installation leads the way for seamless video walls.

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    Questek Advanced Technologies recently installed a seven meter wide seamless video wall at Dark Fibre Africa’s (DFA) state-of-the-art network monitoring centre in Sandton.  Adding to Questek’s track record of delivering ground breaking visual technology to the African continent on projects such as Telkom’s National Network Operating Centre (Centurion) and ABSA Tower’s 2,880 square meter single canvas LED wall, the Dark Fibre Africa installation leads the way for seamless video walls.

    DFA’s reputation has been built on an average network infrastructure uptime of 99.99% and state-of-the-art monitoring and maintenance.  Foremost in DFA’s video wall evaluation process was to procure a technology that complimented the stringent requirements of Dark Fibre’s own technology backbone.

    After a number of solutions were evaluated, the DFA design team opted for Questek and Barco’s innovative OSV solution.

    The OverView Seamless Videowall (OSV) series is a range of seamless solid state rear-projection displays that can visualise a mix of data and video in high quality without the distraction of seams or bezels.  The OverView OSV-790 is a high-performing 8.5 megapixels video wall, ideal for visualising and evaluating huge amounts of information in 24/7 environments.

    “With DFA’s specific requirement for a flat, rather than curved format, they became the first company in the world to acquire this particular version of the OSV” comments Darren Cox, control room specialist at Questek.

    Furthermore, by benefiting from proven rear-projection technology, state-of-the-art controllers and advanced signal processing, the OSV delivers a feature-rich solution with high image quality and excellent reliability.  Compact in setup, this video wall suits a multitude of possible applications from crisis operations and war rooms, to brainstorm and planning rooms, and of more traditional control room applications in utilities, energy and process control.

    “Barco was proud to be a part of the world first installation of its flat OSV Series at Dark Fibre Africa in South Africa.  This seven meter wide single screen with no seams, creates a massive collaboration surface for command and control centres.”  Alain Solomon, VP Sales Enterprise for Barco.

    Together with its local partner of 26 years Questek, Barco have been responsible for the majority of the large control centres in Southern Africa.  With its fully certified and trained staff Questek was able to provide the level of installation, technical support and maintenance required by DFA’s high end control centre.

    “Our previous video wall technology was suitable for our initial requirements when it was originally installed” comments Neil Weyers, Operations Manager at DFA, “but had reached obsolescence and was no longer performing to the stringent requirements of DFA nor demonstrating our current capabilities to clients”.

    DFA’s key evaluation criteria were all met by the OSV solution:

    • One large common operational canvas
    • Suitable scaling – eliminating misrepresented schematics and symbols
    • Connection to all DFA IT and video sources
    • Easy to use layout management
    • Industry standard Operating System
    • Leading-edge video wall technology
    • A leading Brand Worldwide in control rooms
    • Designed for ten year operation on a 24/7 basis
    • Upgrade path design philosophy
    • Modular design for maintenance.

    DFA finances, builds, installs, manages, and maintains a world-class dark fibre network to transmit metro and long-haul telecommunications traffic in South Africa.  Their networks are maintained to the highest standards, and their preventive maintenance teams ensure that potential dangers are identified before they compromise network connectivity.

    DFA lease their secure transmission and backbone fibre infrastructure to telecommunications operators, internet service providers, media conglomerates, tertiary education institutions, municipalities, government organizations, and other businesses, large and small, on equal terms.  All their clients have access to the same fibre infrastructure with DFA’s industry-leading reliability and almost limitless capacity.

    *DFA headquarters are in Irene, Centurion, with regional offices in Durban and Cape Town. Their state-of-the-art network monitoring centre in Rivonia, Johannesburg, provides round-the-clock monitoring and maintenance to ensure that their network remains up and running 24/7.

  • International InAVation Awards for BEST RETAIL PROJECT goes to Questek Advanced Technologies

    Johannesburg | February 2017 – Questek Advanced Technologies’s Telkom Customer Experience Centre has been recognised by UK based InAVate Magazine as the Best International PROJECT of the year at ISE 2017 [Amsterdam].

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    Johannesburg | February 2017 – Questek Advanced Technologies’s Telkom Customer Experience Centre has been recognised by UK based InAVate Magazine as the Best International PROJECT of the year at ISE 2017 [Amsterdam].   The InAVATION Awards, powered by InAVate and ISE recognises leaders in AV technologies throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

    The Telkom Customer Experience Centre [CEC] in Centurion was the brainchild of Telkom’s Raymond Martin [Senior AV Specialist] who worked closely with the Questek team to create an environment  that engages business customers and consumers through the use of innovative AV technology.  The well-designed and contemporary space guides visitors from one technology display to another demonstrating Telkom’s entire telecommunications data chain for business.

    ‘We’re honoured to be recognised at this level,’ says George van Gils, Questek Advanced Technologies’ Director.  ‘The InAVation Awards attract entries from all over the world.   With 13 different project categories, we were up against tough competition in the Retail Category.  The Telkom CEC was an exciting project to work on and certainly pushed the boundaries in terms of AV technology. Download full article HERE

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