Skype Interviews & Virtual Tastings

HI! So you are interested in participating in an interview with me? I am very excited about that. Before we get too far into this, my Skype ID is “leetwine.” Please send my yours ahead of time to make sure we are both set up.

These kinds of interviews are open to anyone in the beverage industry. For a winery (even a brewery, distillery, cidery, etc.), it is not required to send samples, but they are nice if you can. Since this is a video show, I am looking to do a Skype video interview. Very likely you already have the basics to do this. I will list what you need below:

  1. Skype – This is a piece of software that allows a telephone-like or video connection over the internet. You may have heard of VoIP like Vonage. Well this is basically the same thing. The cool thing about Skype is that you can also do video. And it’s free. The software works on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. If you have other services for video chat (Zoom, Facetime, etc.), that’s cool. However, the recording software I use is only able to record Skype calls the way I need them recorded. Yes, Zoom and Skype can record internally, but I need to have separate feeds of audio and video and these programs don’t do that.
  2. A webcam – If you have a laptop that’s been sold in the past couple of years, you very likely have a built-in webcam. If you have an iMac from the past few years, you also have one. Other desktop computers may have webcams built into a monitor that came with the system. If not, then you can buy a reasonably good webcam for $50 that will plug into a USB port. If you want to get fancy and have the resources, you can use a video camera that will plug into your computer.You can also use your phone or other mobile device. When I first wrote this, smartphones really weren’t the best at using something like Skype. Now, they are really one of the best cameras to use. I recently have been able to use my iPhone as a webcam via a USB cable to my computer. It provides the best video quality. Don’t worry if you’re unable connect your phone to your computer if you still want to use your phone. If you have a way to mount it to a small tripod, or even just put it on a stand of some sort, that will work. Ideally orient the phone sideways no matter how you use it. Handheld is really not advised as it will involve too much shaking to make your video worth recording. Worst case, if you must use your phone, is to find a way to prop it up. Just make sure it’s stable and not prone to slip or fall over.
  1. Other video – Try to pick a place with a lot of light. Ideally you want to have sunlight (if during the day) to be illuminating you. That does not mean having a window behind you. The window should be at least a little to the side but still in front of you, or directly in front of you with the camera between you and the window. If you look washed out on your feed, then try to use blinds or curtains to improve the image.Other lights behind you also are bad. Even having a desk lamp that can illuminate you is helpful, but be aware that it may be too bright.Honestly, large computer screens with blank Word/Pages docs work really well. I actually have a large 42″ TV above my computer setup and have used that as a “softbox” in addition to my dual monitors. Play around with the brightness of those. If you’re planning on doing this a lot you can also invest in a small LED light.

    Skype allows you to blur your background or even superimpose yourself over a background. You can even use your own. I would call these “good enough” for the type of call we are doing. The blurred background will help with a messy bedroom LOL!

    Depending on what my call involves I’ll either do that or have an actual green screen setup behind me to add an image later in post. I don’t know if you use a green screen if I can “key” it out in post, but it should work in theory.

  2. Audio – To get the best audio from you, the best option is to use some kind of headphones. These include the standard iPhone or equivalent earbuds, airpods, etc. As far as being able to hear yourself, you really won’t be able to do that wearing these kinds of things normally. The audio you hear will only be mine. You’ll need to take one side out of your ear, or move one headphone off your ear.A couple caveats using this method. Just about any Mac laptop or desktop computer no longer has a combined headphone/mic jack. To do this you’ll need some kind of USB adapter to plug in wired headphones with a built-in mic. Depending on how you’ve set things up with a computer, your mobile phone may introduce noise when it accesses the cell network. So I suggest actually turning off your phone or at least putting it in Airplane mode. That includes keeping Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off. This happened to my audio recently on a Skype call.AirPods are convenient since you can put either one in your ear and it will automatically be used as a microphone. The advantage to this is that it will prevent any kind of feedback loop from your speakers. Any bluetooth headphones with a mic will also work. The advantage to this is there shouldn’t be any radio interference like you can get with a wired set-up. But I’d still follow the advice above to be safe.Wired and Bluetooth options both the microphone as closer to your mouth. This helps eliminate other noises and especially echo. Echo can really ruin the audio and is very difficult for me to fix later. In addition, try to pick an area that has the least amount of echo possible. A bedroom is usually a good place as there are a lot of softer surfaces to absorb sound. A kitchen is usually a bad place because of all the hard surfaces. High ceilings are also not the best. And, of course, don’t be in a room where someone is watching TV or other activities, or where they can be heard from another room. I know it can be hard to keep kids quiet.
  3. Broadband connection – The most important part of the connection is YOUR upload speed. I have plenty of bandwidth for incoming video. My upload speed won’t come into play as far as the video recording. And neither does your download speed. However, the better connection you have both ways, the better experience we will both have. When we set up, make sure that you do not have any other computer in your house or business accessing the internet. This will dramatically kill the video quality.This also includes only running Skype on the computer you’re using for the call. Quit any other programs running. Even though e-mail and browsers on their own may not use the connection constantly, they are always doing stuff in the background. Ideally restart your computer with the minimal amount of programs running or, even, better, have a separate account that is barebones for startup programs and run Skype from that. That’s what I do.This includes a video game system like an XBox, PS3, or Wii. It also includes someone else on another computer watching videos on YouTube or downloading or uploading large files. This also includes streaming services like Sling and YouTube. If you have DirecTV or Dish, then if someone wants to watch an on demand program, then that may use an internet connection. A DVR’d program should be fine, but it depends on the service. Obviously a streaming service like Sling will use the internet to view it, but a cable box or satellite service should store the program on a local box.
  4. Other speed killers. If you’re using a mobile device, then most likely Skype will be the only thing running. However, please put your device in a Do Not Disturb mode. This will prevent our call from being interrupted by a phone call, text, or other notifications. Just to be safe, however, please completely close out all other apps the device may be running or have loaded in the background. Also, ideally use your cell service rather than Wi-Fi. It will be the best connection most of the time. If you’re in an area that doesn’t have good cell service, then Wi-Fi should be fine.For computers, the same thing applies as far as apps. Only have Skype running. The best is if you have a separate user account that doesn’t have anything loaded at startup (or just the bare minimum) and only Skype will be running.VPNs are great and all for privacy (I use them), but they can also hurt the speed of the connection. If you typically run one on your computer or mobile device, then please disable it if you are able. I know for company devices that some companies require a VPN connection to the internet.
  5. Port Forwarding – This guide used to have a section on Port Forwarding. I’ve deleted it mostly because broadband connections have gotten so good over the past several years, that it’s really not necessary. Plus, it’s kind of complicated to do and only brings a marginal benefit at this point.

That’s basically what is needed for doing an interview on the show. If any of this needs more clarification definitely go to the About 1337 Wine link at the top and click “Contact Me.” What I want is the best video and audio experience possible so that we can showcase your wine or you for my viewers.

For a Virtual Tasting, I am requesting that you send 1 bottle. You are free to send as many as you like, but the more bottles sent, mean the longer the interview. As far as price point, this is the advice I give people for in-person interviews, pick a wine or wines that will show well. I don’t need the most expensive wines, but maybe your entry level or value wines aren’t the best examples of what you do.

Also, I will give an honest opinion of your wine. If you feel that it won’t show well, then I suggest you don’t send it. This is an opportunity for you to shine and I want to help with that. If I don’t like the wine I have no problem saying it and why. I won’t be rude about it. I’ll just explain that it’s not my style and talk about the target consumer the wine is intended for. Also, I do not score wines. I stopped doing that several years ago. I will say whether I like it or not, but I won’t give it a specific score.

For those guests who are not wineries, distilleries, etc., or a Vendor or Distributor, a virtual tasting is not expected of course. If you are a Sommelier, Wine Director, etc., while a virtual tasting might be nice to do, the nature of the interview may not really lend itself to a tasting. We can focus on other aspects of what you do.

I hope this post is helpful. Again, if you need more info or help, feel free to click the “email me” link to the right.


Mark V. Fusco

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