As a media production organization, what do you do in unusual circumstances? When you have live broadcast news anchors unable to broadcast from the studio? Or when stadiums are dark and there are no sports games being played, what does a sports program broadcast? And, late-night comedians don’t have a studio or live audience?

In today’s remote work environment, where life-changing events force so many people to perform their craft from home, it’s more important than ever to follow a structured, yet agile, process to ensure your technology components come together to produce a finished product. A clearly defined production workflow is the key to managing a diverse team of remote personnel, whether it’s a director, an actor, an editor, or an intern.

The “big three” elements of a production workflow are creation, production, and distribution, but some workflows may consist of many more stages with some overlap. For this discussion we break it down into seven foundational stages: preproduction, content acquisition/capture, collaboration/media staging, editing (production), asset management (postproduction), delivery (archiving), and broadcast (distribution).

Let’s take a closer look at these stages and talk a little bit about how Cisco gear and services enhance your production workflow.

Seven Stages of an Agile Production Workflow

Preproduction – This stage encompasses all the planning and execution that occurs before capturing any raw video. This is also called “content planning”, where an objective is defined for the media and key personnel tapped to make it happen. Are you covering a live sporting event, news event, or concert, or are you creating a documentary or film? This is when those decisions are made.

Remote production requires creative solutions. Our popular Cisco Webex web-based video-conferencing platform is a secure and simple way for producers to plan a project from their desktop, submit or receive proposals, and chat in real-time with colleagues around the world. And if they’re at home you can get a close look at their living room furniture!

Content Acquisition/Capture – From the camera to the studio, this is the creation stage for raw media, be it professional video or film, cellular telephone, a live sporting event, a news segment, a Cisco WebEx Desk Pro, graphical elements, or a musical recording. All of this media is now converted to IP so you need powerful switching to control the traffic.

People sometimes take security for granted, but with everything we make it’s our top priority. Everybody in the industry knows of a horror story about hackers stealing, hijacking and/or altering media content. It’s an organization’s top security concern, especially in an era where media content moves around the world in mere seconds. When you’re capturing video or music and sending it elsewhere, you don’t want your access points compromised.

You need a very high level of security to protect against those threat vectors in your network, and two-factor authentication to prevent unwanted snoops from getting a sneak peek at your latest content through a lost or stolen laptop, tablet, Cisco WebEx device, or phone.

Collaboration/Media Staging – Media is prepared for editing during this stage. Producers, editors, and other staffers begin reviewing the acquired raw media and moving it toward the editing process. They might seek the most exciting plays in a sporting event, the relevant portion of a news interview, an actor’s best performance, or the highlights of a speech. Loggers annotate the desired sections and editors use these notes to assist them in the editing process.

 Collaboration tools such as Cisco Webex Boards are perfect for producers and editors working with a remote staff. You can gather your team, and with your media assets stored in the cloud, you can white board them in your virtual meeting. You can review content and mark it up in real time while discussing the changes. They feature an advanced 4K high-resolution camera with a wide-angle lens to capture an entire room, and a 12-microphone array for clear audio.

Need to set up collaboration spaces in an informal “huddling” capacity? The Cisco Webex Room Kit allows you to mount a complete kit with camera, sound, and a 4K ready screen within the allocated space. It’s perfect when you can’t access the main studio. You could even have it shipped to a remote location where commentators are commenting on a live sporting event in another part of the world.

Editing (Production) – This stage produces the finished content we viewers at home take for granted. All the annotated media comes together to produce the final version we see on our televisions, laptops, or phones. Raw media forms the final product in this iterative process. A rough cut of the media goes through a review process and is sometimes returned several times for changes before final approval.

 Media organizations have lots of choices for storage, be it online, offline, or in the cloud. Is it in one centralized storage repository, or scattered among various locations, with some on tape? Remote Production (REMI) is becoming a very popular option. You don’t need a full production studio because your home is the studio. What you need is a flexible solution, based on hybrid-cloud architectures, together with software tools and solutions to modernize your workflow.

Asset Management (Postproduction) – In this stage, media asset managers catalogue the assets and sometimes alter them with watermarks and branding (to clarify ownership), add metadata, or assign digital rights.

These steps are starting to leverage the latest technological developments in areas such as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with advancements in compute technologies. You need an assortment of computing, networking, storage, and collaboration tools to help your organization increase productivity and decrease insecurities.

With the transformation to IP,  multiple audio tracks for the surround-sound experience, different video views, and graphics are all coming in through the same cable as uncompressed/compressed content with fast speeds and low/no latency. Unlike the old SDI days, with one cable carrying the multimedia content, production and distribution requires new intelligent networks and access points.

Delivery (Archiving) – This is where the finished media is either stored (archived) for safe keeping, or prepared and sent to affiliate stations or other broadcast facilities for their use. In a world where you need to deploy Petabytes of storage capacity within minutes, Cisco’s storage and compute devices, including the hyper converged UCS compute family and 3260 storage servers, provide a highly scalable environment to catalog and store assets and manage them.

Broadcast (Distribution) – This last stage is the handoff of the finished project to the retailers taking content to consumers in the form of distribution. It might be through a broadcast, or an online video platform, or moving it to content outlets like Netflix. If you have no live sports to cover, you can fetch old broadcasts from the archives. Broadcast enterprises can leverage any type of content transport between any of their main and remote locations to aggregate and distribute to the end consumers, using secure networking gear for various Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) architectures.

Workflow optimization in the modern enterprise is not new to Cisco. We have field proven experience assisting media organizations with their content experience and modernizing their workflows. In this respect, we’re a lot more than an IT company. From archivists to editors, we provide the tools and services to securely store and manage content flowing from source to destination and into any distribution channel.

No matter where technology and life-changing events take us in the future, the media production workflow will rapidly evolve with the environment. Keep in mind that stages of a media production workflow aren’t a one-size-fits-all standard. As you are undoubtedly experiencing during these challenging times, flexibility is critical, and you may need to alter your production workflow stages.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I’ll be hosting a webinar “Transforming Broadcast Content Production with an all IP Network” on May 27th, 2020 at 11 a.m. EDT. In the meantime, check out our IP fabric for media. It’s a solution for the broadcasting and media-content industry that will help you accelerate ideas to audience.