About Cisco TV
Nested within the Cisco sales and marketing ecosystem, Cisco Television provides video production, creative services, engineering, and connectivity for the company’s internal and external meetings and events. With main studios and control rooms based at Cisco’s main campus in San Jose, California, Cisco TV operates from four other geolocations: Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; Bedfont Lakes, U.K.; Bangalore, India; and Singapore.
Primestream Infrastructure Drives Long-Term Remote Production Workflows for Cisco Global Television
A pioneering leader in information technology, Cisco Global Television is well-known for its technologies and product lines enabling collaboration and remote workflows. Two examples are the Webex video conferencing platform and the TelePresence SX80 product line, which works almost like a very low-latency “satellite in a box” for video collaboration. The company’s corporate video production arm, Cisco Television, produces about 1,500 broadcasts a year including around 250 external productions for audiences around the world. Cisco TV productions range from the Cisco Live tradeshow, Cisco Partner Summit, and Impact national sales meeting to product launches, webinars, and events such as those for the Cisco STEM program.
For several years, Cisco TV has relied on a comprehensive infrastructure of Primestream solutions to manage and automate all corporate media operations from capture and ingest through to delivery. Primestream’s Workflow Server manages ingest and automated master control playout, working in concert with the Primestream Xchange™ media asset management (MAM) platform.
“We needed a single, end-to-end management solution that our producers could use to ingest, manage, archive, and automate all of our media for output to various systems,” said John Williamson, Senior Manager Cisco TV Global Engineering Worldwide Sales and Marketing Team. “The Primestream infrastructure provides all of that and much more. It’s absolutely essential to our operation.”
A Unified Content Delivery Workflow
At its San Jose hub, Cisco TV operates with 18 record and 16 playback channels – all under management by the Primestream Workflow Server and Xchange MAM. Running on Cisco Unified Computer System (UCS) rack-mounted servers, the Workflow Server captures live HD signals from the Cisco TV main studios, campus event centers, and remote events. Remote productions for large corporate events link back to the San Jose main studio via fiber.
The Workflow Server automates all asset management and makes assets available for search, review, and repurposing. Upon ingest, the server encodes the file and delivers it to the Xchange MAM server, which notifies producers that the content is ready to view, download, or mark up with metadata. Using a plugin for Adobe Premiere Pro keywords and markers, loggers tag the content with metadata to facilitate search and access. Editing can start while the event is in progress so that as soon as a presentation concludes, content is ready to publish.
Xchange consolidates many years of Cisco TV’s legacy content, which had previously been archived across multiple formats on tape and on isolated drives. Using an automated process within the Workflow Server, all of this stored content has been automatically migrated to the NetApp SAN, transcoded into Apple ProRes, and organized into “smart folders” in which metadata can be used to filter, sort, and track content. “The Xchange MAM acts as a ‘single source of truth’ for our entire operation – providing a centralized archive for all content produced by each Cisco region and giving our teams at the other four geolocations immediate access to the assets they need,” Williamson said.
Cisco TV uses the Workflow Server’s Live Assist capability to play bumpers, trailers, and countdowns into live broadcasts. Workflow Server is also used to broadcast content to the company’s internal and external network over IP using online webcasting portals like Cisco Webex. Additionally, Cisco TV can trigger an automation script that will transcode the native ProRes files into platform-specific codecs with relevant metadata and markers for online publishing to the various portals.
A New Remote Reality
Like multinational organizations everywhere, Cisco started 2020 with one s et of goals and expectations in mind – and then woke up to a harsh new reality when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Previously, Cisco TV was already producing around 20% of its shows either as partially or fully remote events, including a mix of on-premises and off-premises presenters. With the onset of the pandemic in early March, the operation was therefore well-prepared to transition to an almost 100% remote operation.
Currently, Cisco TV operates with nine virtual studios and six control rooms capable of running shows concurrently. The remote setup is powered by TelePresence SX80s, Blackmagic ATEM live production switchers, and the Primestream Workflow Server and Xchange MAM based on-premises in San Jose. For a typical show, the full complement of staff – TD, producer, technical manager, Primestream operator, graphics operator, and audio engineer – all collaborate remotely. The central archive already in place and powered by Xchange made it easy for the team to expand its remote capabilities as needed.
“Within a week of pivoting to our new reality, we jumped right in with a w eekly, 90-minute ‘COVID Check-in’ presented by Cisco executives to employees worldwide,” Williamson explained. “These early presentations were very basic, but as we have continued to build out our remote studios, our shows have become more elaborate, incorporating elements like PowerPoint graphics, lower thirds, and roll-on videos. We’re now able to leverage our TelePresence SX80 units to include multiple presenters on separate outputs of the same bo x, enabling back-and-forth interaction like banter and Q&A sessions”.
Remote Workflows for the Long Haul
Since the onset of the pandemic, Cisco TV has produced more than 1,000 shows remotely. One notable event was the 2020 edition of the Cisco Impact national sales meeting, in which the production teams played out more than 180 pieces of content to an audience of 22,000 people.
“Cisco has always been a very video-centric company, with top-level leadership committed to connecting over video. This year has taught us just how much is possible with remote workflows and how little actually needs to be done on-premises,” Williamson said. “The Workflow Server and Xchange MAM solutions, coupled with Primestream’s outstanding support, are critical elements as remote capabilities continue to grow and evolve into the future.”