Microsoft Pushes IT Workflow

Software giant rolls out CSF for production, broadcast
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Software giant rolls out CSF for production, broadcast

REDMOND, WASH.

Corporations have long used their IT infrastructure to streamline their operations and reduce costs, but broadcasters, television and film production facilities, because of their specialized tools, have found integrating IT an expensive proposition.

"People would come in and do a custom integration between an asset management system and an Avid, as an example," said Carlos Montalvo, chief marketing officer and vice president of business development for asset management developer North Plains Systems Corp., based in Missisauga, Ont.

"So long as that was the norm, it was going to be very, very hard for television studios, broadcast studios, or any one who is producing video-based content to start getting the types of cost reduction, cost efficiencies, time to market that have already been proven in the corporate space."

LACK OF INTEROPERABILITY

Microsoft, Inc. didn't have to look outside its own front door to realize these problems in video production; the company's own Microsoft Studios experienced the same problems with the lack of interoperability between devices and departments.

But the software giant also did its homework with broadcast and production facilities, as well as a number of vendors supplying production devices to the marketplace.

Earlier this year, the company introduced Microsoft Connected Services Framework (CSF). Last month, just prior to NAB, Microsoft announced a CSF application for broadcast, video and film production facilities.

A demo at Microsoft's NAB booth followed an end-to-end production facility workflow, where HD material from a Panasonic P2 camera was transcoded through a Telestream FlipFactory and ingested into an OmniBus server, indexed and cataloged by a North Plains asset management system and edited on an Avid editor.

Sony Pictures Entertainment b ecame the first company in the broadcast and film industry to adopt CSF.

"By installing the Microsoft Connected Services Framework, Sony Pictures Entertainment has been able to extend our existing production environment to enable new services, increase interoperability, improve workflow management and reduce costs," said Jerry Ledbetter, vice president of Digital Media Initiatives for SPE.

CSF is an integrated, server-based software for building and managing services, using a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and industry standards such as Extensible Markup Language (XML), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL).

"Connected Services Framework provides the missing link in making media workflows as 'off the shelf' as possible," said David Heppe, senior vice president, sales and marketing at Telestream, based in Nevada City, Calif. "Vendors write connectors once to a common service that shares content and communicates with other apps."

TRACKING PROJECTS

Microsoft's David Alstadter, senior director with Microsoft Worldwide Media & Entertainment Group, spent 17 years in production and post production in Los Angeles. "One big issue that I faced when I was supervising post production was how do I track where a project is in real time, how do I know if I'm on-time to deliver [the project]?" he said.

CSF allows managers to monitor a project's process via Web interfaces. And through a Live Communication Server, different parties in the production will be able to stay in contact by IM-ing each other.

"The editor can notify the producer through an IM that a piece of content has arrived or is completed," said David Chow, senior product manager with the Microsoft Worldwide Media & Entertainment Group.

"And the producer can notify all their reviewers that they need to review this content by a certain date."

Alstadter noted getting approval from various producers and production heads is another task CSF streamlines by "taking out the human intervention of taking a tape out and walking it over to someone's office, or worse, driving it up to their house on Mulholland Drive in L.A."

Instead, those who need to sign off on a project can access an approval copy over the Web in the format they need. "[Editing people] want to review it with a lot more details, with timecode, timestamp, a lot of the editing details involved," said Chow.

"Other executives just want to see it laid back on a device at home, through a set-top box," he said. Connected Services allows them to review their approval copy either at a SharePoint portal or through a Media Center PC.

The Connected Services Framework is bundled with six modules for connecting devices. Chow notes that this allows customers to test the CSF system in a partial sense in their facility before jumping in with both feet.