And... action! How NZ firm Wipster transformed Microsoft's video production
Microsoft is one of the powerhouses of the technology industry and one of the most recognisable brands in the world. It's easy to imagine that Microsoft is a well-oiled machine in every way, but even powerhouses need help sometimes.
The company powers everything from data centers and clouds to applications, devices and gaming, but all of those activities generate a lot of content.
One form of content Microsoft produces regularly is video. From trailers to case study videos and presentations to the World Economic Forum, video naturally requires a lot of work, a lot of deadlines, and a lot of reviewing before it is finally shown to the public.
The challenges of producing video content
Microsoft Production Studios digital media solutions lead Paul Trice says the video-making process involves many people who need to review the content and provide feedback. But that all takes a long time, and the processes were far from standardised.
“Although our own technology allows us to share videos, we had no easy way of identifying and communicating exactly the changes we wanted in a visual way or ensure everyone responded quickly. And when a last-minute approver was added, it could hold up the process even further. We needed to make video reviews a lot easier,” admits Trice.
There's nothing easy about too many emails, too much repetition, and different producers who all have different content creation processes.
Microsoft Worldwide Learning Studios lead Will Flash says it can be hard to explain edits to people reviewing the content.
"You're doing things like time-stamping edits to ensure the cuts are just where you need them and spending valuable time working through multiple rounds of edits as issues were clarified.
"And in training, new features coming out all the time mean videos only have a short shelf-life, so time is of the essence. People just wanted content faster.
There had to be a better way of doing things.
Wipster to the rescue
New Zealand software development firm Wipster was brought in to work its magic. As a video reviewing platform and Microsoft customer, it's a perfect fit for solving Microsoft's video creation challenges such as feedback, edits, and security.
According to Trice, content is often valuable IP and leaks can be catastrophic. He says a video reviewing platform of choice must be able to run on Azure for maximum security - and it needs to have strong authentication procedures to make sure content is shared only with the people it is intended for.
Wipster did not initially operate its platform on Azure but it quickly saw the benefits of migration for Microsoft and its other customers.
Wipster director of sales and customer success, Caspian Alderman, says that it was an easy decision to migrate to Azure.
“Azure's a flexible cloud platform that's reliable, backing up customers' video data so our systems are entirely resilient.”
The two companies worked closely to ensure Wipster's platform met all of the requirements.
The result was a breakthrough move that brought formerly disparate feedback processes together into one single platform. It truly made video access and feedback much easier because now groups of people can view the video at the same time.
Alderman explains, “People can simply type in comment boxes anywhere on the screen, so they can pinpoint exactly the elements they want to change and upload videos directly from whatever software suite they're using to make file sharing even easier.
He adds, “Options such as adding passwords or blocking downloads enhance security as needed, which is really powerful in an organisation like Microsoft as it ensures access to content meets the company's security policy. You can easily see who's viewed the video and control security settings in a centralised place.
Users don't even need to download a file, or be tethered to their desktops - Wipster's platform is available on desktops, tablets, mobiles, and tablets for a truly multi-device experience on the go.
Microsoft pronounced the Wipster platform a huge success, and now all Microsoft Production Studios and Worldwide Learning videos are curated on Wipster.
There's no need to compile dozens of feedback responses, and no need to be an expert in reading edit sheets or marking timelines. Wipster has solved those laborious challenges.
All people need to do is upload and share files and get feedback on the platform to ensure the final cut is perfect. A “nudge” button even lets people send reminders to share feedback.
“It's just significantly faster to share a link to a video and you don't have to be an expert at reading an edit sheet or marking a timeline,” says Flash.
“And it's created real rigour around how files are stored in one standardised system that makes collaboration so much easier. We're now working with Wipster to customise more features that match our workflow and connect them with other teams who could benefit.”
That's a wrap?
No, not quite. Wipster has grand plans to make its platform even better. In addition to accessibility and security updates, Wipster's plans include the ability to import caption files so they can be automatically be added to videos. Automated video transcription is also another major upcoming feature.
“Accessibility at Microsoft is something the company takes very seriously. Having the ability to do this is another reason why Wipster has been so valuable,” comments Trice.
“Now we won't have to pre-burn videos with captions in order to view them and we'll even be able to edit captions within the tool.
Flash says Wipster has helped Microsoft get things done faster.
“They're small enough to work with and adapt to our needs, but big enough to manage any of our requirements. Their tools just make everything easier.