Sessions Explore IT’s Effect on Media Production

Computers, and the networks that connect them, have completely taken over film and television post production and distribution, as well as many production tasks. There will always be a need for cameras with lenses directed by talented people, but beyond that it is a computerized and networked world.

How these networks perform and in what manner software affects production work will be the topic of today’s Super Session titled “Cisco Presents: The Naked Truth About Media Production in an IT Stack.ˮ

Itʼs no secret that much of production today is done with highly networked computers, but knowing how media networks are developing can help you plan facilities that will work productively into the future.

This Super Session, led by David Ward, senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer for Cisco Systems, will discuss concepts such as software-defined studios, IT distribution pipelines for live broadcasts, infrastructure flexibility and resource optimization.

Broadcast and IT have a long, complex history of cautious acceptance of each other, but the past decade has been one of increasing cooperation.

“The IT world has a much better understanding of broadcast technology now — it’s no longer a mystery — but there’s a healthy respect by IT for how a broadcast operation really works,ˮ Ward said. “You can’t just throw new technology into a TV studio and hope for the best. The expertise, workflows and creative direction involved in media production is so critical that any technology change must be able to support what exists today.ˮ

With IT networks now humming along at speeds that support 4K production, broadcasters quickly see the benefits of networks and the flexible tools that connect to them.

“Now on the broadcast side, I think there is recognition that there really are some advantages to this IT stuff, you know?ˮ Ward said. “Automation and orchestration of traditional workflows have always been synonymous with the media industry — many companies have made it their business, in fact. Once you’re able to launch media applications on-demand and orchestrate services in any kind of data center — cloud or otherwise — things get really interesting.ˮ

Why Cisco? What operational advice can the company offer to an industry that has always relied on its internal engineering staffs to navigate among emerging technologies? Ward pointed out that Cisco has considerable experience with the media industry at the highest level.

“Cisco has been a key supplier to Hollywood studios and national broadcasters for many years,ˮ he said. “Last summer, we helped NBC Sports deliver more digital and online content than ever for the Rio Olympics, and it’s a massive operation delivering that kind of spectacle to a truly global audience. We provided the IP infrastructure, data center and encoding that powered the distribution of 24/7 video from 26 venues, and we also made sure that the content was secure and protected at every point in the network. It’s a big responsibility — Cisco had engineers on-site for three months as part of the NBC team.ˮ

Joining David Ward on the presentation will be Andrew Lippman, associate director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Jim Blakley, general manager of the Visual Cloud Division at Intel Corp.

Lippman heads the MIT Media Lab’s Viral Communications research group, which examines scalable, real-time networks whose capacity increases with the number of members. Blakley is responsible for Intel’s data center and network products, technology and solutions for media creation and delivery, data center rendering, augmented and virtual reality, and media analytics.