Microsoft is used to supplying the tools for its partners to work their magic on, helping customers around the globe do more, go further, accelerate faster. But when delays and inefficiencies were holding up production of its training and product videos, it was Microsoft’s turn to seek help. Kiwi software developer Wipster answered the casting call for a screen hero, bringing a little magic of its own. Through the power of Azure cloud, Microsoft is now the slickest movie production house outside of Hollywood. And learning about new products has never been so fun.
Microsoft is home to some of the world’s best known tech platforms, products and services, from Windows to Microsoft 365, Azure and Xbox. Forget technology, they’re some of the biggest brands of any kind on the planet. And behind the scenes, teams of video producers are responsible for creating content to excite and educate people around the world about the latest releases. There’s even a Worldwide Learning Studios team that focuses solely on training content for Microsoft’s staff, partners and customers.
When you’re an operation on the scale of Microsoft, we’re talking a lot of content. And that means a lot of deadlines for the teams pulling out all the stops to create trailers for that global launch event, or case study videos for the seminar happening next week or the presentation to the World Economic Forum.
Trouble was, the production process used to be one part ‘action!’ to two parts ‘aaargh’.
“When you’re making a video, a lot of people need to be able to review and give feedback on the content. But the processes we were using weren’t standardised and they were really time-consuming. 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,” says Paul Trice, Digital Media Solutions Lead at Microsoft Production Studios.
“Different teams or producers had different processes to create content, there were lots of emails back and forth. Lots of repetition, wasted time and effort, just to get stuff approved.”
Colleague Will Flash, Worldwide Learning Studios Lead, explains: “You’re always under pressure to deliver. It’s not hard to shoot a video, but it’s really hard to explain to someone exactly what it is you’re looking to change, especially when people approving the content aren’t professional directors. 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.”
Time to change the script.
Seeking a video star
Wipster is a New Zealand-born video reviewing platform that’s won some major fans across the US, including big-name Hollywood studios. As a Microsoft customer, the Wipster team already had a great understanding of the business, including the importance of making content as accessible – and secure – as possible.
“Content is often valuable IP and leaks could be catastrophic, so we needed a reviewing platform that ran on Azure cloud for maximum security. Sharing videos with external parties, we needed to know we’d have password protection, multi-factor authentication and other tools to ensure only people with permission to view the files could view them. And Wipster was so responsive and willing to make any changes,” says Trice.
Wipster was keen to migrate its platform to Azure, recognising the benefits for other customers as well as Microsoft.
“Microsoft is a business that’s really prioritising what customers need. That made it a very easy decision for us to move fully to Azure,” says Caspian Alderman, Wipster’s Director of Sales and Customer Success, based in San Francisco.
“Azure’s also a flexible cloud platform that’s reliable, backing up customers’ video data so our systems are entirely resilient.”
Wipster worked closely with Microsoft to ensure all its security needs were met and identify exactly the tools it needed to speed up video approvals. After migrating the Wipster platform to Azure, content was stored in one single online portal, making it so much easier for everyone to access and provide feedback. Comments could then be typed in or drawn on the screen, visible to all the other people working on or reviewing the video, with multiple users able to view the video at once. An indexing tool for video transcripts helped with locating files.
“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. They also have options such as adding passwords or blocking downloads to 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,” Alderman says. “You can easily see who’s viewed the video and control security settings in a centralised place.”
Accessibility is just as important. Microsoft’s video creators were also wanting to be able to review videos on the go, on mobiles, tablets and laptops when out of the office. The beauty of the Wipster reviewing platform is it doesn’t care which device people use, and they don’t even need to download a file. All they need to do is click a link.
“There’s always someone who forgot to look at the video who holds up the whole process. Having whole groups of people able to look at one time and comment is so much faster. The Wipster solution means people can view and comment on videos in a way they just couldn’t do before,” Trice says.
The next big features
Now all Microsoft Production Studios and Worldwide Learning videos and edits are stored on the Wipster platform, it’s easy to track who’s reviewed a video and manage version control. No more need to compile a dozen people’s feedback, upload and share files and cross-reference timestamps 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.”
The production certainly hasn’t wrapped yet.
The next star feature will be the ability to import caption files, so they can automatically be added to videos, improving accessibility even further for those with hearing difficulties. Automated video transcription is also coming up soon. Further improvements to the Wipster platform’s accessibility and security features are being made all the time.
“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,” says 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 gets the final line.
“Wipster’s helped us 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.”