How 'One World: Together at Home' Producers Pulled Off the Star-Studded Special — Under Lockdown

One World: Together at Home - screengrab -H 2020
Courtesy of Global Citizen

NBC's Doug Vaughan,'s Michael Cioni and Sim's Paul Chapman, among THR's Top Hollywood Innovators, say the benefit featuring Billie Eilish and Lizzo raised $128 million for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

During the COVID-19 crisis, necessity has indeed become the mother of invention as Hollywood trades in meeting rooms for Zoom, sets for living rooms, cameras for smartphones and studios for cloud-based technologies. The last innovation is something that the team behind One World: Together at Home — the global broadcast and digital special that aired April 18 and raised $128 million for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund — knows well.

A centralized cloud-based production environment, provided by collaboration systems company, allowed numerous players to work remotely — including a long list of performers from Lady Gaga to the Rolling Stones to Lizzo. Said to be the brainchild of NBC exec vp special and late night programming Doug Vaughan, the One World production — involving four U.S. broadcast networks and international outlets like the BBC while produced in partnership with Global Citizen and the World Health Organization — evolved from an initial meeting April 1 to broadcast just two weeks later.

Says senior vp innovation Michael Cioni, "Everybody had ownership of their assets and then centralized it in the space, where [each asset] was uploaded, reviewed, exchanged and approved" by anyone from record label reps to agents to show producers. "Every single artist, whether it's Eddie Vedder or Billie Eilish, could upload their assets," he adds. The team uploaded an estimated 3,600 of them, with 6,400 views of those assets.

In setting up the workflow, postproduction house Sim had additional challenges, not the least of which was quickly getting its eight editors and three assistant editors working remotely. "We treated this like one of our live event shows, but the challenge is that normally Sim has a much larger staff of assistant editors who would be working in-house to ingest all the material as it comes in," says Sim vp engineering and technology Paul Chapman. For One World, "we had a much smaller staff, and we had a significant amount of material in a very short time."

Sim employed a file transfer application from tech developer Signiant, which allowed material to be ingested directly into Sim’s in-house storage, which the editors could access remotely on their Avid editing systems.

Additionally, Chapman explains, “I basically created a little piece of software that connected the incoming files from the Signiant portal to the system, so that as the material landed at Sim on the Signiant, it was then easily uploaded to with minimal assistant editor involvement.”

He adds that when the broadcast program was completed, “because it wasn’t a normal delivery, we turned on a connection to The Switch, the video transport mechanism. From there they handled distribution of the broadcast show [to the networks]”

Looking ahead, Cioni projects, "The number one result coming out [of the lockdown] is that a significant portion of the work that has become remote will remain remote, as much as 20 percent. Everyone has had a rapid crash course in how to be efficient and to be remote, and One World is a prime example where people who had very little experience with this totally thrived, making use of the technology that was ready today." 

A version of this story first appeared in the May 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.