Total Control

Having the best lights in the business is one thing, but having the ability to make those lights obey your every command is the key to a successful studio lighting system, argues DMI's senior lighting engineer, Ziad Haddad.
Total Control
Total Control
Haddad demonstrates the capabilities of DMI's new ETC Ion console.
Haddad demonstrates the capabilities of DMI's new ETC Ion console.
Analysis, Delivery & Transmission
Karim Abdel Massih of Oasis Enterprises says flexible studio lighting is essential.
Karim Abdel Massih of Oasis Enterprises says flexible studio lighting is essential.
ETC Congo lighting consoles are still used by staff at Dubai Media Incorporated .
ETC Congo lighting consoles are still used by staff at Dubai Media Incorporated .

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Having the best lights in the business is one thing, but having the ability to make those lights obey your every command is the key to a successful studio lighting system, according to Dubai Media Incorporated’s senior lighting engineer, Ziad Haddad.

Many elements comprise the creation of the perfect digital studio. Aesthetically, however, none is more important than correctly deployed lighting, and the ability to control, adjust and redeploy that technology as needed.

Lighting engineers at Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) are well-versed on this subject, and well-practiced in providing accurate, controlled and creative lighting for countless sets, studios and television stations, each with their own specific visual requirements.

The most recent DMI station to benefit from a lighting upgrade, along with a revamp of its AV system, is the Dubai Racing Channel. The refurbished studio went operational in January 2009, providing a new look and feel for some of the station’s local and international content.

Dubai Racing Channel’s new lighting control system was installed in DMI’s ‘studio A’ by local ETC provider, Oasis Enterprises, as part of the upgrade, which commenced in late September.

Ziad Haddad, DMI’s senior lighting engineer, is unable to hide his excitement over the station’s lighting control system while sitting proudly at the studio’s new ETC Ion lighting console. Although it is comparatively smaller than most lighting control desks at a width of 19 inches, it is most definitely the centerpiece of the upgraded studio’s lighting arsenal.

Haddad gives several reasons for the selection of the console, from which the studio’s array of conventional and moving light effects are directed, with its ability to back up essential configurations for certain programs one of the primary elements behind its selection.

“The first time I played around with the system, I found that it was quite user-friendly, and because the DMI lighting crew is already familiar with ETC products, I assumed that the majority of them would have no problem using it,” he explains. 

“We chose the Ion console because in a small studio, you can use it to control both conventional lighting and moving light effects at the same time.

“Our old system also included an ETC console which we have now shifted to another studio. It is the same console essentially, but this new model is much more conducive to the operation of moving lights.”

DMI chose to acquire the 1024 output configuration Ion model against the alternative 1536, 2048 output configuration options. The console also contains various additional benefits such as touch screen DVI monitor compatibility, and most importantly, the ability to backup essential information and configurations in the event of an on-air crisis.

The after-sales support provided by local ETC representative Oasis Enterprises was also a key factor in selecting much of the new lighting equipment for the upgrade, according to Haddad.

“The Oasis team came and gave the crew a few training sessions post-installation, and later, our crew asked them to come back and clarify one or two issues they were experiencing with the new technology, so they returned and gave our crew the missing information that they needed,” he explains.

“It is all working fine now. Management, operators, technicians and the designers are all happy with it.”

Karim Abdel Massih, lighting project manager for Oasis, says the flexibility of lighting control offered by the Ion was one of the key reasons for its selection.

“The Ion console was perfect for this job as it allows for accurate control of both conventional and dynamic light,” suggests Massih. “Flexibility of the console is one of the most important aspects to an installation such as this.

“Another is the flexibility of the lighting installation in the ceiling itself. Without adequate flexibility of movement, you won’t be able to get the equipment into the position that the lighting designer requires.”

ETC lighting consoles are quite obviously a favorite amongst DMI’s lighting staff. The company’s Congo console is used in one of DMI’s largest studios (studio F) to operate lighting on several sets used for a variety of different stations.

The Congo console was the first of its kind in Dubai when it arrived in 2006, with an expert being brought in from Germany to train staff in its use. Studio A’s Ion console was also the first such control system in the UAE, according to Oasis management.

But despite the engineering department’s satisfaction with the Ion and its control capabilities, it wasn’t all smooth sailing during the upgrade of the studio. Both the Oasis installation crew and the DMI team had to come up with some innovative tactics in order to proceed with the upgrade while broadcasts continued from studio A.

Haddad says the implementation of the studio’s dimmers presented some difficulties.

“We had some external power cables running from the main power system to some IES touring rack dimmers on the studio floor, and we kept the studio operational until the new dimmers were completely installed,” he said.

“We were forced to do some of our editing externally which was a little bit difficult because of the way the cabling had to be arranged.”

But he says despite the obstacles, the lighting upgrade was still completed ahead of other parts of the studio revamp.

In what seems to be an ongoing relationship between lighting distributor and integrator Oasis Enterprises and DMI’s engineering team, the two entities are also working together to convert a space previously used as offices into a newsroom for the Dubai Sport Channel.

“Oasis took care of the grid, the installation and the cabling in the studio F news room, but they were the first ones to finish the job while the production infrastructure was still being put in place,” said Haddad.

The importance of supporting structures to accommodate the lighting upgrade within the limited space available in Dubai Sport Channel’s studio F is another aspect of the project that Oasis Enterprises staff ensured was not overlooked.

Massih says the flexibility and accuracy of ceiling structures and pantographs is as important as the control and adaptability within the lighting console itself.

“If it isn’t flexible enough, you won’t be able to get the equipment into the position that the lighting designer requires,” he says.

“Problems are bound to occur without adequate flexibility of movement.”

The ‘studio F news’ project is entirely different to the other traditional studio sets, therefore requiring a slight rethink of procedure for those involved.

The lower-than-usual ceiling and typically long narrow space often seen with office buildings has led to an adjustment in the way technology is being deployed on the set.

Despite the differences in the projects, Haddad says that working within tighter parameters presents different issues, yet is usually not as complex as conducting an installation in a larger, multi-studio setting. It can also have its bonuses in that it requires a cheaper, yet still effective, lighting kit.
 
In the case of the Dubai Sports Channel newsroom, however, its conversion from an office environment to a functioning studio brought about some difficult work, but according to Haddad, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“We are transforming the office space into a studio by creating acoustic isolation and a grid for all the power needed,” he says. “We are putting in ETC sensor dimmers and we are going to be using a second ETC Congo console that was previously operating as a second back up console for Studio F.”

“Treating the space acoustically and installing some lighting supports in the ceiling presented a few difficulties, but there are challenges involved with adapting any existing location, and you have to live with the fact that you can’t do everything exactly the way you want with limited space.”

Throughout all the DMI studios and, of course, those of other television stations, lighting can make or break the presentation of certain programs. With spatial and time constraints, a constant cause for concern during a busy broadcast schedule, it is important to maintain strict control of lighting arrangements, while providing adequate flexibility and freedom of movement within supporting structures.

Maintaining this control post-installation is heavily, if not entirely dependent on the lighting operation console and, of course, the professionalism of the staff responsible.
 
DMI engineers appear confident that the Ion and Congo consoles the company possesses are providing the perfect solution to achieve total control over its complex lighting arrangements across several high-tech studios.

Oasis Supplied:

Studio A : 

  •   1xETC sensor+ ESR48 dimming
  •   48xETC ED15AF - dual 3kW module 225us

Studio B: 
 

  •   1xETC sensor + ESR48 dimming
  •   48xETC ED15AF - dual 3kW module 225us
  •   1xETC Ion control desk 1024 outputs (Max.
  •   2 x 19” Acer TFT-LCD DVI monitor
  •   1xETC Universal fader wing 2x20, Ion black
  •  

Studio F: 

  •   1xETC sensor+ ESR48 dimming
  •   1xETC sensor CE ESR48 - 48 module enclosure
  •   12xDesisti DE-LUX 230V 2x55 MO phase control
  •   12xDesisti base light fluorescent video luminaries
  •   Manual operated stirrup, for lamps
  •   55W. Light intensity control through a
  •  standard dimmer output, colour frame
  •   12xDesisti egg-crate for DE-LUX 2x55W units, 1/2
  •   12xDesisti eighth leaf barn door for DE-LUX 2x55
  •   12xDesisti MAGIS 650 W
  •   1xETC Congo console 1024 DMX channels
  •   1xWRC for Congo (wireless remote control)

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