Top 10 broadcast technology installations of '09

    Showcasing the ten top Middle East broadcast installations of 2009.
    Qatar, Qvest Media, SPECIAL REPORTS, Exhibitions coverage, Top 10



    Al Jazeera Sport deployed a tapeless ingest, editing and playout workflow this summer with the help of Dubai-based systems integrator Qvest Media FZ LLC. The ambitious project was planned, pre-configured and installed on-site for on-air operation within four months.

    The system, which currently features an 11-channel playout solution, covers nine of Al Jazeera Sports’ pay TV channels and two of its free-to-air channels.

    Qvest Media partnered with its German sister company Wellen+Noethen to meet the project’s tight deadline. Planning and pre-configuration for the system was carried out in Germany in two months.

    Parallel to this, UPS systems, cable routing and wiring as well as the studio furniture and the connection with the central equipment room was prepared for the system integration on site in Doha.

    To speed up the final integration process, the Cologne-based team also integrated the complete IT and AV technology, which was prepared for commissioning, packed into racks and sent by airfreight to Doha.

    Up to 24 multi-format input channels, which are controlled by eight EVS XT units, are now being made available for the signal ingest. They can be used by a technical supervisor and two media managers to manage incoming feeds using central planning software and to control the entire production process even at an early stage.

    Several workstations show the central ingest processes, such as the ingest schedule, database and authorisation management. Server monitoring, health monitoring and central memory management are also shown. Once the ingest process has taken place, the incoming SD/HD signals on the EVS servers are converted to the respective production format using IP directors. Storage takes place via TCP/IP using Avid Interplay Transfer Engines on an Avid Unity ISIS system with 500 hours of HD recording capacity.

    The material is then made available to ten editors and cutters in post-production for further processing. They can view and index the material using a special browsing software. They can also undertake further cuts, add the metadata and special effects at the final processing stage using four Avid Media Composer Mojo DX systems.

    To speed up the production process, editors and cutters can also transfer the edited material to the playout environment using Avid Interplay Assist and a send-to-playback command.

    This, in turn, makes available up to five EVS XT units with up to 22 channels, that can be used for recording management, studio transfer, programme broadcasting and much more.

    To finalise the broadcasting material and create playlists, five operators can access two broadcasting channels each in the newly-built master control room.

    Besides this, ten existing Vizrt graphic engines have been reconfigured into a new central equipment room and integrated into the working environment and database structure.

    For redundancy, all EVS units between ingest and playout have been linked to each other using an additional SDTI network, enabling available EVS data to be exchanged and further processed without any losses in the event of a disaster or for direct internal streaming.

    Saeed O. Bawazir, technology division director at Al Jazeera, commented that finding the right integration partner for this project was tough owing to the tight deadline.

    “Having to implement a fully functional and fail-proof system of this size in time to broadcast the UEFA Champions League posed a major challenge. We carefully examined a similar implementation by Wellen+Noethen for the live broadcasting of UEFA EURO 2008.

    “The digital workflows we have deployed along the entire production chain speeds up our processes significantly and enables greater flexibility. Now, we make full use of our applications with ease and run the system with many different broadcasting formats, including the live broadcasting of the Spanish Primera División,” he explains.

    Stephan Seelaender, general manager of Qvest Media adds that Al Jazeera was quickly won over by the idea of “integrating the high-end technology offered by its German distribution partners Riedel, LYNX, RTW and the virtual LSB studio controller into the infrastructure.”

    “This project was a valuable experience for us. Close collaboration with the Al Jazeera Sport team at all stages of the project made the smooth implementation of this project possible.”

    “Once the system was supplied to Al Jazeera Sport, technicians from Qvest Media and Wellen+Noethen undertook the installation and integration with the existing technology. In parallel, employees – including administrators, editors, cutters, operators and media managers – were trained to operate the new technology. Qvest Media is also tasked with providing permanent support to Al Jazeera and the technical servicing of the system,” he adds.

    Client: Al Jazeera Sport
    Location: Doha
    Systems integrator: Qvest Media
    Task: Switching Al Jazeera Sports to digital


    Abu Dhabi-based Al Dafrah Group undertook a bold and ambitious multi-million dollar HD project that included three studios and a four-camera OB van in early 2009 to help with the production of music videos and other on-line content for its new channels. Al Dafrah has adopted a tapeless workflow and the 1080i 50 format across its entire facility.

    As part of the project, the Group built two HD-only studios at Dubai Studio City and a smaller multi-format facility in Abu Dhabi. The two studios in DSC include a 16mx12m production studio that can accommodate six to eight sets at a time and a three-camera virtual studio. The smaller studio in Abu Dhabi can support both HD and SD formats and is designed for much smaller productions.

    Each of the three studios is fitted with high-end Ikegami HDK-79 EX III cameras.

    The studios are based on a HD-file acquisition workflow and employ a mix of hardware and software from different vendors.

    Hardware for the post production and transmission areas has been sourced from Thomson Grass Valley (TGV) and includes a K2 ingest server, a NAS production server and a K2 transmission server, all which work in 1080i 50. Aurora Edius Craft non-linear editors are connected to the production server. This ensures that a clip that is ingested to the ingest server and then moved to the production server is then available for all the NLEs to work on.

    The TV facility operates a fully automated workflow using Pebble Beach automation, that is capable of auto recognition, renaming and overall file organisation within different areas of the station including ingest, production, playout and archive.

    Although the main format standard of the facility is 1080i 50 for transmission, the NLEs and four newly-acquired Panasonic 3000 cameras that are used for field production can record at 1080p using the AVC Intra Codec. As the NLEs are fitted with P2 card chassis’, they can utilise the material straight from the P2 card in whatever format the client wants to use them.

    In addition to this, the 3D virtual studio and the production studio are both fitted with Panasonic AJ 110E P2 disc players and recorders, again allowing the source from the studio to be recorded in 1080i 50 directly to the P2 card for either editing in-house or at a client’s facility.
    Alternatively, the studio output can be recorded directly onto the ingest server via the TGV matrix.

    “We chose the P2 format because of its flexibility, size and ease of use. We wanted something that had no moving parts and didn’t rely on discs being spun up to read/write speed etc,” explains Graham Day, chief consultant, Al Dafrah Group.

    “As we noticed over the years with using spinning disc technology, it has certain drawbacks over Flash disc (FD) technology. That isn’t to say that FD is the answer to everything, but in a harsh and dusty environment like the UAE, it does have some advantages over tape and spinning disc technology,” he adds.

    Besides the studios, Al Dafrah has also invested in a four-camera HD OB van with HD DSNG uplink. The van includes two P2 player/recorders and a digital Betacam player/recorder for clients still using SD as a format.

    “Our biggest USP is that we have a compact and comprehensive HD environment in the middle of Dubai that provides a facility for clients who want to start using HD without making the capital investment,” adds Day.

    Client: Al Dafrah Group, Abu Dhabi
    Main locations: Dubai Studio City, Abu Dhabi
    Channels: Al Dafrah Music Channel, Al Dafrah Entertainment
    Systems integrator: Tek Signals, Abu Dhabi


    Syrian TV was gifted a state-of-the-art TV centre that was funded by Dubai’s state-backed media conglomerate, Dubai Media Inc, that went on air in September.

    The project comprised a news production facility including a main studio, an exchange studio, a newsroom system, non-linear editing suites, an on-air graphics system, video servers, and a data tape archive system. The news production facility is linked to the main TV centre by a microwave link backed up by a point-to-point fibre optics link.

    At the heart of the centre is a tapeless newsroom system from VSN that controls the whole workflow from ingest to editing and news preparation to playout and archiving. VSN was chosen because of its ease of use, compatibility with the Arabic language and seamless integration with the different modules of the newsroom system, namely ingest, playout, graphis system, wires feeds from news agencies and MAM.

    The newsroom installation covers 40 journalists’ desktops, eight postproduction non linear editing (NLE) suites and offers completely redundant PCR and MCR playouts. Expanding the number of video ingest lines, journalists, NLEs, MCR Playouts, PCR playouts, capacity of the online storage, capacity of the near-line storage and so on will be easy with this solution, claims VSN. Other key kit include Sony E30 cameras, its DVS-9000 production switcher backed up by a Sony MFS-2000 production switcher and a 24ft Jimmy Jib crane, Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas solutions, Miranda X3D powered by a real-time 3D engine from Ventuz, and an offline graphics preparation station, fully integrated with the NRCS system.

    Salam MediaCast has also provided a Qualstar TLS-88132 tape library with 2 LTO-4 drives and 132 tapes, fully controlled by VSN’s HSM for data storage.

    End user: Syrian TV
    Client: Dubai Media Inc.
    Main location: Syria
    Systems integrator: Salam MediaCast, Qatar
    Task: Building of a new newsroom and related facilities for Syrian TV


    The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) unveiled a brand new, state-of-the-art HD facility in Dammam just after Eid. The $26 million project includes two studios – one for production and the other for news.

    What makes this facility a showcase is the fact that it houses one of Saudi MOCI’s newest HD studios and follows a tapeless workflow. All of Saudi MOCI’s new projects are aimed at adopting 720p with a migratory path to 1080i in the future. The equipment at the facility, therefore, fully supports 720p from the Hitachi SK-3200P cameras to the Harris solutions and the Kahuna switcher.

    The lighting in these studios again is impressive. Key systems deployed include 500 Channels of ADB Eurodim3 Dimmer Cabinet with Redundant Control System (wired and wireless), 70 x LSI motorised hoists with 4 x 3m poles operated pantograph in each barrel, touch screen control for the hoists, and approximately 400 assorted types of luminaires. Each studio lighting control (ADB PHOENIX 5/XT) has a redundant configuration to ensure that there is no single point of failure in the lighting control system. At the heart of this installation are several Harris systems including the Nexio servers, the Centro multi-viewers, the Navigator and Velocity that run the show across different parts of the facility.

    Special mention must be made of the master control room that doesn’t just control and monitor the equipment in the control apparatus room (CAR) and the studios but also helps to bridge the studios with other TV facilities of the MOCI. Besides this, the playout is controlled by a central server at the MCR that provides feeds to Saudi TV in Riyadh. The facility is also equipped to receive external feeds from M/W and satellites.

    At the Dammam facility, the equipment is located entirely in the CAR and end users merely operate from a central server.

    Client: Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information
    Main location: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    Systems integrator: First Gulf Company, KSA
    Task: Building a state-of-the-art TV facility in Dammam

    5 QATAR TV
    SI: ARET

    2009 saw the delivery of several large HD OB vans in the Middle East. Qatar TV took delivery of a 12-camera OB van from ARET in early 2009.

    The van also uses two additional wireless cameras and can support production in both SD and HD formats.

    The 12-14 camera van boasts two production rooms. This van has one of the widest main production rooms. A second production room is complete with slow motion pod, and a post production console has been designed to operate comfortably from the operational area.

    The two production rooms are designed to share all of the resources in a flexible way although they can be configured so that they can produce completely separate programmes by assigning the resources from a simple keypad.

    The van’s engineering room hosts some of the best technologies in the market for OB production including Thomson LDK 8000 cameras, Kayak HD 300 and 100 production mixers, a Calrec Zeta audio console, a Yamaha secondary audio console, EVS slomo servers, Kroma Telecom’s monitors and intercom systems, a GVG routing switcher and Tektronix systems.

    Besides the fact that the unit follows strict road regulation standards, it has been specifically developed to weather the hot, humid and sandy conditions of the Middle East.

    “We have used a special technology for the construction of this vehicle and it is a unique standard developed by ARET,” claims Dr. Eng. Umberto Asti, vice president from ARET.

    “Though it is fully expandable, the look of the van is very clean. Right from the lower stainless steel belt to the foldable stairs, the embedded sunshields and the operational lights, this coach is a reflection of our capabilities as an OB van manufacturer,” he adds.

    The van has also been designed to have the shortest possible time to operation. As a result, all of the mechanic handlings of the van are automatic and controlled by a movement detection security system. Nevertheless, in cases of emergency, the hydraulics can be operated manually.

    The power supply system is designed to operate even if emergencies crop up. The system is equipped with an insulation transformer. In addition, a battery of UPS can power up the entire OB van for several minutes.

    This OB van is completed by a power generator and transportation vehicle. The power supply system is designed for operating in hot, humid and sandy environments. The van has also been designed with a lot of storage space and additional rest area for crew equipped with an air conditioning system.

    Client: QATAR TV, Abu Dhabi
    Main locations: QATAR
    Systems integrator: ARET
    Task: Providing a turnkey 12-camera HD OB van


    Twofour54 launched intaj, a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art facility in Abu Dhabi to provide production houses and broadcasters in the region with a one-stop HD solution that will enable them to undertake their entire workflow from content generation and editing to delivery. In addition, intaj also has a media asset management facility — thought to be the first such service in the region.

    intaj currently operates five studios and 22 post production suites from two sites in Abu Dhabi located at the National Theatre site and Khalifa Park. The entire project was designed and installed at the facility by Sony Professional Solutions Middle East in conjunction with the intaj team headed by Hasan Sayed Hasan, head of intaj.

    This facility has primarily been designed to offer twofour45’s partners and other producers in the region with the ability to use industry-standard solutions for their production work. As a result, great attention has been paid to put in place both cost effective as well as high-end solutions so that clients will have the flexibility to opt for solutions that meet their budget requirements.

    Much of the installation at the facility is based on the anticipated requirements of most production houses. In addition, intaj has also employed highly skilled people to man its operations so as to ensure that clients can maximise the potential of its equipment.

    Client: twofour54 intaj
    Main location: Abu Dhabi
    Systems integrator: Sony Professional Solutions ME
    Task: Building a turnkey production and editing
    facility for twofour54

    SI: INC

    Four years after it was first conceived and despite being stalled several times with the rise and fall of different political players in Kuwait, the country’s first HDTV centre went on air this year.

    Kuwait TV was one of the first broadcasters in the GCC to acknowledge High Definition as the format of the future and perhaps also the first in the region to invest in a HD OB van several years ago.
    The HDTV centre includes two studios, a master control room, two linear editing suites, one non-linear editing suite and a virtual studio.

    This was a turnkey HD contract, in which INC was responsible for the entire broadcast project including building the studios, planning the acoustics for the same, designing, supplying, testing and commissioning the system.

    Two studios were built to accommodate different production requirements for the state broadcaster.
    The studios are equipped with Grass Valley LDK 8000 cameras and with Canon lenses because Kuwait TV wanted multi-format cameras with triax support.

    The facility also includes two linear editing suites with Sony VTRs and Kayak Vision Mixers to accommodate content that comes in from KTV’s headquarters.

    Harris provided the graphics, character generators and a couple of standalone servers for the project.

    Although Kuwait TV will record and edit in High Definition at the facility, transmission will continue to be in SD as the country has no plans for the commercial rollout of HDTV yet.

    Client: KUWAIT TV
    Systems integrator: INC, Kuwait
    Task: Turnkey project for the building of a
    HD facility

    8 AL AHLY TV

    Al Ahly TV, launched in early 2009 by Egypt’s famed football club Al Ahly, fitted out a 400m studio that could accommodate four sets, at Egyptian Media Production City for the broadcast of the club’s matches. The project was undertaken by Egyptian systems integrator Systems Design.

    Key to the project was the club’s investments in several Sony and Panasonic SD cameras to facilitate the production of in-house programmes and commentary to complement the broadcast of the football games.

    The Sony E30 cameras were chosen for the studios while Panasonic’s AJHPX500 cameras were chosen for outdoors shoots owing to the flexibility provided by the P2 technology to work in a tapeless environment. Al Ahly follows a tapeless workflow.

    Typically, feeds of a match are sent to Al Ahly from state broadcaster Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) , which undertakes production at the venue of the matches. At Ahly’s studios, the footage is then repackaged with special in-house commentary and analysis, on-air logos, graphics and other branding elements before it is sent to air. The backbone of the tapeless workflow at the channel is a turnkey broadcast solution from Harris, which covers everything from production, automation and signal processing to channel branding, graphics and test and measurement.

    Client: Al Ahly TV
    Main location: Egypt
    Systems integrator: Systems Design
    Task: Kitting out a studio for the production and broadcast of matches


    Saudi MOCI undertook two major radio projects in the Kingdom this year. The first comprised a major upgrade in Riyadh while the second will see Jeddah also have a radio install similar in scale to Riyadh.

    At the heart of both the Radio Riyadh and Jeddah installations are NETIA’s Radio-Assist System. The first was undertaken by the company’s local distributor, Jamal Jaroudi Group, while the second was handled by German SI BFE in conjunction with local Saudi distributor DELTA.

    The Radio Riyadh project incorporated 15 on-air and recording studios, along with extra studios that serve as backup in the case of an emergency; a total of 65 editing workstations; and six archiving workstations. The interface for the Radio-Assist system at Radio Riyadh is in Arabic.

    This installation features NETIA’s Media Management, which handles the circulation of data to ensure that files are always available at the right place, at the right time, for different activities, such as production, broadcast, and archiving. Radio Riyadh’s archives rely on NETIA’s Archive software, which directs media storage on SAN hard disks.

    The Jeddah install, by comparison, includes nine On Air Studios, nine recording studios, four editing rooms, approximately fifteen newsrooms and eight archiving workstations, all of which run on Radio Assist software.

    Client: Saudi MOCI
    End user: Radio Riyadh and Jeddah radio.
    Systems integrator: Radio Riyadh (Jamal Jaroudi Group) ; Radio in Jeddah (BFE, Germany & DELTA, KSA)
    Task: Installation of a turnkey radio solution


    Arabian Radio Network (ARN), the radio arm of Arab Media Group, undertook a major upgrade of its facility in Dubai Media City this year. This was the first high-profile radio installation undertaken by Al Futtaim Technologies, which marked its entry into the radio business with this project.

    Al Futtaim Technologies installed five edit studios and one additional edit room for recording news and editing clips at ARN. A significant part of this project was the replacement of the Studer 2000 with the Studer On-Air 2500 console, the first of the new model to the installed in the Middle East.

    Unlike the modular 2000 model, the 2500 is a single unit that is portable and can be fit onto any studio console.

    Besides upgrading from legacy systems to new solutions, this project also aimed to connect all of the studios to the main control room. With this, ARN achieved two objectives.

    For one, by sending the signals from the studios to the control room before they were diverted to the edit, production or on-air studios for broadcast, it maintained tight control over the quality of its content. This installation in also in keeping with the company’s objective of maintaining a tapeless workflow. By routing the feeds from the studio to the control room, and from here, back to the studio and on air, it permanently eliminated the use of CDs or tapes in the facility.

    Client: Arabian Radio Network
    Main location: Dubai
    Systems integrator: Al Futtaim Technologies
    Task: Upgrading legacy systems, adopting a tapeless workflow and connecting the studios to the main control room.

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