As the Middle East’s largest free-to-air broadcaster operating a double-digit number of TV and radio stations, MBC also has one of the largest operations centres in the region. DPME.com takes a tour...
ANDY PALMER, group director of technical operations, MBC
“I joined MBC in December last year after filling the position on an interim basis. I had been consulting in the region and had visited Dubai on several occasions.
The Middle East market is very exciting right now and I was impressed with MBC’s technology infrastructure. In the UK, the economic environment has led to a slowdown in investment but the situation is far better here.
One of our key priorities is the transition to a tapeless workflow. It’s a large project and something that we will be working on right through 2011.
We will be looking for an Asset Management System (MAM) and are currently searching for a systems integrator.
One of the key business drivers of a tapeless system is the ability to cost-effectively make content available on any platform from mobile or online to IPTV. This process is far easier when you are file-based and have just one point of ingest.
At the moment there are some tapeless islands at MBC. The TX content is run from a server. The post-production environment is tapeless as is the Avid newsroom solution that we have installed recently. The task for us now is to join all of these elements together into a managed system.
With a project like this, you find that 70 percent of the change is about the people and the organisational structures rather than the actual technology itself.
Staff will need to be re-trained, something many manufacturers can assist with. There are a lot of organisational disruptions to contend with and it is the training and the change management that determines how successful you are.
It is essential that IT and broadcast engineering departments work closely together during such projects, something I realised about six years ago when I worked on my first tapeless workflow with a broadcaster in the UK.
MBC’s IT and Broadcast units already work seamlessly together under the technical operations banner, which is both refreshing and gratifying.
We will be setting up a network operations centre (NOC) to monitor the file transfer traffic, something that will increase in importance as the tapeless transition progresses.”
NICK BARRATT, senior broadcast manager, MBC
“One of the most recent additions at MBC is the Avid newsroom system.
We have around 70 journalists’ seats hooked-up as well as three studios. One of the key benefits is the ability to do desktop editing rather than rely on the availability of a suite. Journalists can work on a story immediately. This cuts down the time-to-air significantly and allows stories to be easily repurposed for use by our web team and uploaded to the Al Arabiya websites.
We also centralised our post-production equipment taking them out of the actual suites. This creates a better working environment for the operator and fits in with the strategy of creating tapeless islands throughout our operations and then connecting them.”
MBC’s high-spec MCR records a high-res version for repurposing online and a low-res version for the records.
MBC will soon be digitising its tape library. Pictured is just one row of the Al Arabiya archive housed on-site.
An Al Arabiya journalist using Avid iNews Instinct. The pictured key-frame viewing feature allows easy browsing of each shot within a file. The feature was requested by MBC and developed for them. Al Arabiya is beta-testing the application.
- MBC’s facility is a busy crossroads for video traffic.
- It receives live feeds from Al Arabiya correspondents, BGAN and SNG units, satellite feeds and file transfer via the Quicklink service.
- The company also has an MPLS network operated by du and Hong Kong’s PCCW.
- “Anil Alva [pictured left] is senior IT engineer responsible for Avid,” says Barrattt. “He has been with the company for eight years and played a key-role in the Avid installation and transition. He personally oversaw all the support and engineer training for the entire system,” adds Barratt.
- One of the broadcaster’s transmission sites. As part of the plans to centralise operations, MBC plans to consolidate its transmission facilities to one site.
- Harris automation and SeaChange servers are currently in place.