Qvest Media announced another major project with Al Jazeera during IBC. Managing director Peter Noethen gives Digital Broadcast the inside scoop on the firm’s latest win and revealed some the secrets behind the company’s success in the Middle East.
To an outsider, the Middle East broadcast industry is frequently considered cash-rich, quick to spend and focused only on short-term gains. The reality is, of course, very different. Investment is as carefully considered as in any other market, those setting the agenda look as far down the path of future technology adoption as is feasibly possible and objectives are far from short-sighted.
One regional project announced at IBC this year demonstrates all of these characteristics clearly.
Al Jazeera revealed that it was to build a major new training facility in Doha to service its own needs as well as acting as an education centre for staff around the Middle East.
Systems integrator Qvest Media, a subsidiary of Wellen + Noethen (W+N), has played a large part in Al Jazeera’s more recent infrastructure upgrades and has been selected again to develop the new training centre.
“Al Jazeera wants to undertake some significant training operations for its own staff on the most modern workflows,” says Peter Noethen, managing director, Qvest Media. “It is planning on investing in its existing broadcast environment but it is difficult to migrate staff from one system to the next. The plan is to use the training centre to educate all the staff before it puts the new system in place,” explains Noethen.
“Al Jazeera has decided to implement the Avid iNEWS system in all of its facilities. However, some parts of the organisation – for example the English network – is using a different newsroom set-up at present. The focus of the new centre will be to assist this transfer for staff.”
The new facility will by no means be a sub-standard version of the network’s own facilities with staff set to benefit from training on the same bleeding edge technology that will be installed across the network’s bureaux and transmission centres.
“The technology in the training centre is of the latest standards. It’s full HD, it’s 3Gb ready, it’s entirely file-based, there will be no huge tape machines in place, although we will of course remind staff how to use a tape machine,” says Noethen.
The training is not just about educating staff about products and walking them through the features says Noethen.
“One aim of the training – that everyone must learn in the Middle East – is how to deal with the switch from AV to IT technology. W+N recently won an award for most innovative project with SWR in Germany, which was a complete new station based on full IT workflows. This is another part of what we want to bring to the Middle East. So broadcast technicians that take care of video and audio signals must now also look at what they do in the context of a full IT-based workflow.
“This means managing huge bandwidths, perhaps preparing for IP transmission,” adds Noethen. “There are a number of administrative tasks such as bandwidth calculation that must be considered. Traditional TV engineers need to be trained in these and this is another objective that Al Jazeera will achieve through the new training centre.”
The facility will include four full studios so that on-screen talent can be trained too. The studios will have the associated control rooms, a complete newsroom, a radio production and training facility, a graphics environment and a 200-seat auditorium for running training courses. The technology will mirror that used every day in the network’s bureau after the upgrades are complete, allowing trained-up staff to snap straight into the new workflows.
“Al Jazeera gave us some ideas about what they wanted to achieve. The Qvest concept for the training centre is based on everything that the company has learned about Al Jazeera during the past two years of working with them, the technologies and the workflows that are in place. It was a worldwide tender and there was competition from other firms in the region, and other Europe rivals that are also trying to catch up. Qvest did its homework in terms of what technology was already in place. Now we have the order which must be delivered now in quite a short time period.”
So how did Qvest manage to beat the opposition and land yet another big project from Al Jazeera?
“One of the advantages for us is that Al Jazeera believes in our project management and in our project plans. they are one of our major clients in the Middle East. Qvest started with the Al Jazeera Sports project, moving its master control room to a new environment and increasing its sports network from five to 18 channels. All these work on a file-based workflow, which was designed by Qvest.
Qvest also worked on raising Al Jazeera’s production quality for its coverage of the World Cup, bringing more redundancy to its workflows.
“It was a major result for Al Jazeera, it was also an issue for Qatar as a whole, Qatar wanted the World Cup as a reference for the country itself, and Al Jazeera had very deep interest to make sure all its World Cup coverage worked perfectly.”
Another major attraction for Al Jazeera is Qvest’s reputation and ongoing commitment to training and support.
“Qvest always has a huge training plan and a concept of ‘train the trainer’. So we teach them how to train their own staff on the systems, product and workflow side. The idea is to share experience, information and knowledge of W+N through Qvest.”
In terms of support, and despite the the fact that W+N are based in Europe, Qvest is able to offer a high degree of support to customers throughout the Middle East. This is at the core of the company’s philosophy says Noethen.
“We are always thinking about support. This is one of the really important things for us as a German company. All the products that the company installs are offered with first and second level support and a 24/7 hotline. Our clients in the Middle East want the service and support. It is a question that is always raised and issue that features prominently on every tender,” claims Noethen.
“When it is explained that Qvest has service engineers already trained and located in Dubai, that there is a permanent maintenance engineer dedicated to Al Jazeera, that there is a technical director in Dubai with a support organisation underneath him ready to train people, it works strongly in our favour.
Noethen says that he has seen numerous broadcast facilities in the region showing legacy equipment from a number of successive vendors as relationships with manufacturers or dealers have fallen by the wayside.
“Qvest wants to win and execute the first project with the client, and then make that the starting point for a longer relationship as we expand our business with support and service: we don’t want to lose a client. This is the same approach that W+N has in Germany,” says Noethen.