Qatari broadcaster Alaraby TV set a new benchmark in election coverage by developing a data platform in-house and innovatively combining AR, VR, and AI technologies to provide viewers with an immersive storytelling experience during the Turkish elections. Alaraby execs Rami Hosni and Ali Husseini share exclusive details with Vijaya Cherian.
The Turkish election, a momentous event, warranted comprehensive and captivating coverage. Qatari news broadcaster Alaraby TV, which moved from its London operations to its Doha headquarters only a year ago, stepped up to its first big news challenge, combining cutting-edge technology with top-notch journalism to offer new analytical insights. Working behind the scenes were three departments: Technology & Operations, headed by Ali Husseini; Creative, managed by Rami Hosni, the network’s Media & Creative Consultant; and Operations, stepping in for the last phase.
Integrating AR and VR Technologies for Immersive Experiences
One of the standout features of Alaraby TV’s election coverage was the seamless integration of AR and VR technologies. These powerful tools transported viewers directly into the heart of the Turkish election, allowing them to experience campaign rallies, speeches and debates as if they were physically present. “Our approach not only brought the election to life but also deepened the audience’s understanding of the political landscape and the critical issues at stake,” says Hosni, the creative brain behind the project.
AI-Powered Visualisations and Graphics Enhance Storytelling
Alaraby TV harnessed the capabilities of AI to enrich its storytelling.
“We used AI-powered visualisations and graphics to present complex information in a more accessible and engaging manner, ensuring that audiences from diverse backgrounds could stay informed and involved in the electoral process,” Hosni explains.
Game-Changing Internal Data Platform
At the core of Alaraby TV’s innovative coverage was its custom-built internal data platform, specifically developed for the Turkish election. “This advanced platform played a pivotal role in the production of their election programme, serving as a central hub for data from various sources, all linked to news templates inside Vizrt and Unreal,” explains Hosni. “The user-friendly interface of the platform empowered journalists to seamlessly integrate data-driven narratives into their reporting and daily graphics, elevating the quality and depth of the coverage. An outstanding feature of the platform was its ability to control AR graphics directly on-air, offering journalists and presenters greater flexibility in creating and interacting with the story as it unfolded.”
The Journey of Development
The journey of building the data platform and achieving seamless integration of AR and VR wasn’t without its challenges. Ali Husseini, Director of Broadcast Operations & Visuals and one of the key figures behind the project, explains the various aspects.
“The preparations began with the creation of special branding for the election coverage, which took over the main branding of the channel. The team then utilised Unreal Engine and Vizrt to build multiple packages for real-time production. Simultaneously, they embarked on developing the internal data platform, a remarkable achievement as such platforms are typically commercially acquired.”
The platform’s capabilities included historical election data, city information and automated vote counts. Its integration into Alaraby TV’s newsroom system, graphics and other applications was a critical aspect that required intensive teamwork among the IT, broadcast and creative departments, and the integration of AR with the Electric Friends Camera towers for tracking further elevated it. The entire process took a month of dedicated effort, with the team working 16 to 17 hours a day to overcome any technical hurdles that arose.
Empowering Presenters and Delivering Seamless Coverage
The data platform’s success lay in its ability to empower presenters with real-time data, enhancing their ability to craft engaging stories and on-the-fly analysis. The presenters in Istanbul and Doha could access updated numbers and breaking news through their iPads, facilitating smooth and accurate coverage. The platform’s versatility enabled Alaraby TV to use it across various programmes, transforming the channel’s branding with a few clicks during breaking news events. Integration with Avid, Vizrt and Imagine further streamlined the workflow through the NMOS protocol.
Breaking Boundaries with AR and VR
Despite initial concerns, Alaraby TV succeeded in integrating AR and VR flawlessly into its live coverage, using them to create explainers, showcase parliamentary procedures and vote alliances, and provide live map presentations as votes were tallied. There were challenges, with technical bugs and a steep learning curve. “But the flexibility of HTML coding and the power of the 2110 IP protocol allowed us to overcome these obstacles quickly,” explains Husseini.
A Pioneering Achievement
Alaraby TV’s groundbreaking election coverage is a testament to the power of innovation and the collaboration of talented teams. The combination of AR, VR, AI and a custom-built data platform opened new frontiers in election reporting, creating a truly immersive and engaging experience for viewers.
The success of this project has not only transformed the network’s election coverage but also paved the way for the application of these technologies in future endeavours. This was Alaraby TV’s first big project, and the teams were determined to push the boundaries of technology and storytelling, setting a new standard for the coverage of major regional events.