Physique TV, which claims to be the MENA regions first health and fitness channel, underwent a significant revamp in terms of both format and content under its new management team. Vibhuti Arora takes a tour of the channels new facility Dubai-based health and fitness channel Physique TV was officially launched in December 2013, promising a […]
Physique TV, which claims to be the MENA regions first health and fitness channel, underwent a significant revamp in terms of both format and content under its new management team. Vibhuti Arora takes a tour of the channels new facility
Dubai-based health and fitness channel Physique TV was officially launched in December 2013, promising a host of healthy lifestyle programmes and fitness-oriented reality TV. In existence since 2009, the channel was overhauled last year with brand new kit and a newly appointed team to run it.
Starlight General Trading, a company dealing in health products and other commodities, is the main investor in the channel. It was a natural progression for the company to launch a health and fitness channel to further its growth in the region.
The Farsi-speaking audience was the prime market of interest for the channel when it was initially launched in 2009. In March 2013, however, the channel refocused its business to target the Middle East. It was also migrated from Hotbird, from where it was previously beamed, to Arabsat. Physique TV is now available on the My-HD platform as well as through Du (CH 412) and E- Life (CH 577) networks. The channel transmits HD 1080i with both English and Arabic sound tracks along with Arabic DVB subtitling.
Peter Einstein, General Manager of Physique TV, says that the launch of a fitness channel is a step in the right direction to combat the surge of obesity and lifestyle diseases in the region.
The idea is to inculcate a culture of healthy living in the region. Physique TV fills a major gap in that area as the region lacked a dedicated channel that caters to such needs. Companies and products encouraging health and fitness are our partners in launching region-wide campaigns to promote healthy living. In fact, a number of banks and insurance companies have also shown interest as potential advertisers on the channel, he adds.
The channel has been patronised by entities such as Dubai Municipality to support healthy lifestyle campaigns.
Physique TVs programming includes a variety of entertaining, inspiring, instructional and informative shows to keep the viewers engaged.
We produce about 25% of our content in-house with our own production team, explains Einstein.
The rest of it is acquired. We have close to 600 hours of content available at present. The production team has eight members including the cameramen and technical crew. Our production unit includes two studios with a 2500 sq. ft gym studio, he adds.
The massive gym studio is a first-of-its-kind in the region, which was purpose built for the channel. This studio will be kitted further to enable live broadcast.
Our mantra for the channel is be your best. In order to keep the viewers engaged, we offer a good balance in terms of content including entertainment shows and dramas, alongside instructional programmes. The local content is carefully planned with gym and spa reviews in English and Arabic, explains Einstein.
Technically, we are very sound with a brand new channel management system that can accommodate any type of sponsorship opportunity. We provide advertisers with a diverse array of partnership options, including product integration into the programmes that are produced in-house, he adds.
Transmission and playout
Alan Constant, who led the technical upgrade at Physique TV, says the channel was revamped from SD to a state-of-the-art full HD facility with renewed programming.
The channels infrastructure is built around five pillars, namely the Oasys Chameleon automated playout, a Phoenix7 Zeus channel management system, QNAP storage, Adobe Adobe Premier CS6 editing suites and One Connxts content delivery system. The content is delivered to the station on flash drives or via our FTP site, explains Constant.
At the heart of Physique TV’s transmission lies the Oasys Chameleon automated playout, which has been integrated with Zeus channel management system from Phoenix 7, a UK-based company.
Oasys deployed a multiplex solution for Physique TV that encompasses one video channel, two audio channels, DVB subtitling, graphics and conversion to ASI. The ASI is sent over a fibre channel link, and reconverted at the transmission facility for up-linking.
Prior to the revamp, Physique TV used to be played out from Italy over Hotbird. The acquired content in the previous setup was in MPEG2, SD as very highly compressed files as opposed to the HD MPEG4 format it uses now.
Oasys Chameleon consolidates relevant software into a single optimal configuration for a variety of channel playout requirements. Using proprietary software, the Chameleon setup adapts to the broadcast workflow environment in which it is deployed to ensure that operating parameters for that specific environment are seamlessly configured.
We chose the playout transmission equipment with most of the options including high-powered graphics and automatic twitter feeds among other features. Its transmission in a box, an all-in-one unit. This enhanced the internal production and upgraded the backbone from a semi-professional 1G to 10G broadcast solution, adds Constant.
Chameleon, as one integrated playout solution, replaces the need to engage with multiple vendors. Oasys servers can be quickly reconfigured and Chameleon can be adapted to fit broadcast workflows as they change and evolve.
Presently, we dont have a fibre link between our headquarters in Oud Metha, Dubai and the uplink site in Tas (near Sharjah, about 50km from Dubai). Owing to this, the workflow had to be changed to allow us to operate and manage the playout in Dubai before onward transmission to their new distribution uplink at Tas, explains Constant.
The Chameleon system was adapted to make room for the altered workflow. When the parameters changed during the implementation period, the automated playout had to be adjusted to the configurations of the systems very quickly to meet the new requirements of the channel.
All material is ingested into Chameleon, where it is converted to Physique TVs in-house standard of MXFOP1a XDCAM. Once ingested, the Zeus system automatically detects that the material has been ingested and updates the media database.
Zeus was deployed because of its ability to automatically update the media files and generate work lists. The work lists are used to prioritise the schedule of individual processes, explains Constant.
As the dubbing and subtitling of the content is outsourced at the ingest stage, a low resolution version of the content file is created and sent to the audio dubbing and subtitling company. In the present setup, one cannot switch off the subtitling but once the fibre goes live, the channel will have that option as well.
When the subtitling PAC file arrives back, the media is married and readied for quality control (QC) for compliance. Zeus automatically detects that the file has been checked for compliance and again, updates the media library.
Post QC, the editing is done with Adobe editor. The three Adobe editing systems are connected to the QNAP storage and are used for promo production, which is undertaken in-house.
The final stage includes technical quality check. This is required to ensure that the English, Arabic sound tracks along with the PAC file are present. Only programmes that do not have an Arabic sound track are subtitled.
At every stage, Zeus automatically detects that the process has been completed and updates the media library. It archives this by interrogating the QNAP file directory.
Subsequently, the content is pushed into the OASYS Chameleon transmission system manually.
It was a Physique TV security requirement that this was a manual process. It would have been easy for the system to have automatically loaded it, according to Constant.
Zeus then downloads the playlist into Chameleon, which checks its media library and plays out the content.
The complete broadcast chain consisting of ingest, QC, scheduling ad insertion and playout takes three people to operate. The system has proved to be so reliable that it is left unmanned during the night and on weekends, adds Constant.
Chameleon outputs an ASI signal containing the video, dual language audio and DVB subtitling. The ASI signal is delivered to the Tas uplink site using the One Connxt delivery system (for now).
One Connxt offers an end-to-end HD/SD content distribution service that provides high quality live and recorded video programming virtually anywhere in the world using IP solutions. Although it is more commonly used for live feeds, especially in the transmission of live sport, One Connxt has been used to transmit Physique TV without degradation quite successfully for the past several months.
One Connxt was chosen as a short-term solution in the absence of a fibre link between the channel headquarters and the uplink facility, explains Constant.
Once the fibre is in place, we will stop using One Connxt for our main broadcast path but will use it for live content. The plan, next year, is to have live contributions from our studios and other gyms from around the UAE, adds Constant.
The in-house programmes are shot either at Physique TVs purpose-built studio and gym located several miles from the transmission facility or at various locations in and around Dubai. The studios are equipped with flyaway kits, which are used for shooting at other locations as well.
Our location production uses up to three HD cameras. We record the output of each camera on to flash drives and edit them back in Physique TV’s facilities, says Constant.
Physique TV is in the process of upgrading its key kit, which, at present, comprises five Sony DR-Z7E cameras and a good collection of lighting equipment.
The systems and the facility are both scalable. There is a central storage system to handle files coming from post production, which can cater for multiple channels if required. To add more channels, Physique TV must add a new playout server for each channel, and backup can either be dedicated playout servers, or shared servers.
The channel is presently using some of the simplified graphics processes for branding, but will be expanding its use to include more complex features including now/next promotions, end credit squeeze backs, and other metadata-based graphics.
The road ahead
Since its official launch, the channel has been vying for advertising opportunities. For advertisements, the channel is available to any brand that would like to associate itself with healthy living and active lifestyle. Du and Blackberry have come on board as the first advertisers for the channel.
Einstein concludes by saying that even small steps can lead to a big change in terms of health which is what the channel aims to achieve.