Dubai Media Inc. recently upgraded its sports studio and the Dubai Sports channels as part of its larger project to move to a file-based, unified, tapeless infrastructure. Vibhuti Arora reports Dubai Media Inc. (DMI) recently completed the refurbishment of its sports studio. The eight-camera studio, which was an SD facility earlier, has had a complete […]
Dubai Media Inc. (DMI) recently completed the refurbishment of its sports studio. The eight-camera studio, which was an SD facility earlier, has had a complete makeover to a full HD sports production studio.
The exclusive sports studio is dedicated to the broadcasters four sports channels and its refurbishment falls in line with DMIs vision of upgrading its broadcast production facilities to bring them at par with technological developments worldwide. The upgrade integrates the sports production and sports news activities into a single high-definition production facility at its main studio Studio F.
Rashed Amiri, General Manager at Dubai Sports that manages the four sports channels of DMI, says that sports has been leading the way for technical innovation across the broadcast industry and this project has been a welcome move for the team.
Most of the new broadcast technology is driven by sports. When you put a new system in place, it inspires the staff to work more efficiently, which has been the case here. Tapes are tedious but with the new tapeless format, its easier for our staff as everything is streamlined.
Its been a 360-degree transformation for us. With more cameras, its easy to change the sets within seconds. In the old setup, we used to have one hour fillers when changing from one set to the other. Therefore, there was a limitation to how much we could do in terms of programming. Now all of our energies are focused on programming and creating content, says Amiri.
In the previous setup, there used to be two sports news bulletins in a day. The new facility broadcasts sports news every two hours, round the clock. Many of the popular weekly shows are now shown daily. The frequency of programmes and the quality has improved, affirms Amiri.
DMIs sports channels broadcast throughout the world from Vancouver to Australia. In the last seven years, the broadcaster has been bringing the German Football League to the region, in addition to live boxing from the US, American football, Golf and ATP Tennis. All the games are broadcast with Arabic commentary, which is done in-house.
Around the year, we have 22 big international events and 300 plus local events. Sport is a very demanding genre and sports organisers also stipulate certain specs these days. If you dont have good media that meets international standards to cover events, they wont give you the rights for it. For example, in 2010, the International Tennis Federation refused to allow any coverage of its matches in SD, even the local channels were not allowed to transmit in SD, points out Amiri.
During the last Olympics, Dubai Sports launched seven additional channels to broadcast the games.
We see it as a good way of encouraging sports in the country to inculcate a love of sport.
Ramadan is also a busy time for sports broadcast locally with several indoor and outdoor championships taking place during the holy month.
We have most of the non-soccer games after beIN Sports that carries 80% of soccer coverage.
The sports arena is very competitive. With the cost of sports rights rising constantly, it is not easy to stay free-to-air. The cost of the Gulf Cup in six countries, for instance, rose from $600,000 in 2006 to $45m in 2014, he adds.
With more money riding on sports programming, technologically too companies are pushing the envelope to give viewers the best in both content as well as quality.
Any investment in sports is worth its while because it is such a popular genre and as a state broadcaster rather than fulfilling commercial goals, we have a mandate to offer our viewers the best and generate more interest in sports, Amiri comments.
DMIs studio F meets this objective by offering in-house production of programmes, analysis, after-match sessions, highlights and replays of the game to add more value to sports coverage by the state broadcaster.
According to Saleh Lootah, Head of TV & Radio Engineering at DMI, the Studio F project was a part of the larger goal of Dubai Media Inc. to go completely tapeless by 2016.
The eight-camera control room, with its associated production facility for Studio F, is dedicated to DMIs sports channels and is the hub for all sports coverage that the broadcaster undertakes in order to meet the growing challenges and needs of day-to-day operations.
The studio, which is located at the DMI headquarters in Dubai, was re-equipped completely with major components such as cameras, vision mixers, lighting and also basic accessories, which contribute to studio production.
We want to achieve a complete file-based workflow with the latest technologies and systems across all of our production hubs and channels. The objective is to make content accessible across a variety of DMIs islands and systems, as well as simplifying its distribution and archiving by moving from linear to file-based workflow.
The move from SD to HD also adds value to our programmes in addition to the significant reduction in our physical infrastructure mainly from the video tape recorder and its related systems and infrastructure.
The workflow of the sports news studio is integrated with the existing Avid post-production workflow that forms the core of our broadcast infrastructure.
We thought it was easier to have the same vendor for this as well to facilitate homogeneous workflow. Avid ISIS servers have been deployed for convenience, comments Lootah.
The entire Avid infrastructure at DMI was upgraded with new hardware and software solutions from the vendor. Avid ISIS storage was expanded from four 32TB chassis to seven 64TB ISIS 7500 chassis giving the system 6,000 hours of storage capacity in XDCAM HD format.
In addition to these, the new Avid clients together with Airspeed AS5000 help quicker turnaround of stories as editors can now work on production while ingesting and the playout of content is faster.
Avid Interplay is the main media management system at the facility. The single existing server has now been upgraded to a cluster setup with two servers offering complete redundancy and a backup system offering zero downtime, thereby, supporting continuous working on critical production.
Lootah adds that Studio F is one of the largest studios that DMI has.
Everything is new including all the equipment, workflow, and the control rooms. Its a complete transformation from SD to HD and file-based system with a state-of-the-art technology.
With the sports part done, we are closer to completely achieving a tapeless workflow and now hope to complete the picture with a revamp of our censorship system, he adds.
The studio and channel upgrade was carried out over a period of five months. The entire Studio F is a 1080p production facility offering a complete file-based workflow integrated and incorporated into the DMI system for recording and playback of sports channel news and programmes.
The systems can detect if the content is in HD and play it. If the ingested content is in SD, its automatically sensed and upconverted to HD and vice-versa. The content for all the channels comes in a unified format and transmits through DMIs central transmission hub.
The sports channel project is one step forward in realising DMIs vision of interconnecting all the production islands. Its a multi-format, multi-vendor professional setup with an efficient file-based workflow with easy access to the centralised, managed assets and collaborative environment, points out Omar Alzoubi, Senior Manager Engineering Systems at DMI.
The studio and sports news now provide a more flexible and integrated content production facility offering the latest file-based workflow, which is integrated into DMIs transmission playout. This is controlled by Pebble Beach automation and a Storage Tek digital library through the Front Porch Diva Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) system, adds Alzoubi.
The installation of Avid Media Central UX platform, a web-based and mobile application has helped media managers, journalists and editors to streamline their work enabling them to browse through content quickly, thereby, saving time and effort, comments Alzoubi.