Al Aan goes on air

Al Aan TV, a new Arabic infotainment channel has been launched out of Dubai Media City to cater to the Arab woman. Digital Studio gets an exclusive look at the technology installed at the TV facility.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  October 2, 2006

I|~||~||~|Two years ago, a group of European businessmen came down to Dubai for a holiday. While they were here, they discovered that the media industry in the region was undergoing a major change and Dubai was at the forefront of it. They got a research firm to study the industry further and see how they could be a part of this media revolution. Al Aan TV, launched out of Dubai Media City, is the result of that research. Al Aan TV is an Arabic infotainment channel that targets the Arab family, especially its women. Apart from an hourly update of news, it airs programmes on fashion, cookery, health and human interest, all of which are produced exclusively for the channel from Dubai and Lebanon. “From our research, we found that contrary to popular belief, the Arab homemaker doesn’t have much time to watch a daily series or films. What she needs is a quick roundup of daily news, and programmes that she can watch while she goes about her work. We have tried to cater to this need,” explains Zoya Sakr, head of corporate communication, Al Aan TV. Earlier this year, Sony Professional Solutions and Services was awarded the contract to build a turnkey semi-automated play-out TV facility for the TV station. The facility in Dubai Media City is divided into three main areas: the studio, the master control room and the non-linear editing/news publishing (NRCS) zone. The main systems at the station are a Harris automation system along with an Omneon video server and an Avid ISIS system. “For the server platform, we have retained the Omneon Video server as we believe it provides a high level of expansion capability with efficient functionality versus cost,” says Unni Krishnan, assistant project manager, Sony Professional Solutions and Services. “With its open architecture, the Omneon server supports most third party applications for control and transmission, media management, archiving, and collaborative production,” he adds. An important part of the TV station is its transmission suite. This houses the signal processing equipment chain from ingest through automation until transmission to air. Tx ready programme material is received at the ingest desk where a Sony digital Betacam DVW-M2000P machine is available to play previous formats such as betacam SP, SX, and MPEG IMX formats and it records in a digital betacam component digital format. The suite also has an additional DSR-2000AP for DVCAM tapes that arrive from third party productions and an HVR-M10E HDV machine for HDV tapes arriving from ENG crews to the ingest booth. ||**||II|~||~||~|All SDI signals are routed to the Omneon server, which, in turn, is controlled by a Harris automation system and a Vikinx router. The ADC-25 Harris automation solution controls the ingest/ to and the playout/ from the Omneon transmission server. Ingest is done using the MediaClient application, which controls one Omneon ingest port (MIP1010a) and the line source to synchronise the ingest operation. Whenever new material appears on the Omneon storage through the LAN file sharing (e.g pushed from the non-linear editors over network), Harris’ main database is notified. This is performed by using a customised Omneon MediaSpy plug-in application, which acts as a watchdog between Harris & Omneon databases. It detects any new video material arriving into the Omneon database from outside the Harris layer and notifies the system. The solution includes an Air client for creating, editing and running playlists. As Al Aan TV also has a 15-minute news roundup every hour, it was important to put in an efficient newsroom system. Sony recommended the Avid iNews NewsRoom Computer system. “This is a network based system with news running on I-news servers. Al Aan has ten iNews text editors for text editing. It also has four newscutters for audio and video editing as well as one Adrenaline,” says Sony’s Krishnan. Al Aan TV receives its news feeds primarily from two sources, namely Reuters and APTN. SDI video from these two sources are ingested and converted to file-based in DV25 format, and made available over the TV’s Gigabit Ethernet LAN for editing. Four high-res editing suites are integrated on the LANShare EX for editing the video file material. Finished video content ready for transmission is re-converted to SDI output by using the playout Airspeed, controlled by ControlAir during the main and hourly news bulletins. Sony has also designed a three-camera studio for Al Aan TV. “This channel has been designed with a lot of plan and care,” says Mufid Al Hajj Ali, technical director at Al Aan TV, pointing to the circular design of the news studio. “This is one TV station that has used its space very well. The studio is both functional as well as aesthetic, and it’s not a design that you will see in any of the other studios in DMC,” he claims. The lighting at Al Aan’s studio was undertaken by Dubai-based systems integrator, Glocom. The TV station has settled for Sony’s DXC-D50PH, a new digital camera used for corporate and professional applications. This series includes a new type of CCD sensor and Power HAD EX, which virtually eliminates vertical smear on picture highlights. This is combined with 12 bit A/D conversion, and a new generation of digital processing, to produce high picture quality. ||**||III|~||~||~|Other equipment include Vinten tripod systems, a teleprompter system from BDL Autoscript, an Amazon UMD system, Axon’s TRACS logging system and a Yamaha 02R96 audio mixer. The TV station has also opted for Vizrt graphics solutions and a Trilogy Orator intercom/talkback system for communications. Sony trained five of Al Aan’s engineers on the different systems at the facility,” says Krishnan. One of the biggest challenges of working on this project was having to contend with civil works while setting up the broadcast station, says Krishnan. Secondly, there were power issues. “These problems tend to crop up in any typical large installation,” says Krishnan. Al Aan TV currently has about 65 people working out of its Media City office, and is looking to recruit more. It also has plans to include other offerings in the future. “We have many plans but for now, our aim is to position ourselves as one of the top five channels in the Middle East,” says Sakr. We believe that this channel will be a hit and we intend to generate revenues from advertising,” she adds. Al Aan TV is free-to-air and available currently on both Nilesat as well as Arabsat. ||**||

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