MBC’s biggest winner

When producing a reality show like The Biggest Loser with up to 47 cameras, it was important for the MBC team to work with a storage system that could help them to manage their footage efficiently. Digital Studio reports.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  March 25, 2007

You win some, you lose some, according to an old saying. MBC has been winning big this year with its version of the Reality Show, ‘The Biggest Loser'. Now in its second season, this popular Arabic edition of the international television hit pits contestants against each other to lose as much weight as they can to win a healthier body, and a grand prize of US $250,000. Produced independently by I-prod in Lebanon, MBC airs 1/2 hour daily updates showing the progress of The Biggest Loser contestants and presents a 90-minute prime episode at 19:00 GMT every Sunday night hosted by Carolina De Olivera. It is a massively complex production since each episode covers the ongoing activities of overweight contestants in a confined environment while they are coached by two celebrity fitness trainers and top healthcare experts.

Screened on MBC 4 to more than 150 million Arabic speakers around the world, after the first ‘Biggest Loser' was crowned in January of 2005 a second ‘Biggest Loser' began in September pitting the men versus the women in the ultimate challenge of losing weight and feeling good about yourself.

The show is shot at an indoor/outdoor living facility with up to 47 cameras. These include six Hitachi Z-3000 series CCD television cameras manned by operators, 33 Hitachi HV-D30s under remote control and the rest, a combination of sometimes-hidden mini cams and infrared cameras. For each episode, four story producers monitor the contestant's activities and live switch programme segments as they take place using Hitachi MP-Z3000 multi-camera control panels, sending their feeds back to MBC's central control room in Beirut. Since the contestants' living facilities include everything from kitchens and confession rooms to full gym facilities including an outdoor horse track and are being taped continuously for 18 to 20 hours a day, wrangling such a huge amount of footage into the final broadcast can be a major challenge.

That is why the regional director of production for the MBC Group, Abdelfatah Elmasry, credits the EditShare shared storage system for enabling ‘The Biggest Loser' to handle all of that high resolution DV material selected by the story producers for editing under their unforgiving broadcast deadlines. Along with Samar Akrouk, Elmasry oversees the production for the MBC group.

"We are now in production for our second season which will start to air in October,' Elmasry says. "We have used the EditShare system at MBC for several years and originally chose it because it provided greater performance at a lower cost than any other shared storage system. By the time we get to mastering each of ‘The Biggest Loser' shows on digital Betacam, EditShare helps us to choose the best shots from all of the material recorded by the remote cameras. This then gets edited on our six Avid Media Composers. This lets all of our producers collaborate on the final product by accessing the same material on a single system."

Additionally, since this is the first time a show of this complexity has been attempted for MBC in its Beirut facility, the implementation of EditShare's shared storage has been a new experience. "The system itself has worked fine. But sometimes when novice editors get their hands on it for the first time they occasionally overload it in their enthusiasm. We've found that EditShare is forgiving enough in that in all instances, we have been able to resolve whatever has come up without losing any time in our production schedule. Our experienced editors, on the other hand, love the system because of its reliability," explains Elmasry.

EditShare technology leverages the power of Gigabit Ethernet to enable users to work collaboratively by sharing the same media. Unlike standard SAN devices, EditShare supports file level sharing, allowing multiple editors to write to the same volume simultaneously although the system's rules-driven workflow ensures that no data is ever overwritten or accidentally destroyed. As a result, EditShare has more than tripled worldwide unit sales of its shared storage systems for the year 2006.

"The EditShare system has made our life easier," says Elmasry, "and significantly reduces the amount of time we spend in editing. It cuts the amount of footage we have to deal with during the edit sessions used to create our broadcast masters and we have found the system's reliability to be remarkable. I think we have the only EditShare system in the Middle East right now, but other shows are looking into it. We have found the EditShare system is a very good system for the kind of Reality Show we are putting on the air."

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