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Issue 10 | APRIL 2011

Technology intelligence for TV, film and radio

what’s hot!

James Cameron talks tech at Abu Dhabi media Summit

Al Aan TV goes Directto-Web with KIT digital

EXCLUSIVE

MEDIA on demand Tedial to manage Oman TV’s digital archive and production workflows

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Tedial makes its first entry into the Middle East with a major Media Asset Management installation in Oman. Turn to page 14.

Welcome BroadcastPro ME extends its deepest sympathies to our friends in Japan. We believe that our friends will emerge from this crisis stronger in the months to come.

Editor’s Pick A Dubai-based broadcaster breaks new ground by adopting and integrating new media platforms with its traditional broadcast system. Page 20

Dr. Riyadh Najm, Deputy Minister of Engineering, Saudi MOCI puts forward the case for DTT in the Kingdom. Page 56

It’s one thing to read in the media about a visionary filmmaker; it’s quite another to see him in the flesh and understand why he has acquired the stature he has in the world of cinema. Five minutes into the opening conversation between James Cameron and James Murdoch at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, it was easy to appreciate why the Hollywood director was so successful. He brought extraordinary clarity to every topic he discussed whether it was about 3D technology; the making of Avatar; the business of movie making; or about where the future of filmmaking lies. The conversation was so inspiring that BroadcastPro ME felt it was important to share it with our readers in this issue. We also had the privilege of sitting in on a special conversation between animation director Carlos Saldanha and Cameron that was held on the last day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit. At the end of the event, I believe all of us left the auditorium with a special reverence for these men and the way in which they have been able to translate their ideas to the big screen.

Although both said they followed identical steps in the initial stages of conceiving an idea, it was interesting to note how they walked completely different paths in their quest to bring those ideas to fruition. While Saldanha took us through several impressive examples to show us how an animator would create and deliver each move to his characters, Cameron explained that he would be incapable of achieving such a result. “I am a live action director, not an animator. What you see in Avatar in terms of face, body, voice and every feature is created by the actors and integrated by the animators into the tall, blue aliens,” he said. “Every filmmaker uses the same tool in their own way. Make your own cookbook,” he urged. James Cameron will deliver the keynote address at NAB. Like every year, expect to see not just the newest and the finest technology in the broadcast industry, but also industry people, conferences and seminars. See you in Vegas. Vijaya Cherian, Senior Editor, BroadcastPro Middle East

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www.broadcastprome.com Publisher Dominic De Sousa COO Nadeem Hood Commercial Director Richard Judd richard@cpidubai.com +971 (0) 4 440 9126 Senior Editor Vijaya Cherian vijaya@cpidubai.com +971 (0) 50 768 3435

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in this issue

14

APRIL 2011

FUTURE ASSETS Tedial system to manage Oman TV’s media assets

20

4 NEWS

34 TECHNOLOGY UPDATE

Baynounah scrapped; Fujairah Media launches radio and film initiatives; ADMC rebranded; New Imagenation Abu Dhabi CEO appointed

Andrew Davies on the cloud

20 NETTING PROFIT

38 SOUND ADVICE Why networked audio is better than isolated systems for broadcasters

Al Aan TV saves costs with KIT digital solution

42 NEW MEDIA

26 HD ROADMAP

46 NAB2011

Arab HDTV group plots HD roadmap for MENA region

Your complete show guide

Testing IPTV from the start

28 MEDIA MOGULS

28

Excerpts from a conversation between James Cameron and James Murdoch at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit

April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

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PRONEWS

The Borj Al Jaras set at twofour54.

OSN’s SAUDI HOME CINEMA service will launch with The King’s Speech.

OSN launches SAUDI HOME CINEMA OSN has announced a breakthrough service called SAUDI HOME CINEMA — a premium on demand service that brings the latest cinematic releases to the homes of OSN SHOWBOX HD subscribers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the same time they are released in theatres around the world. At the time of going to press, the scheduled launch for the service was March 29. OSN will launch the service with The King’s Speech, The Resident and The Way Back. SAUDI HOME CINEMA will give OSN as well as entertainment a huge boost in the Kingdom, where attempts to open theatres to the public have met with fierce criticism from the conservative Islamic community several times. The movies will be downloaded into the OSN SHOWBOX HD for one month and once ordered, they will be available for multiple viewings for at least 24 hrs for a one-off cost of $25 per movie. SAUDI HOME CINEMA is an on-demand service with automatic downloads that are instantly available when the subscriber chooses to watch. This is in addition to the FREE Video On Demand service also available via the OSN SHOWBOX HD showcasing up to 1000 free movies and 52 free series available ON DEMAND during the year, in full HD quality and Dolby Digital sound.

Mahmoud Bouneb, executive GM, JCC.

Qatar Foundation invests US $110 annually in kids’ channel Qatar Foundation, the main stakeholder in Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC), invests around US $110 million a year on the channel, of which more than 75% goes towards content development, Mahmoud Bouneb, executive GM of JCC told BroadcastPro ME on the sidelines of a press conference that was hosted to highlight its new game show Borj Al Jaras that is being filmed in twofour54’s studio in Abu Dhabi. “The Arab world is a very small market from both a commercial and production capacity point of view,” explained Bouneb. “Before JCC came along, nobody produced programmes for Arab children except national channels who felt they had a social responsibility to

do so but none have targeted production with ambition. We have tried to innovate; we have crossed borders and gone global. We tried to penetrate different markets. Previously, we worked with a Malaysian animation house to produce Saladin. “We recently signed a fiveyear agreement with NHK to co-produce science content for our children. No one else is doing this in the Arab world as these are very costly productions. But as it is a coproduction, our teams will be working with them and both will learn from each other.” JCC already co-produces programmes with companies in Canada and England. It is now looking to sign similar deals with partners

in Turkey and India as well. “We are becoming more of a global channel but the heart of our mission is to serve the children of the Arab world and provide them with intelligent content. We are open to commercial ventures that adhere to our editorial policy. We are presently trying to build assets for the channel. In the next five years, we will, however, try to reduce the burden of funding on Qatar Foundation through targeted activities such as co productions, licensing activities and offering distribution rights for our programmes,” Bouneb stated. Watch our exclusive video interview with Mahmoud Bouneb on www.broadcastprome.com.

Baynounah to be dissolved After a long period of uncertainty, BroadcastPro ME learnt that a decision was officially taken last month to dissolve the Baynounah channel in Abu Dhabi by April. Baynounah presently employs close to 390 people. Industry rumours state that at least a third of its staff will be absorbed into Abu Dhabi Media, previously known as

4 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

Abu Dhabi Media Company, with fresh contracts. A large percentage of those absorbed into Abu Dhabi Media are expected to be UAE nationals. There have been several ongoing discussions about the fate of Baynounah’s studios and production facilities as well. Industry sources believe that the facility will be handed

over to intaj, the technical unit of twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s content generation zone. There are also ongoing discussions about absorbing at least half of the 120-strong operations and technical staff at Baynounah into intaj, although no plans have been finalised yet. No spokespeople were available for comment.


PRONEWS

Fujairah Media unveils new radio and film initiatives Fujairah Media Group (FMG) will launch at least two more new radio stations as part of its expansion plans for 2011, BroadcastPro ME has learnt. The emirate will also offer several soft initiatives to ensure that the emirate becomes an attractive locale for producers to shoot their films. “We are working on several initiatives simultaneously in TV, film and radio,” Mekki Abdulla, CEO of Fujairah Media Group confirmed to BroadcastPro ME. “We have local radio stations but are concentrating on building our international radio broadcasting lineup. We acquired Virgin Radio in Jordan earlier this year and Jazz Radio in Berlin last year. Virgin was reformatted into an Arabic radio station about a month ago and since then, it has done extremely

Mekki Abdulla, CEO, Fujairah Media.

well. There are two other stations that we are looking to acquire or partner with in the third quarter of this year. We also had plans to launch radio stations in Morocco and Tunisia but have stalled those because of the political unrest there,” Abdulla added. The CEO also confirmed that Fujairah Cultural and Media Authority will offer several

The Al Rayyan stadium in Qatar is due for an ambitious upgrade for the 2022 World Cup.

Draka wires Qatar stadiums Draka Communications recently provided a range of its multimedia and broadcast cables to upgrade four of five Qatar football stadiums from Standard Definition (SD) to High Definition (HD). The cabling project management and installation was handled by systems integrator Gearhouse

Broadcast, who was awarded the contract to upgrade the technical infrastructure of  Al Gharafa, Al Rayyan, Al Sadd Sports Club and the Qatar Sports Club. Currently, these stadiums represent a  total capacity of 137,000 seats. Qatar is presently investing $4 billion to build nine new

soft incentives including the use of its airport and reasonable hotel rates among other incentives to encourage filmmaking in the emirate. “We are actively looking at what major incentives we can provide to become a good destination for filmmakers. Fujairah Media is investing in building additional studios and providing more production facilities to filmmakers. What we have to our advantage is a beautiful terrain and political stability. We hope to see a lot of interest from some of the Arab countries as well as India. ,” he added. Abdulla will also visit NAB this year to talk with American systems integrators about potential partnerships to undertake terrestrial broadcast projects in Africa, where Fujairah Media has several broadcast clients.

football stadiums and renovate three others as part of its efforts to upgrade and extend its sports facility to cater to the demands of its 2022 World Cup commitment. “We were pleased to partner with Draka to meet the urgent requirements of the Qatar National Olympic Committee for the stadiums,” stated Eamonn Dowdall, MD of Gearhouse Broadcast. “Draka responded to our cabling requirements with speed and efficiency, and we knew we could rely on the quality of their broadcast cables to meet our high standards for this project.” Draka provided multicore audio cables, HD video cables, SMPTE311M camera cables as well as Triax cables for the project.

Mohammed Al Mubarak appointed Chairman of Imagenation Abu Dhabi Mohamed Al Mubarak has been appointed chairman of Imagenation Abu Dhabi. He is responsible for leading the development of the company’s full-length feature films and digital content in both regional and international markets. Under him, Imagenation Abu Dhabi will continue to contribute to the development of the local film industry in the UAE. Al Mubarak will be responsible for maintaining Imagenation Abu Dhabi’s international partnerships and overseeing the launch of the company’s Emirati film slate. Al Mubarak joins Imagenation Abu Dhabi from Aldar Properties PJSC, where he continues to hold the role of Deputy CEO and CCO. Prior to that, Al Mubarak worked in London with Barclays Capital.

MediaCast appointed Cubix distributor Dubai-based distributor MediaCast has been appointed Middle East distributor of Cubix GPU Xpanders. “We are very happy to add Cubix to our portfolio and are especially focusing on the Cubix GPU-Xpander Desktop 4, which is unique because of its ability to transform a normal PC into a high-end graphics workstation,” stated Dimo Valev, marketing manager of MediaCast. Cubix GPU-Xpander Desktop 4 can transform a PC or Mac Pro workstation into a supercomputer running GPU-accelerated products, ranging from modeling/simulation software, to the latest digital content creation, non-linear editing, and digital solutions — enhancing performance of these applications by 50x to 100x.

April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

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PRONEWS Moroccan TV expandS DTT network with Net InsighT Moroccan broadcaster Société Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision (SNRT) has chosen Net Insight to expand its existing Digital Terrestrial TV network. Net Insight won this order in partnership with Ericsson Morocco, which will be the prime integrator of the project delivering project management, support and installation services. The purpose of the network expansion is to enhance the availability of the network as well as protect their services and investment already made. This project is the latest phase of the digital network build-out for SNRT. The Net Insight Nimbra platform will offer the best availability and control functionalities to the existing and expanded network. Redundancy will be provided on both a DVB-ASI service level as well as SDH-STM-1 trunk level. Nimbra Vision will be used to monitor and control the quality and availability of the network services.

6,000 visitors expected at PALME More than 200 exhibitors and 6,000 visitors from 68 countries will converge at PALME Middle East – the region’s largest trade show for professional audio, lighting, music, entertainment, audio visual and systems integration solutions. The show will be held at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from April 26-28. Besides the exhibition, PALME will also feature various demonstrations in Laser and Lighting as well as Music & DJ Equipment. There will be a dedicated Simulators and Home Automation Area at the event. PALME will also include conferences for third Lighting Solutions & Technologies; Projection Technologies and Building Automation. There will be free-to-attend seminars at the Middle East Audio Academy as well as Certified training & education courses for specialists at the show. PALME will also reward the best professionals and projects in the industry at the PALME Middle East Awards 2011.

Qatar TV to use VISLINK for prayer coverage VISLINK recently supplied a fixed microwave LINK Simplex System to Qatar-based systems integrator Salam Media Cast. The new microwave link, which will be operational this quarter, will be used to cover and transmit live religious activities and daily prayers from the new State Mosque at Al-Khuwair in Doha to Qatar TV. The microwave system uses high performance 23.6 GHz antennas and Microwave Radio Communications’ (MRC) DXL8000 series digital short haul point-to-point microwave system with outdoor units for the standalone link. The split mount design enables the use of standard coaxial interconnects between the DXL8000 indoor units and the small 30cm tower-mounted outdoor unit. The transmission unit will be installed at the mosque site. It will include two antennas using 22.6GHz & 23.4GHz frequency bandwidth, two DXL8000 systems; two L1050 SD-HD encoders, and an ASI O/P, which can feed with two identical source signals. The receiver will be installed on a mast at Qatar Television, which also include the antennas, DXL’s and an IRD5100 IP-capable

Mather Al Ali, GM, VISLINK Middle East.

integrated receiver-decoder, which will provide dual input signal to an existing vision mixer at QTV studios. VISLINK Middle East’s GM Mather Al Ali stated that Qatar was the third country in the region to receive this new technology following similar projects in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “We are delighted that we will provide VISLINK codecs for this microwave system. The software license for the codecs can be sent via e-mail and the upgrade can be done onsite within seconds. This avoids a significant amount of down time for the client that would otherwise be needed for factory-based upgrades.”

MBC undergoes Genetic Engineering Dubai-based MBC Group has purchased a Quantel Genetic Engineering shared workflow infrastructure for its three Quantel eQ online finishing systems. The deal also includes a Sam, which will enable other edit, graphics and audio workstations to benefit from the shared workflow. The eQs will also be upgraded to the latest V5 software.  “We rely heavily on our eQs to produce the large number of promotions and interstitials we use across our network of ten channels,” said Keith Dallison, MBC post production manager.  “They’re real all-round workhorses and our editors love the interface which gives them instant access to all the different tools they need in our fast turnaround environment. As we migrate to HD over the course of this year, demands will get heavier still.  “Genetic Engineering will improve our efficiency by giving us complete flexibility on which job is finished in which suite, or if necessary we can put all three eQs onto the same project. Last minute jobs are a daily issue with some channels such as our Al Arabiya 24 hour news channel, as well as coping with the inevitable late schedule changes,” Dallison added. 

Tobe Hooper directs Arabian horror film Director Tobe Hooper was in the UAE at the time of going to press to direct Imagenation Abu Dhabi’s Arabian horror film DJINN. Penned by US writer David Tully (Hepzibah), this new take on the haunted house thriller uncovers the dark truth behind classic fairytales of the Genie.  DJINN tells the nightmarish story of a young Emirati couple who

6 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

return home from the US and discover that their new apartment in a luxury highrise built on the site of an abandoned fishing village is also home to the malevolent beings known as djinn. Emirati director Nayla Al Khaja, behind the short films Once, Arabana, and Malal will work as a cultural consultant on DJINN. Khaja will shadow Hooper on the set and train

with him in preparation to helm her first feature length horror film. Tobe Hooper said: “The horror genre speaks an international language and I am so pleased to be involved in a project with Imagenation Abu Dhabi that will transcend cultures and borders. Simply put, this movie will scare everyone, no matter where you live or what you believe in!”


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PRONEWS

Gulf Film Fest hosts Gérard Courant Experimental filmmaker Gérard Courant, who holds the world record for the longest film ever made, the 156-hour Cinématon, will be in the spotlight at the fourth Gulf Film Festival (GFF), which will be held from April 14 to 20, 2011, at Dubai Festival City. The fourth edition of GFF will showcase films from Courant’s repertoire in its ‘In Focus’ segment on screens across the Dubai Festival Centre mall. The films not only provide a glimpse of Courant’s stylistic ingenuity, but also the breadth of the subjects he has explored. Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Festival Director, GFF, said the showcase of Courant’s films is intended to inspire emerging filmmakers to experiment with various media, styles and interpretations and find their own way.  “Courant and his body of work embody what GFF is trying to achieve,” Al Ali said. “His films are avant-garde; they defy conventional methods of filmmaking to create works that are in a league of their own. He is relentlessly devoted to his craft, investing time and energy into breaking new ground. He is a fine example for filmmakers trying to find their own voice, and we are delighted to welcome him to Dubai.”

Less than 1% is the expected growth for mobile broadband in the Middle East between 2010 and 2012. HE Saeed Al-Hajeri, Abu Dhabi Media

Ihab El Baba, CEO of Baba Broadcasting Services.

Rafael López, MEA sales manager, Prodys.

BBS appointed Middle East distributor for Prodys Dubai Studio City based systems integrator Baba Broadcasting Services has been appointed Middle East distributor for Prodys systems. Speaking exclusively to BroadcastPro ME, Ihab El Baba, CEO of BBS stated that Ikusnet, Prodys’ news contribution system has especially attracted the attention of several broadcasters in this region. “When the product was first introduced at CABSAT, local broadcasters showed great interest in conducting field

tests to transmit news through the internet for their news programmes,” El Baba said. As a result, Prodys’ MEA sales manager Rafael Pérez López was in the region recently to demonstrate the product to several broadcasters. “Here, most broadcasters are heavily reliant on satellite while Ikusnet enables you to send live news via satellite or the Internet. When you send live news using the Internet, you can adapt to varying network conditions

using advanced technology developed by Prodys. Ikusnet also supports live satellite transmission using its DVB-ASI interface, or you can store your material on local SD card storage for transmission to the base station at a later time. The best aspect of Ikusnet is that it’s not only a transmission unit but also has all the functionality of a news gathering suite. With two video monitors and illuminated control touch pad, you have everything you require for news production,” López said.

ADMC rebranded as Abu Dhabi Media Abu Dhabi Media Company adopted a new name and took on a new logo ahead of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit as part of a new corporaate branding exercise. The company will henceforth be called Abu Dhabi Media. “Abu Dhabi Media is a modern media company driven by creativity and innovation, yet still deeply rooted in the heritage and values of our Emirate,” stated HE Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, chairman of Abu Dhabi Media. “Our new corporate brand communicates the

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bold direction we are taking as a company and our commitment to our local community and culture. The re-launch of our corporate brand reinforces our focus on contributing to the continued

growth of our dynamic local media industry,” he added. The rebranding initiative includes a new corporate brand identity and a redesign of the company’s corporate website, www.admedia.ae.


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PRONEWS Less than 1% of online content is in Arabic although there are more than 344 million Arabic speakers worldwide and it is the seventhmost popular language on the web... Ad spend in the region is expected to grow at the rate of 8%, compared to 3% in the US and 1% in the UK. HE Saeed Al-Hajeri, Abu Dhabi Media

Jordan TV chooses Jampro Antennas Jampro Antennas has been awarded a major contract from Jordan Radio & TV (JRTV) to supply broadcast antenna systems and related transmission equipment to upgrade four systems in the Hashemite Kingdom. JRTV’s order includes Jampro model JUHD UHF broadband panel antennas and combiners, JCPD FM panel antennas, combiners, and associated RF components. JUHD broadband antennas are DVB-T-ready for UHF bands IV and V and have wide bandwidth for multiple channel operation.  Based on a modular design and made of stainless steel, JUHDs can be configured to provide various azimuth and elevation patterns. The JCPD antenna is a circularly polarised 4-dipole flat-panel antenna system for FM Band II (87.5 to 108 MHz).  Made of marine brass and hot dipped galvanised steel, it is designed for dependable performance in harsh environments. This antenna has good bandwidth, with typical VSWR of 1.10:1 or better. Using a variety of standard and custom directional patterns, JRTV will be able to shape coverage to fit requirements. JRTV engineers selected Jampro RCCS combiners as they provide an inexpensive method to combine two or more signals, a press release from the company stated.

The PMW-F3 camera at Colonia Studio, Dubai.

DoPs in Lebanon attend the BCS workshop.

Sony dealers host PMW-F3 workshops Sony Professional Solutions MEA (PSMEA) and its authorised representative in Lebanon, Broadcast & Communication Systems sal (BCS) recently held the first workshop in the region for Sony’s new PMW-F3 super 35mm sensor camera. A similar three-day workshop was held by Sony’s Dubai-based distributor Advanced Media at Colonia Studio, Dubai. Both workshops were held in February, with support from the Sony team who conducted the presentation and were available to answer queries. More than 200 industry professionals including cameramen, DoPs and film enthusiasts attended the workshop sessions in Lebanon and Dubai.

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“We believe that the PMW-F3 will break entry barriers to digital cinematography and herald a new era of Super 35mm digital production in the region. This camera is designed to support all kinds of creative production, from independent filmmaking and cinematography, to music videos, documentaries and more. It delivers mobility, flexibility and durability at an affordable price,” stated Shuji Okada, general manager – Content Creation & Systems Marketing, PSMEA. Advanced Media has been hosting several workshops for filmmakers in the region with the intent of training people and also promoting the brands that it distributes in the region. “Our intention is to host at least 10 workshops in a

year,” stated Kaveh Farnam, CEO of Advanced Media. “Previously, we have done workshops on the Weisscam, on 3D and so on. This camera has especially attracted a lot of attention. If I get 10 cameras now, I have ten clients to buy them from me. This is because it is very competitively priced. The market has been waiting for a camera like this for a long time. A lot of people have spoken about the issues regarding HDSLR shooting and many of the digital cinema cameras today are not as powerful as they claim to be practically. Technically and resolution wise, this products is very good and cost-effective,” he added. Several filmmakers at the workshop expressed an interest in purchasing the camera. DoP Jafar Al Nofel and his two brothers, who

DoPs at the BCS workshop, Lebanon.

Kaveh Farnam (r), CEO of Advanced Media with Pooyan Farnam (left).


PRONEWS Awad Mousa, Sony PSMEA gives a presentation at the Dubai workshop, hosted by Adavnced Media.

were working on a Ramadan production in Abu Dhabi, attended the Dubai workshop with the aim of purchasing two cameras immediately. “It’s a small camera, good budget and high quality,” stated Al Nofel. Beirut-based DoP Nemer El Ghazal, who has recently produced a French film, came to Dubai to attend the workshop. “I also teach students so I

believe this camera is ideal for freelancers and people with small budgets. In a studio environment, it seems to be working very well. I’d also like to test it outside in the normal desert weather conditions,” he commented. Watch exclusive video interviews with Kaveh Farnam and DoP Nemer El Ghazal on www. broadcastprome.com

DoP Jafar Al Nofel from Jordan.

DoP Nemer El Ghazal from Lebanon.

OTT viewers will outnumber IPTV viewers by 2013 380 million people globally will view online video via connected devices such as TVs, games consoles or set-top boxes from the likes of Apple and Google by 2015, according to a new report by Informa Telecoms & Media. This growth will be driven by the phenomenal popularity of services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix. but in contrast, only 163 million users will be watching managed IPTV services from the likes of Verizon, BT and Orange in 2015.  Informa’s research also shows there will be twice as many OTT TV viewers than IPTV viewers globally by 2015 but in some markets, this contrast will be even more stark. In the UK, for example, there are already more OTT TV viewers than IPTV viewers, and by 2015, while only 3.6m people will be watching managed IPTV, 27m will be watching online video via the TV.

April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

11


PROOPINION

Japanese crisis to impact broadcast industry The heartbreaking news from Japan in March has been a humanitarian calamity of immense shock, but also one of worldwide concern for our industry. Because, while the broadcast and professional electronics market, generally, has been on the mend and purchase plans for 2011 implied a strong recovery, especially in the Americas and Asia, Japan had already been seen as somewhat lagging due to its own unique economic problems at home. Exports of electronic products, both consumer and professional, could have been expected to lead the way back. And, of course, in our industry that has meant mainly broadcast products. But, as a result of the earthquake last month, the resulting tsunami and damaged nuclear facilities, Japan is experiencing shortages, plant shutdowns or slowdowns, rolling power blackouts, transportation snarls and people dislocation. Not only is this affecting the North Eastern part of the country but Tokyo and the heartland. The initial response by Japanese manufacturers was to carry on, but many plants in the North were shuttered immediately after the events. Others have since felt the impact of slow or no deliveries of vital sub-components or accessories. Until ten days later, major operations of the largest firms, such as Sony were not directly affected, but then the Tokyo area Atsugi broadcast plant announced a slowdown and closure of some assembly lines. Other

companies such as Panasonic and Sanyo, both in Osaka in the South, were less affected. But, generally, the manufacturing parts of the industry have slowed down. The infrastructure of electronics manufacturing in Japan involves an intricate network of supporting companies scattered throughout the country. How this will hit the global market remains to be seen. It is certain that there will be months of delayed deliveries of already sold products or replenishments of stocks of foreign inventories. It will also, where this is feasible, cause a shifting of manufacturing to other countries, such as Brazil, China and South Asia. So, it will be difficult to precisely gauge how much disruption of the product shipping flow will be caused, perhaps until summer. But, it is likely to be felt. Another aspect is competition. While there are few alternatives to Japan when it comes to camcorders, there are alternatives in cameras, editing, switchers, displays and many other product lines. Any prolonged delay or disruption will clearly play into the hands of foreign competitors and that may be seen as soon as the NAB Show and its aftermath. We would expect to see — in 2011 research studies — at least a visible shift from Japanese goods to other Asian suppliers or goods from Western firms. There is an inherent profitability in depleting warehoused inventories and the end-users will be likely beneficiaries of that phenomenon

in 2011. There may be an impact on the introduction of new models. Will all of this cause layoffs at Japanese firms? Perhaps it will. But, with the recession so close behind us, and in some places still alive, companies have already shed many staff and reorganised themselves at least once. So, seeing the rising demands, worldwide, and their already short-staffed levels, they may prudently hold on to the people they have. And, once they can re-start their engines of production, they will need every qualified person they have, to catch up with the building demands of the product channels. At this writing, the questions remain, just how long will the nuclear threat persist? How long will production remain interrupted? How long will it take Japan to rebuild? What will the total cost to be? Until those questions are answered, we will have to assume that there will be a prolonged impact on the country and on the flow of products and therefore on the rest of the industry. Douglas I. Sheer is CEO & chief analyst of D. I. S. Consulting Corporation

April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

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PROOMAN

Tedial manages Oman TV’s media assets BroadcastPro ME brings you an exclusive report on how Oman TV will manage its digital archive and production workflows with a state-of-the-art MAM system from Tedial

Tarsys will manage the content and personalise its associated metadata according to the specific needs of Oman TV.

Last year, when Oman’s Ministry of Information (MOI) awarded the much coveted US $69 million HD contract to Sony Professional Solutions Middle East & Africa (PSMEA), Spanish media asset management (MAM) specialist Tedial was also called in to jointly review the MOI’s media workflow. The project, which is scheduled for completion in November 2011, is aimed at introducing HD broadcast in the country for the first time while also simplifying and automating all of the processes within the new workflow without compromising on functionality and reliability. For Tedial, this project represents its first big win in the Middle East. A key component of this project is managing the digital archive and production workflows for Oman TV’s new HD-tapeless system, and Tedial has been tasked with achieving this. The new MAM solution from Tedial will replace an old tape-based system that is operated manually. The system will support both of Oman TV’s channels and radio, says Rafael Dubois, Tedial’s sales director. “It will support Channel One, which is intended for general purpose programming (on-air 24 hours/day); Channel 2 dedicated to Sports (8 hours/day); and also, the News section of MOI’s four associated radio

14 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

channels. The production of content takes place in two separate sites: a central site (Digital TV studios in Muscat) and a regional station in Salalah, where the morning news is produced,” explains Dubois. “The system will also archive video and audio files at both sites. This includes 20,000 hours of video HD, 20,000 hours of low-res video LR, and 10,000 hours of high-res audio in addition to 10,000 hours of low-res audio.” Although both the Muscat and Salalah facilities provide independent production and transmission services, they will be fully integrated by Tedial’s technology, delivering a single virtual system that’s able to share media and act as a mirror for disaster recovery purposes, adds Dr. Emilio López Zapata, chief technology officer at Tedial. “All archived media can be shared with other areas, sites and users using Tedial tools. The MAM client application allows the users to search, catalogue, reproduce, edit and export media. The MPM (Media Process Manager) working in the background will provide the media and metadata that’s processing and moving between the archive and all third party systems, including editing stations. The editors will have direct access to the archived media in the Tedial MAM and can easily — with one click — import and export media and


PROOMAN

metadata associated between different editing stations and the archive system,” Zapata explains. The MAM technology will allow Oman TV to take full advantage of file-based workflows by optimising and automating operational procedures such as automatic quality control, transcoding, indexing, creating EDLs, media logging and exchanging information with the traffic system, automation, news room and post production. Zapata is the main architect behind the MAM solutions at Tedial. “We are a pioneer in the broadcast industry providing an enterprise-level integration platform based on IT architecture. Traditionally, MAM providers use wired logic connecting systems peer-to-peer. As such, when a change is made to third-party solutions, it can affect other interconnected components in the system. Tedial’s MPM works as a middle layer integrating all of the third-party systems, which means there’s no impact on the overall workflow structure should a replacement be required in the future. This not only helps when making future changes to the overall system, it also

helps when upgrading the software of a key component,” he adds. The Tedial system itself is made up of four key components — AST Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM); Tarsys Media Asset Management (MAM); Media Process Manager (MPM); and Ficus Business Process Manager (BPM). This will provide a complete turnkey solution for controlling, storing and processing Oman TV’s media and its workflows. The first component — the HSM — will control Oman TV’s complex distributed storage system split between Muscat and Salalah consisting of robotic LTO libraries and disk storage servers. “AST is Tedial’s hierarchical storage manager. It handles and manages disk storage and one or more tape libraries, and is built on redundant and distributed architecture that balances requests among the different servers, a key point in a tapeless solution. Its main features are a multi-server architecture, Hierarchical Storage, Storage Group Management, Partial restores, Scalable System, request priority and so on,” explains Zapata.

“Tedial’s MPM works as a middle layer integrating all of the third-party systems, which means there’s no impact on the overall workflow structure should a replacement be required in the future” Dr. Emilio López Zapata, CTO, Tedial

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April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

15


PROOMAN

The Ficus BPM system sits above the other three Tedial components automating all of Oman TV’s production workflows.

The second component — Tarsys (MAM) — manages the content and personalises its associated metadata according to the specific needs of Oman TV. Tarsys offers powerful searching tools and functionality such as cuts-only editing, browsing of low-res proxies with multiple audio tracks etc. Tarsys Oracle database is built in a clustered configuration to provide high availability, redundancy and load balancing. “AST, working together with Ficus and MPM, can ensure that the media is always available in the main and the backup sites’ storage by using the database and by making specific media storage synchronisation steps at the appropriate moment during the executing of workflows. This means that should the main site fail, Salalah will always have the necessary media to resume operations and transmission from there,” says Zapata. Tarsys MAM is also a multimedia database that stands as the core of the archive system. This product stores the metadata of all clips managed by the system, including its cataloguing data and AST storage ID. “Tarsys is licensed according to the number of concurrent users (40 in Muscat and 17 in Salalah) and, can be expanded to include further users in the future if required. “Tarsys supports multi-language metadata, Customisable data models and multi-format media files. User can catalogue and search with Arabic and English information,” Zapata adds. The MPM forms the key third component of the system providing an important dual role. On the one

16 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

“The system will archive video and audio files at both sites. This includes 20,000 hours of video HD, 20,000 hours of low-res video LR, and 10,000 hours of highres audio in addition to 10,000 hours of low-res audio.” Rafael Dubois, sales director, Tedial

Tedial system includes: AST HSM Tarsys MAM Media Process Manager Ficus Business Process Manager (BPM).

hand, it automates all of the media moving within the facility between the archive and external systems such as the video server playout, post production and so on. On the other, it provides the interface layer amongst all the different components and technologies used by the facility. “For example at Oman TV, Tedial’s tight integration with Avid’s API will enable operators to ingest and edit metadata directly into Avid’s Interplay. This metadata will then be sent automatically with the media to the MAM. Users will catalogue and operate with one system and this information will be shared with the other. MPM will also integrate the automation system (Pebble Beach) and video servers (EVS and SeaChange) at Oman TV in order to provide media to playout automatically from the archive and import media from the ingest area,” says Zapata. The CTO further explains why MPM offers a unique solution in a challenging and incompatible environment. “In the broadcast world, each system uses a specified interface to communicate with other devices. It can be a standard or a proprietary protocol (API, web services, MOS, custom Communication Protocols etc). Interconnecting these systems is difficult because each vendor often has their own particular interpretation of the commands supported by the interface. In addition to this, the interface documentation is often not up-to-date and sometimes, when a vendor releases a new software version, this may not be totally compatible with the interface. To make things even more complicated, vendors often make small changes to the wrappers of universal file standard such as MXF, which render the files incompatible with other devices and applications from the same manufacturer or other third parties. “MPM solves the problem of integrating all of these systems by providing a middle layer protocol for exchanging media and metadata, which works as a bridge amongst all the systems areas. MPM also moves the media, and while doing so, it checks that the files are ‘normalised’ to a format that is supported by all parties involved. This often requires rewrapping files on-the-fly using MPM media processing tools,” he adds. The Ficus BPM system sits above these three components automating all of Oman TV’s production workflows. The overall Tedial system controls media creation integrated with traffic, digitisation of assets, automatic QC, subtitling, archive management and delivery of media required by automation playlists to the transmission servers. The Spanish solution provider’s flexibility allows it to use the best integration tools provided by third-party vendors. For example, the traffic system uses a web service which, in turn, is employed by Tedial providing a bi-directional interface to exchange media and


PROOMAN

“This state-of-the-art installation is a big investment for Oman TV and will provide a reference for other broadcasters in the region. We have worked hard to ensure that we’ve selected the best systems” Mohammed Al Marhouby, director general of engineering, Ministry of Information, Sultanate of Oman

metadata whilst maintaining information stored within the database. At Oman TV, Tedial’s Ficus BPM software will integrate with the BTS traffic system, and automate each step of the production workflow. “Ficus produces work orders for operators based on the customer’s specific needs and the Tarsys MAM automates the availability of media and its associated metadata to the relevant production process at the right time and in the format required. At Oman TV, Ficus will integrate with BTS to exchange media information like playlists, ingestList (dublists) and so on. For each media, Ficus will generate a workflow; this workflow is composed by automatic and interactive workorder such as Autmatic Quality control, Manual Quality control, Cataloguing report and so on,” explains Zapata. What sets this technology apart from other MAM systems, according to the CTO, is “its ability to deliver media to transmission, editing, archiving or any other area of the facility, whilst carrying out all the media processing, so that it arrives in the most efficient way in the correct format for the device that’s going to use it”. This is done automatically. The second overall element of this installation, according to him, is its multi-site capabilities. “Although the Muscat and Salalah facilities are independent, they can synchronise automatically and transparently. Media will be ingested in Muscat and copied to Salalah so that operators in either location can access and share material. The sites are joined by a private optical link. In the event of a system failure, the other site can act as a mirror adding an extra layer of security,” he adds. This project has its challenges, says Zapata. For one, Oman TV is building brand new facilities and this often has problems including construction delays, testing new infrastructure (electricity, A/C, cabling, etc). “The system will initially be built, configured and tested in Dubai. This will allow additional time to make sure the new buildings are ready to be used,” explains Zapata. The other challenge, according to him, is training. “This system is vastly different to the current one. A large number of new, young Omani engineers will be trained and, although they will be more than

18 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

capable of operating the system, many of them will lack practical experience working in a broadcast environment. The issue is not about the Tedial system per se but rather the whole operation. Training needs to cover not only the content management solution but traffic, automation, video servers and so on. This is a lot to take in one go no matter how good the engineers are. “Therefore, Sony will start a comprehensive training programme well in advance based on a ‘hands-on’ approach using the real system. Along with Sony, Tedial will train super users who can go on and train junior operators by themselves with support from Sony,” he adds. The Tedial systems have been designed to be supported remotely by VPN, adds Zapata. “This is like having a virtual Tedial engineer on site 24/7, because our support team can see logs and other data just like being physically on site. In addition to this, Tedial has Arab-speaking engineers who no doubt will be of great help to Oman TV.” Although this is Tedial’s first project in the region, Zapata envisages more for the company. “The Middle East is a natural market for Tedial because there is a large concentration of broadcasters that keep up with the latest developments of the technology, in particular, IT. “The next logical step in this evolution is to implement systems that optimise the execution of production workflows, thus reducing human errors and operational costs, whilst improving the speed of producing new content. Tedial not only has Arabic-speaking engineers, it has actively invested in the region by developing key practical functionalities that are normally overlooked by the competition such as developing the implementation of the RDI Arabic Thesaurus. This takes into account the unique syntax particularities of Arabic, which cannot be handled by thesaurus applications developed for other languages such as English,” explains Zapata. When Oman TV goes on-air in November 2011, it will transmit in both SD and HD, and will mark the country’s 41st National Day celebrations. Although Oman’s new tapeless HD broadcast facility has been a huge undertaking for the MOI both technically and financially, it will act as a significant reference site for other broadcasters across the Middle East. PRO


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PRODUBAI

Kitting out Al Aan TV In an exclusive interview with Vijaya Cherian, Al Aan TV and KIT digital speak about the challenges that led to the deployment of a Direct-to-Web solution at the broadcaster’s facility and their ongoing work to push the boundaries of technology in the Middle East broadcast industry Three months ago, BroadcastPro ME carried an exclusive feature about Dubai-broadcaster Al Aan taking its Twitter and FB feeds to air — a first for the Middle East. Last month, the TV station stumped local players by pushing the boundaries even further by working with KIT digital to deploy a Broadcast-toWeb solution, which essentially allows Al Aan TV to automatically export

stories from its broadcast system to the web without manual intervention. The software solution from KIT digital requires relatively minimal hardware, which includes Dell servers and an Osprey video capture card. It allows the TV station to streamline its internal workflow by cutting time spent on the manual export of news to the website by 80%; and helps in re-allocating resources to more productive tasks.

20 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

“Today, everyone is thinking of how to save time and allocate our resources to more gratifying tasks,” explains Muhammad Irfan, technical project manager at Al Aan. “On a daily basis, we send a lot of news to the website and for that, we previously had to record, convert, chop and upload each of the news clips before publishing it online. A three-minute news video used to take about half an hour to put up online and it was a tedious and repetitive task, where we were duplicating energy. “In the night shift, if you needed somebody to publish something online quickly, one of our colleagues would have had to travel to the office to get it done. Now, they can do it from their home. Our operators merely have to go online to check if the video is okay, if the suggested


PRODUBAI “What we have today is iNews-to-Web. But we are working on a mechanism whereby our broadcasts will go automatically to our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts as well as to our website. This will be ready in the next two months. We are also implementing the H.264 format for our up-coming iphone and iPad applications” Muhammad Irfan, technical project manager, Al Aan TV

thumbnail is appropriate or select another one, and approve the clip to publish it.” Hossein Jalali, head of Al Aan TV’s online team, adds that the TV channel has a very strong presence on the web. “Al Aan TV has more than 80,000 videos in its database ranging from issues on current events in the Arab world to general entertainment, on different platforms. Al Aan’s videos have had more than 115 million views since its initial development. Our YouTube channel alone gets more than 5.4 million views a month,” he claims. Jalali adds that the TV station has a very sophisticated social media system with 12

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people working in the online team from different parts of the world to ensure 24/7 interaction with the website’s visitors. The channel’s journalists, however, wanted to edit videos for the TV channel and without duplicating efforts, automate the process of putting some of that content up on the web. To do this, KIT digital developed a Direct-to-Web solution based on its VX-platform to cater to Al Aan’s systems, workflow, and website infrastructure. As the TV station uses the Avid iNews newsroom computer system and a custom Content Management System (CMS), KIT digital’s solution was also integrated with this.

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April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

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PRODUBAI

“Al Aan’s videos have had more than 115 million views since its initial development. Our YouTube channel alone gets more than 5.4 million views a month” Hossein Jalali, Head of Online, Al Aan TV

“Feeding a live channel to a website is quite easy, even though many channels have not mastered the subtleties of load management and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs),” says J.P. Chaib, head of Middle East, KIT digital. “It is also quite a bland experience, even when enhanced with EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) information. In fact, internet users expect to watch what they are looking for or are interested in, and won’t contend with ‘tuning in’. This is why many content owners and broadcasters actually post their content, or extracts, on their webpage or other devices. The video files, in most cases, must be manually extracted from their broadcast system. The video files are copied, transcoded, and uploaded to a Video Asset Management System, or to a CMS with advanced video management capabilities. There is also a need to export the associated metadata, to allow the internet users to search for the videos of interest, but also for this content to be indexed by the search engines, since search engines cannot ‘see’ into video or audio content. And finally, videos on the

internet usually come with attached thumbnails, so that viewers can see a still frame prior to playing the video. This is often what draws an internet user to play the video in the first place. “Also, rarely do you see that all content is be posted on the web either because of rights issues, or because a story was already posted earlier. The decision is usually the editor’s on what content to post and for how long,” he adds. The workflow begins in the Avid iNews NRCS, where KIT digital added a feature allowing journalists to flag stories for export to the web. “In order to obtain the final video rendering as it is broadcast (with graphics), we decided to encode the feed after the playout. The SDI signal is fed into an HD-ready capture card integrated into a powerful server. Each news bulletin is recorded and transcoded on the server. Using timing information from Avid Control Air and metadata from the iNews database, another server is in charge of extracting individual stories into separate video files. Those video files are then associated to the corresponding metadata, relevant thumbnails are created, and the resulting asset is pushed onto the web CMS. “The whole process is automated, and individual news stories are available on the

22 | www.broadcastprome.com | April 2011

web within minutes of having aired. It all sounds quite simple, but we had to be careful with time synchronisation across systems, dealing with second level accuracy from logs, and fine-tuning the trimming of clips for a clean output,” explains Chaib. Besides integrating with Avid iNews and the website’s CMS, information needed to be extracted from the Avid Control Air system. “The best part of this mechanism is getting all the script from iNews,” explains Al Aan’s Irfan. “It gives us four thumbnails to choose from, as well as high- and low-quality video. We don’t have to do anything manually apart from flag up the videos before they are broadcast.” Such projects are not without their challenges, explains Chaib, although he adds Al Aan’s newsroom.


PRODUBAI

From left: Hossein Jalali, head of Online, Al Aan TV with J.P. Chaib, head of KIT digital Middle East.

that the issues are not region specific. “These are not Middle East specific challenges. We have to deal with working with existing and established workflows, which means finding ways of accommodating them; working across the broadcast and web environments, which were not initially designed to converge; dealing with time synchronisation issues across systems; and creating no disruptions to either the broadcast or the web processes, as in this case, they were both operational before we got involved,” Chaib explains. He adds that his fears of resistance from Al Aan’s broadcast engineering “in trusting us with access to their systems” were completely unfounded. “It is a tribute to both Al Aan’s team and our engineering team that both were quick to recognise each other’s expertise,” he says. Six people from KIT worked with the

heads of online, broadcasting and IT from Al Aan to successfully deploy this project. The solution is hosted at Al Aan’s facility, and does not require active management although KIT digital has remote access to the system for support needs. “We worked closely with Al Aan’s technical team during the installation and initial testing, and, actually, during the system design as well, so no technical training was necessary. As far as the journalists are concerned, the system is ‘flag and forget’ : flag the story and forget about it.” The solution is presently in a three-month beta testing stage to ensure system stability. “By the end of April, we will be transitioning to a regular support mode,” explains Chaib. The solution at Al Aan can be expanded in several ways. For one, the export of programmes is presently restricted to news

“The whole process is automated, and individual news stories are available on the web within minutes of having aired. It all sounds quite simple, but we had to be careful with time synchronisation across systems, dealing with second level accuracy from logs, and fine-tuning the trimming of clips for a clean output” J.P. Chaib, head of KIT digital Middle East

Al Aan staff in the Central Apparatus Room.

but can include other programmes, and Al Aan is already considering this as the next step. In addition, the solution can also address targets other than the website including YouTube, Facebook, specific sites, iPads, iPhones and mobile phones. “What we have today is iNews-to-Web. But we are working on a mechanism whereby our broadcasts will go automatically to our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts as well as to our website. This will be ready in the next two months. We are also now implementing the H.264 format for our up-coming iphone and iPad applications,” adds Irfan. The solution can also be expanded to provide user-generated content and moderation capabilities via a number of inputs (web, mobile), with the possibility of moving such content into the broadcaster’s system and leveraging KIT digital’s online video platform for selective distribution, enhanced delivery, and monetisation. Irfan claims this implementation is again “a first in the Middle East”. “KIT digital not only understands the broadcast world, but the internet world as well. More importantly, they were able to integrate their solutions into our workflow. But we are not done. We have extensive plans to further enable search engine optimisation for our Arabic programmes and we will be working with KIT digital on this as well. With each of these implementations that are a first for the region, we at Al Aan TV hope to push the boundaries of technology to interact more closely with our viewers, who are primarily women.” PRO

April 2011 | www.broadcastprome.com |

23


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HD 720 Progressive sc DVB-S2 DVB-T2 720 Pro Progressive scan DVBDVB-S2 DVB-T2 720 3 Gb DVB-T2 Training Gbps n 720 Progressive scan DVB-S2 720 Progressiv Gbps network DVB-S2 D Training Gbps network Hasan Sayed Hasan (above), head of media technology, twofour54 has been elected vice chairman of the group along with Jean-Pierre Lacotte from the France HD Forum.

Laying out the HD roadmap The Arab HDTV Group, an independent entity founded by some key broadcast players in the Middle East, held its fourth annual meeting in Dubai this year after CABSAT. BroadcastPro ME brings you the details With High Definition (HD) becoming increasingly significant in the Arab world, some key decision makers in the Middle East gathered together to form the Arab HDTV Group around four years ago. Since then, the Group has met every year to discuss some of the key issues concerning HD and advocated the need to adopt a common HD standard for the greater good. This year, fifty seven people from the industry came together for the meeting, which was held just after CABSAT in

Dubai. Several key topics were discussed including HDTV production issues; new HD technologies and services from both manufacturers and satellite solution providers; the latest developments from MENOS, international and regional trends with regards to the new format, and where the group is headed. A key part of the meeting is also to democratically elect key players to the top tier roles in the Group. Dr. Riyadh Najm, assistant deputy minister of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of

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2011 recommendations * Content departments in Arab broadcasting organisations should work with the Arab HDTV Group to increase their awareness about the new format. Seminars should be held periodically to increase HD awareness. * Arab broadcasters should begin producing programmes in HD in order to create a library of programmes in this format. * Training in HD facilities for technical and programme staff should be held periodically. * Joint meetings should be held between the Arab HD Group and the European HD Forum to enable greater cooperation between the entities. * ASBU’s Programme committee should discuss HDTV issues and dedicate at least half a day to discuss matters related to HD in production. * The Group’s members should encourage more representatives from the industry to attend the meeting so as to strengthen the adoption of HD in the region. * HDTV information to be included in various Arab broadcasters’ programmes to help the viewer understand more about HD and how they can view it.


PROHD

can 3 Gbps network ogressive Training 720 -S2 3 Gbps network bps network DVB-S2 See network DVB-S2 DVB-T2 3 Gbps network ve scan DVB-S2 3 DVB-T2 DVB-T2 DVB-T2 DVB-S2 DVB-T2 A file photo of Dr. Riyadh Najm addressing the gathering at the Arab HDTV meeting in Tunis in 2009.

Culture & Information has steered the group so far as President and was re-elected to the same position again this year. “Arab HDTV Group includes stake holders of HDTV from across the region including broadcasters, satellite operators, manufacturers and international organisations and Unions. Its main objectives are to draw a roadmap for the introduction of HD in the region and give recommendations about standards to use, both for broadcasters and for reception by the viewer,” Dr. Najm told BroadcastPro ME. In previous meetings, the Group had agreed to adopt 720 Progressive scan for current projects with a migration path to 1080p, taking advantage of the wider availability of production equipment in this format. There was also an agreement that 3 Gbps network would be implemented internally for distribution to accommodate 1080p signal when migration takes place. DVB-S2 for satellite transmission and DVB-T2 for

terrestrial transmission were also the agreed transmission formats. This year’s session saw the Group call for more production in HD as well as periodic training programmes for technical and operations staff. In addition, Hasan Sayed Hasan, head of intaj at twofour54 and Jean-Pierre Lacotte, chair of the France HD Forum were elected to be vice chairs to the Group. Several other key people attended the meeting including former vice chairs Mohammed Al Marhouby, Director General of Engineering, Oman Radio and TV; and David Wood, Deputy Director European Broadcasting Union - Department of Technology & Development as well as representatives from the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), Arab National Radio and Television corporations, Arab national broadcasters, Arab TV channels and satellite players such as Arabsat, Nilesat, Yahsat and Noorsat. The Arab HDTV Group will reconvene in Q1 2012. PRO

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PROMEDIA

Media Moguls James Cameron discusses the making of Avatar, advancements in film technology, business models, and the future of 3D and broadcasting, with News Corp’s James Murdoch at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit. BroadcastPro ME brings you excerpts from the conversation

James Cameron and James Murdoch in the opening conversation at the second annual Abu Dhabi Media Summit, that was held in the UAE capital last month.

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As a director and artist, how do you keep the technology from overwhelming the story and performances, and how do you make the technology and storytelling work so seamlessly together? The dynamic balance between technology and storytelling is something that I have explored throughout my career. The challenge is to stay close to the heart of the characters. And I think my big advantage is that I write my own stories, so before I even think of what camera systems I am going to use or what CG effects I’m going to use, I know my characters intimately, I know what they are feeling at every moment of the story, and that equips me with everything I need to talk to the actors, and draw from them their very best performance. Even in a highly technical film like Avatar, where some characters like Zoe Saldanha were not even seen photographically in the film as they were only seen through the CG characters that we created, every nuance of their performance was important and was translated to the CG characters. As a director, I had to ensure that she, as a character, was able to work every moment with total emotional authority and that comes from the writing process. I’d like to expand on that a little bit. Avatar was interesting because I began thinking about it from a technological standpoint because I was the CEO of Digital Domain — a start-up Visual Effects company in the early 1990s that was designed to create breakthroughs in CG character creation. So I thought that as not only the CEO but as its biggest client at that time, I should throw them a challenge in really creating a quantum leap forward in CG character development. I wrote Avatar to do that. The answer I got from them was ‘You are too early. It can’t be done. Not now’. So there, the technology came first and then, the story telling.


PROMEDIA

How did you get those performances from your actors? It was an extraordinary leap of imagination. The audience is moved by the characters they see on screen ... not based on the vast vistas of another planet. What I wanted was a tight close up and so we had to be able to capture every nuance, every molecule in the sense of what the character was creating. So we came up with a completely new way of capturing actors’ facial performances. We already knew how to capture body performances back then when we started Avatar. It was a fairly mature science but there was no way of capturing facial performances so we came up with the idea of mounting a little tiny camera so that the actors could remain free to do everything except kiss because the little camera got in the way. They could eat, talk, smoke cigarettes, and do whatever else they wanted. The little camera actually made a video image of their face throughout their performance and that was a separate stream of data along with the body capture which was done through computer recognised markers. We then put all that information together and then, the CG characters ­— the tall, blue, alien characters — did exactly what the actors did.

“3D adds value to any kind of entertainment media. Sports, gaming, even drama, which people haven’t woken up to, certainly natural history... and movies, but the value added is proportional to how much the 3D camera is able to simulate you being physically there”

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. It took us two years to write the software, the code, the plug-ins, the applications required to take that raw data set, and turn it into a finished performance. How do you feel about non-native 3D pictures that are shot for 2D being converted into 3D for theatrical release? Does it devalue the medium? Yes, it does run the risk of devaluing the medium. It is a raging controversy in Hollywood now. Do we bear the extra expense upfront of shooting in 3D because there are extra expenses with VFX ... not so much with live action production but VFX is more expensive, or do we bear that cost in post production once we have seen if the movie is worth it in a sense. It’s a very cautious approach and people are harming themselves with this cautious approach. We have a defined, very substantial uptake in the revenue stream. Ticket sales are flat or even down slightly but gross revenues are up because through 3D, we are able to charge a premium ticket price. So it’s actually been a big steroid shot for the business over the last year or so. But if you have to reap that reward, you have to pay for it and have a good business model. I’m a big advocate of shooting in 3D. 3D adds value to any kind of entertainment media. Sports, gaming, even drama, which people haven’t woken up to, certainly natural history, photography and movies but the value added is proportional to how much the 3D camera is able to simulate you being physically there. I think this controversy will go away in the next couple of years because it will be difficult for Hollywood producers and studios to say it is tricky to do 3D photography when tens of thousands of hours of broadcast programming are being generated live in

me

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PROMEDIA

“To really optimise the upside value of 3D in sports, we’d have to rethink our camera positions a little bit. To have a 2D multi-camera production and a separate 3D multi-camera production is not a good business proposition ... I anticipated this problem when designing Avatar. [It] was designed to serve both masters — 2D and 3D ... [It] had no separate 3D version ... so I maintain that it can be done but clearly, the problems are greater in a live production environment” 3D all the time. And of course, sports is going to drive 3D into the home. But there are challenges. For instance, international football is played in stadiums of varying sizes ... some big, some small with different quality of lighting across different continents, so we can’t get consistent approaches. Yes, there are challenges. If you were at a sporting event, you’d want the seats right at the side of the field because that’s where the camera wants to be. However, the cameras are still fairly large and that creates seat kills and interferes with the live experience for somebody sitting right behind them. To really optimise the upside value of 3D in sports, we’d have to rethink our camera positions a little bit. To have a 2D multi-camera production and a separate 3D multi-camera production is clearly not a good business proposition because you are duplicating energy. I anticipated this problem when designing Avatar. It was designed to serve both masters — 2D and 3D — in the same way that for years, filmmakers have served the two masters — the giant screen and the small screen. And now, we are down to the tiny screen as people want to have that instant accessibility on mobile devices. So we have always served the two masters of

different scale and now we are serving the two masters of depth or no depth. So Avatar had no separate 3D version of the film. It was exactly the same edit and the same composition so I maintain that it can be done but clearly, the problems are greater in a live production environment. But the next wave of camera systems will solve a lot of these problems that are plaguing the pioneers in live broadcast because the cameras will be smarter and there will be less requirement for humans in the loop making decisions of what’s good stereo and what’s bad stereo. They’ll actually be able to put software in the line, coming out of the camera and the truck that basically says ‘That’s not good stereo. Make an adjustment.’ It will be done with algorithms at that point. How do you think the media business and, in particular, the story telling business approaches risk? Typically, what we see are patterns of risk management that actually cripple the business. We also see a pattern of disruptive ideas that come in and take big risks and succeed. Not all risk takers succeed but I think the disruptive successes do. Titanic and Avatar are both good examples of movies that did something against the grain of common wisdom.

in VEGAS NAB Central Hall, Stand C6737

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PROMEDIA

Animation director Carlos Saldanha with James Cameron and Jim Gianopulos, CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment at a masterclass that was held in Abu Dhabi.

“If you change our basic contract with screens, whether entertainment or business screens, you are doing something that is going to have a ripple effect across all platforms and all media” Everyone drinks at the same trough of common wisdom so they all produce more or less the same thing. What the audience wants is something fresh and what they haven’t seen before so we have to try and give that. With Avatar, I was consciously pushing back against what I saw as an avalanche of new technology that was going to cannibalise the theatrical marketplace. I am a big screen guy and I like the big screen experience. I wanted to preserve that and make sure it maintains a kind of status as an anchor for our business. Of course, there are all of the other sources of content and they are proliferating and they will enjoy from these new platforms. But I wanted to preserve that big screen experience, when it was getting nibbled away. So I said, ‘Let’s do something that is so compelling that you can only best enjoy it in the theatre’, and that’s where 3D came from and that’s why I went on this 10-year odyssey of perfecting the camera systems and dealing with the theatre owners, trying to get them to adopt the new system. A door opened at exactly that moment ... and this is thinking about 10 years ago. That door was digital cinema. Everyone made the assumption that digital cinema was going to replace film. It didn’t. 3D sort of became the catalyst that made digital cinema happen. How can we break through excessive risk management to ensure more creative films can be made? It’s all about relationships between the business side of the business (the studios and marketing people ) and the creative side of the business (writers, filmmakers, producers etc). Most of the problems I see in Hollywood historically — and I have been there for 30 years — seems to come from applying the

Wharton School of Business principles to films, and sometimes, it works and sometimes, it doesn’t because it is a crazy, inventive creative business. Ultimately, the people who are successful from the business and administrative side are the ones who create the closest relationships with the creative talent and understand their own products. The Studio executives who best understand how movies work in the mind of a fan or an audience are the most successful. How did you deal with moments of crisis while making your films? With every film, you’re going into unknown territory. That’s the risk, but the greater risk is to not go into unknown territory and to do the same thing that people have seen before. But there will come a time by definition, when something is not working the way it was meant to work.

“I’m a big screen guy, and I like the big screen experience. I wanted to preserve that and make sure it maintains [its] status as an anchor for our business. So I said, ‘Let’s do something that is so compelling that you can only best enjoy it in the theatre’, and that’s where 3D came from and that’s why I went on this 10-year odyssey of perfecting the camera systems...”

On Avatar, I felt like we were jumping down the airplane and, knitting the parachute on the way down, which we successfully did. But there were moments early on, when we were checking out our performance capture technology and in the middle of a production day, things would grind to a halt because the systems were not working. I’d look at my team, mainly in their mid 20s. I was the only old man there. They’d all sit there with glum faces. I’d stop what we were doing and we’d pull up a table and brainstorm on how to solve the problem so that it did not recur. We’d make up names for things that had never been named. I’d look at the glum faces and say, ‘Guys, this is the good part. This is how we know we are pioneering. People will go to school on this and they will be able to look up a manual on how to do what we are thinking of right now.’ In Silicon Valley in recent years, those same conversations were taking place and to be 30 years into a career and have that moment felt like a great gift to me. How do you look at the creative trajectory that you have set in motion? Someone asked me if the next thing would be 4D. I think we should first consolidate 3D which will take about five years to a decade. I could predict that we will see more 3D but how pervasive will it be? Will it be right down to the way you watch your news or on a tablet or laptop? It’s really a question of how innovative the broadcast culture becomes about incorporating 3D and the business modelling for it. Will we one day have entertainment that is indistinguishable from reality? We are well on that path. When gamers spend eight to 12 hours immersed in a game, it becomes their reality. It’s not distinguishable. When you start layering stereoscopic 3D in with gaming, people’s minds will literally go through their screen. The reason we say that 3D is such a profound change is because it can manifest itself on every platform at every level from little screens to big screens. If you look at what our society has become, we interact with our social media through screens much more than previous generations. If you change our basic contract with screens, whether entertainment or business screens, you will be doing something that will have a ripple effect across all platforms and all media. PRO

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PROCLOUD

Taking on the Cloud - I In the first of a three-part series, Andrew Davies looks at the recent cloud computing phenomenon that has swept through the IT industry and is now beginning to make its presence felt in broadcast

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PROCLOUD

The term cloud computing is a relatively recent addition to even the most hardened IT professionals lexicon. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google is widely acknowledged as being the first person to publically coin the phrase at a meeting of the Search Engine Strategies Conference in August 2006. This came just a few months before Amazon launched its Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2), one of the first commercially available public clouds, making a good case for this period being the birth date of modern cloud computing. However, the technology which has made the cloud possible, reborn as an antidote to the dot com crash, is based on a set of technologies that can be dated right back to the early mainframe computers of the seventies. Most of us are familiar with Moore’s law; Gordon Moore wrote a paper in 1965 around the time that a number of major technology leaps were being made in semiconductor design at Intel where he worked. Moore had noticed that as each new generation of chips was created, the number of transistors and hence, the power of the chip doubled. These generations, or cycles, of technology occurred approximately every eighteen months and so, Moore made a prediction that this would continue. He was right and we are still reaping the benefits of his forecasts today. However, as computers have become more powerful, a number of unwelcome side effects have got in the way of a completely utopian progress curve.

Software has become increasingly complicated and dependent on complex interactions with the underlying operating system. These interactions frequently mean that two applications find it difficult to run on the same platform simultaneously. Take, for example, a web server that requires Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and an email server that requires the same operating system but will only work with Service Pack 3. It may be the case that neither application is particularly demanding in terms of CPU or memory usage and would easily be able to run simultaneously on a single server if it wasn’t for the service pack incompatibility. This is a scenario that was repeated several times in just about every company in the world during the late nineties. Most IT professionals solved the issue then by simply installing the second application on another server. As Moore’s law ensured that servers got cheaper and cheaper, this sticking plaster approach became an easy one for IT managers to use. However, this was one of the primary causes of a phenomenon that emerged towards the end of the nineties that became commonly known among IT professionals as server sprawl. As IT managers added more and more servers to run single applications, the CPU and memory utilisation of these servers dropped. The situation got worse every eighteen months as Moore’s law delivered the next batch of ever more powerful chips, and IT managers added more and more

“Software has become increasingly complicated and dependent on complex interactions with the underlying operating system. These interactions frequently mean that two applications find it difficult to run on the same platform simultaneously” Andrew Davies, TSL Middle East

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PROCLOUD

applications to the enterprise. With data centres full of servers that were effectively doing nothing (idle chips and buckets of unused RAM), power and cooling started to become major problems. In addition, managing all of these servers, keeping them up to date and keeping track of where they were had become major drains on company resources. It was the beginning of the end as IT budgets got swollen and speculators, seeing an opportunity, started to invest in anything that had a dot com or the word technology in it! However, long before the dot com crash had even been thought about, computer scientists had already solved many of the problems it brought about. As early as 1961, John McCarthy, an early computer scientist, said: “If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organised as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility… The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.” McCarthy effectively predicted an era of cloud style computing although he didn’t call it that. The first real work on creating what would eventually become the building blocks of cloud platforms started at IBM in the late sixties. IBM was, at that time, creating an operating system called CP/CMS which would run on the IBM System 360/70, mainframe computers designed to perform centralised tasks for large corporations. One of the issues that IBM faced was the same as IT managers faced decades later, under utilisation. An IBM mainframe was

“Virtualisation products ... today form the backbone of many modern IT installations ... allowing perfect, isolated “virtual” machines to be run simultaneously on converged hardware platforms. This abstraction of hardware and software is one of the core enablers of the cloud revolution...” a seriously expensive piece of kit. Having just spent a large chunk of the corporate budget procuring one, the last thing a CEO wanted was to see it doing nothing. Earlier, IBM mainframes had a mechanism for scheduling tasks that ensured that it always had work to do. However, they soon found that even that wasn’t enough to make the system as efficient as it needed to be. There were many different types of tasks or applications that a mainframe needed to perform and for each one, a slightly different combination of tweaks to the core system would result in the most efficient operation. What the IBM engineers really needed was lots of mainframes running in parallel, each one optimised for a given application, but the cost of that was prohibitive. The solution IBM came up with was what we know today as a virtual machine or VM. By creating a software utility in the CP/CMS

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operating system to manage the physical resources of the mainframe, IBM could partition memory and temporally allocate the CPU creating in effect isolated VMs that could appear to the end user as if they were running at the same time, although in reality they ran sequentially. Using this technique, each individual VM could be tweaked to be perfectly efficient for its given application without affecting other VMs optimised for other applications. This technique is still used in modern virtualisation products today and is often called a hypervisor or virtual machine manager (VMM). After the server sprawl of the nineties contributed to the dot com crash and the slashing of IT budgets, managers had to find a way to balance the books. Software engineers began to look again at IBM’s mainframe virtualisation technologies to see if they could be applied to modern x86 server hardware. Initial x86 products ran hypervisors on top of existing operating systems such as Windows or Linux and proved useful for rapidly testing software with multiple alternative operating systems or versions of the same OS but were not good for high performance tasks. Later virtualisation products concentrated more on performance and replaced the underlying operating system with the hypervisor itself often referred to as a bare metal install. These products today form the backbone of many modern IT installations the world over, allowing perfect, isolated “virtual” machines to be run simultaneously on converged hardware platforms. This abstraction of hardware and software is one of the core enablers of the cloud revolution and has finally allowed IT managers to once again use the full capacity of their data centres. In the next issue, we will look at how these technologies have evolved over the last five years to create a mature platform on which many of the world’s biggest companies now depend. We will consider the implications for broadcasters and start to look at some of the issues associated with virtualising the hardware and software used in creating, storing and distributing media. PRO Andrew Davies is business development manager at TSL Middle East


PROAUDIO

Audio networking for broadcast — Time to switch? Moving from hard-wired broadcast systems to network-based architectures with softwarecontrollable topologies will bring a range of benefits to broadcasters, says Anthony Harrison

As broadcast technology evolves, our demands on it become more complex, and this, in turn, drives the evolution of our systems to the next level. In the days when all television studios consisted of cameras and microphones hard-wired into discrete hardware vision mixers, patchbays and audio mixing consoles which routed to a specific video tape machine, no one would ever have dreamt of trying to operate multi-studio broadcast systems, where the console in one studio might accept a mic signal from another, and output to a recording device in yet a third studio. Put simply, the wiring and patchbay headaches would have been insurmountable. But for broadcasters that have moved to networked AV

systems, such workflows are increasingly commonplace. This, in turn, has powered the development of better networking protocols with more bandwidth and simpler, more easy-to-use control systems. Whilst networking technology has been available to broadcasters for several years, it has taken time for networked AV systems to become widespread, and with good reason. For many years, such systems could be cumbersome to implement or too expensive, and the benefits they offered over hard-wired systems were difficult to justify. Broadly speaking, the Middle East is one region where this view has held sway, and where fixed-topology broadcast architectures have continued to dominate,

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with the exception of several production facilities where networked systems are in use, such as those owned by twofour54 in Abu Dhabi. But networks have evolved a great deal in the last few years, and now have much more to offer forward-thinking broadcasters and production facilities.

Why Network? The chief advantage of networking is flexibility. In broadcast audio, a hardwired setup requires a separate, inviolable physical connection for each audio channel in the broadcast system, whether from a microphone, mixing console, or hard disk recorder. If a project requires the re-routing of that signal elsewhere, a new wire has to be connected to achieve


PROAUDIO

The Next Generation

that. In a simple broadcast studio, this might be a trivial concern, but in modern broadcast environments, which might include multiple timing-critical surroundsound feeds from an outside broadcast vehicle to a remote broadcast centre, it can be much more complicated. In a properly designed modern audio network, all of the hardware in the system is already connected, usually via affordable CAT5, CAT6 or fibre network cable, such that any input signal can be fed to any output, and the routing of a signal is software-controllable, easily remapped and re-routed with a few mouse clicks. As a result, it is just as easily achievable from a remote location as it is from on the spot. In a modern networked system, such

Many mixing console manufacturers in the live and broadcast markets, such as Axia, DiGiCo, and Calrec have made networking protocols increasingly central to the design of their products. Instead of comprising mixing control surfaces with built-in I/O, processing and routing capabilities, which can then be bolted on to separate networking technology, the latest generation of mixing hardware is built from its audio network upwards. Rather than the console lying at the centre of the system, receiving audio from its inputs, processing it and routing it to the outputs, it’s more helpful to think of such next-generation consoles as mere component clients on an audio network — an I/O box, some routing and processing hardware, a control surface — to which more I/O processing and control hardware can be affordably added when required, and in which routing can rapidly be redefined in software.

as those found at some major European and American broadcast centres, all of the audio hardware in the building is or can be connected to the broadcaster’s network or networks. Thus, any microphone in any studio can be routed to any mixing console, recorder or playout system. This flexibility is not simply a matter of making it easier to route incoming and outgoing signals — it affords operators and studio managers more flexibility, and allows the creation of complex broadcast setups that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. In a networked environment, if you have to move talent quickly from one studio to another, or need to press extra mixing hardware or

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PROAUDIO processors into service quickly to sub-mix a complex LE or current affairs programme, you can patch in the required mixers, hardware or radio mics in seconds, without having to run extra cables or monitoring systems. Generally speaking, fixedtopology systems now require more (and more expensive) cabling in comparison to networked systems. In outside broadcast, this means hard-wired solutions involve longer set-up times, have a higher propensity to technical failure, weigh more, and are less portable.

Concerns Of course, whilst networking technology adds flexibility, it also introduces another layer of complexity. Older networking systems frequently introduced more unwanted restrictions than the hard-wired systems they were supposed to replace. Traditional IT networks designed to interface computers, printers and plotters in offices are not well-suited to the delivery of multi-channel, highresolution audio in real time, and early efforts to adapt these protocols to carry audio resulted in networks with much higher latency than fixed-topology systems, prone to dropouts and loss of channel sync, or of sync to video. However, in the last decade, lowlatency proprietary networking protocols have been developed

“In ... major broadcast centres, all of the audio hardware .. . is or can be connected to the broadcaster’s network or networks. This ... affords operators and studio managers more flexibility, and allows the creation of complex broadcast setups that would have been unthinkable a few years ago” Anthony Harrison, Calrec

specifically for audio routing that work within the physical layer of standard Gigabit Ethernet technology, allowing connectivity via affordable CAT5 and CAT6 cabling and industrystandard fibre-optic connections. Recent developments have also seen the early ‘Unicast’ Ethernet-based systems develop into true ‘one-to-many’ Multicast networks, whose capabilities go way beyond those of hard-wired audio systems. In a fixed-topology or Unicast network, if you wish to route the output from (for example) a surround microphone to three different destinations, separate connections must be made between the surround microphone’s multi-channel output and all of the subsequent destinations, which can rapidly overload the network. In a Multicast network, any audio source connected to any point on the network can simultaneously address any other point on the network — including all outputs at once if required.

Multicast one-to-many broadcast audio network This is an example of a complex multicast one-to-many broadcast audio network, with multiple control surfaces in four different studios, and with varying complements of I/O, all connected via a series of network routers and with built-in redundancy in the case of connection failure. In this system, all of the consoles can receive or send audio channels to any of the I/O boxes anywhere on the network, whether these are located in ‘their’ studio or not.

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Networks: The Future Of Audio? Given that these improvements in network technology are recent, the slow historical take-up of networking technology is understandable. However, the advances of the last few years have created systems that look set to form the basis for the studios and broadcasters of the future. It remains true that a poorly thought-out, badly specified broadcast network can perform worse than a well-designed hard-wired system — but a properly thought-out, well-specified network can deliver better return on investment than a comparable fixed-topology system, and is better placed to meet the challenges of modern broadcast workflows. PRO

Anthony Harrison joined Calrec in 2004, and has been its chief sales executive in the Middle East since mid-2010.


PROIPTV

Building an efficient IPTV network Monitoring systems should be an integral part of any IPTV infrastructure build right from the pre-deployment stage, says Simen Frostad

A digital media delivery system is a complex thing to construct and operate. Monitoring and analysis solutions exist, and at their best, they provide end-to-end visibility of the data and signal quality. But digital media operators should not just consider a monitoring system as a layer of technology to be bolted on for the operational phase, because without testing and monitoring during the pre-deployment, deployment and project phases, operators are storing up trouble and expense for later. Complex services using IP-based real-time and non real-time signaling can’t be thoroughly evaluated by test suites alone: it is cheaper and much better to find out what’s working efficiently as you build. In the Middle East, where there is a lot of activity in the building of digital media networks but where most projects are in the pre-deployment, deployment and project phases, thorough and well-planned monitoring of infrastructure as it is built, will save operators time and money. It’s wrong to assume that a theoretical

approach to infrastructure planning and deployment is enough. There is a tendency to assume that once the network is set up and connected and the green lights are on, things are fully operational. Even verifying newly installed infrastructure with test data is likely to be misleading, because it is often only when real-world conditions are applied that faults become apparent. Therefore, from the earliest stages of construction, a small but sophisticated monitoring set up combined with realworld data is the only way to be sure that network architecture is ready to go live. The most cost-effective approach is to be sure that data is arriving in good condition as soon as an IPTV operator lays down or leases a transmission line and starts putting traffic through it. Building and verifying infrastructure can appear deceptively simple, but as operators too often learn, once operations are underway and subscribers are reporting errors, there is always uncertainty about how well their infrastructure is delivering the data.

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A simple monitoring setup can be enough to test infrastructure during build and deployment phases, and if used correctly this will expose any issues that would otherwise go undetected until real operations began. Once the build and testing cycle is complete and the infrastructure has expanded to operational size, the monitoring setup can be scaled up with it, to provide full extensive coverage and deliver a comprehensive picture of the parameters operators need to keep an eye on. One of the largest and most advanced digital media infrastructures in Europe to be built over the past couple of years serves as a good example of the evolution a monitoring system can go through. Virgin Media’s initial deployment of a monitoring system was intended to provide operational monitoring and analysis, but engineers soon began to realise how useful a small set of monitoring tools can be in the build and testing phase. By testing at the earliest possible point of the build phase, the company’s engineers were able to identify


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PROIPTV

“By testing at the earliest, [Virgin Media’s] engineers were able to identify and correct potential problems before they become more expensive to deal with” Simen K. Frostad, Bridge Technologies

and correct potential problems before they become more expensive to deal with. This approach can be applied by any operator constructing an IPTV system, to keep costs to a minimum in the early stages. All the monitoring probes used for testing can later be deployed as part of the larger system for operational monitoring. Depending on the approach to infrastructure construction, operators can choose a small set of probes for monitoring each area of the system as they build it. When constructing their IPTV infrastructure, most operators will build a headend first to start generating some services, and in a normal build, it would make sense to deploy probes in the structure at this point to measure output of decoders, and test data before and after the content protection system. It’s important also to test data at the earliest possible point to verify its quality: here, testing can measure the quality of the data coming off satellite — a step

that is often neglected by operators, even in the operational phase, despite the inescapable fact that errors in the satellite signal will almost certainly be compounded further downstream, and errors downstream will be more time-consuming and costly to resolve. As the infrastructure build proceeds, monitoring probes can be deployed at each network location, giving the operator complete visibility over the data quality at each remote location — ­ before connecting a single customer. Besidesa the testing rig of probes, a key requirement for thorough monitoring is to push the infrastructure up to operational levels of throughput, so that potential problems that can remain undetected at lower levels are revealed. The typical ‘test data’ used to verify that infrastructure is working usually comes nowhere near achieving this: it will show that the infrastructure is working, but will not give an accurate

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picture of how well it is working. And once operational levels of data are being pushed through the system, it’s how well the infrastructure performs that determines the ultimate service quality. As an example of the early-testing type of approach that can save operators time and money, verification of cabling connection quality can turn up errors during the build phase. The ‘green light’ engineers see as they connect components should not be taken as a signal that all is well: when you plug in RJ45 or fibre optic connectors you’ll see a green light, but what you won’t see is any wiring faults that can degrade performance at operational levels. To highlight bad wiring, you need to test the system with real-world data: running data through Copper Cat5 cable lines at 200 Mbit/s may not disclose an error, but at 800 Mbit/s peak data any deficiencies will start to become obvious with the right testing equipment. Deficient Ethernet cabling will often only reveal problems only when loaded with bursts at Gigabit speeds, and the same applies with Fiber Optic cabling, where even small fragments of dust on a connector will affect performance – but this will not be apparent until the system is loaded with data at operational speeds. Testing early and thoroughly isn’t expensive. In fact, it’s a very obvious cost-saver, since it’s far quicker to isolate a problem in a small section of your infrastructure than try to track the source of a problem through a larger, complex system. For any operator now involved in constructing an IPTV system, the opportunity to learn from the experience of organisations which have benefited from monitoring systems during infrastructure rollout should not be missed. PRO

Simen K. Frostad is CEO of Bridge Technologies


PRONAB

NAB prepared to paint the town “techno” The annual NAB show will bring together the world’s leading media players and tech-lovers to Vegas yet again. In a gallery bursting with the colours of the latest digital media advancements, observe ground-breaking developments in 3D, video streaming technologies, new media platforms and more at the show. David Moritz, award-winning film editor of movies such as Jerry Maguire and Rushmore, will deliver a keynote address at Post Production World (PPW) on Sunday, April 10. On April 11, Hollywood director James Cameron, and VFX visionary and 3D innovator Vince Pace will deliver the opening keynote address. NAB is also expanding its programmes and initiatives for filmmakers, providing creative and production communities with an increasing number of education and networking opportunities. The Show is joining forces with leading Hollywood unions, guilds and organisations to develop conference programming and offer a new Filmmakers Lounge and targeted tours of the exhibit hall at NAB. Partner groups include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Council, American Cinema Editors

Miranda Monitoring

(ACE), American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA), International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 (ICG), and Visual Effects Society (VES). These strategic alliances are helping fuel the participation of high-level speakers in the Content Theater (where the NAB Show examines Hollywood’s most innovative productions) and form the basis of a new programming initiative: the Content Conference. The new Content Conference features educational sessions on current issues and trends in feature film, TV and small screen production. Led by renowned filmmakers, artists and technologists, the sessions focus on the latest tools and techniques in virtual onset production, new colour workflows for digital filmmakers, mobile and sports content creation, genre and low budget filmmaking. NAB will be held from April 9-14. attendees will have the opportunity to relax and network in the new Filmmaker’s Lounge, located in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Conventions Center. Access to the lounge will be reserved for attendees showing membership to a Hollywood union, guild, association or related organisation.

Miranda Technologies has launched a highly automated, headend and edge monitoring solution for pay TV operators, which offers end-to-end signal path and QoE monitoring. This solution is based on three key new products, namely the iControl Headend facility monitoring system, the Kaleido-IP multi-viewer for IP video signal monitoring, and the EdgeVision set-top box probe and streaming encoder for Quality of Experience monitoring. iControl Headend is a desktop facility monitoring system, which provides the most advanced,

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end-to-end video signal path and QoE monitoring. For large television distribution networks, it offers the ability to monitor thousands of channels and devices effectively, using rich graphical representations of the signal path and intelligent alarms management. Kaleido-IP is an IP video multi-viewer with dual outputs and advanced signal probing, which is used for displaying headend and streamed set-top box signals on a monitor wall. It enables headend facilities to monitor, visualize and verify audio/video quality issues at multiple points in their facilities.

Sachtler Cine DSLR Sachtler’s new Cine DSLR fluid head is designed for digital single-lens reflex cameras with video function for three reasons: its proprietary camera plate features an anti-twist retainer for HDSLR cameras, the professional ten-step counterbalance system, as well as Sachtler’s damping that offers three vertical and three horizontal grades of drag (+0) to fulfill the requirements for precise panning and professional operation. The payload range of 0.5 to 5 kg is constructed so that heavier lenses or accessories can be used while filming. Additionally, the fluid head works with the Sachtler Speedbalance technology, which enables a fast and target-oriented counterbalance of the camera set-up. Furthermore, the long sliding range of the camera plate as well as the self-illuminating Touch Bubble are typical Sachtler features. The Cine DSLR has a tilt range of +90° to -75°. In addition to the Cine DSLR, Sachtler will display its FSB 4 and FSB 6 75mm heads, the SOOM System, the ENG / EFP updated classic Video 18 S1 and Video 20 S1, as well as the Cine 7+7 HD and Cine 30 HD heads.

EdgeVision is an advanced set-top box probe and streaming encoder, which integrates tightly with iControl Headend and Kaleido-IP to provide high performance monitoring at the edge. This allows pay TV operators to accurately see and hear the quality of signals received in viewers’ homes. EdgeVision performs detection of multiple video faults, including freeze, black and macro-block detection. It also provides audio probing, with monitoring of silence detection, overload, mono and out of phase, as well as loudness monitoring and alarming.


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PRONAB Quantel QTube At NAB, Quantel will unveil a range of new solutions for post and broadcast. Key themes are expanding file-based workflow, enhancing integration and boosting high quality Stereo3D productivity. At NAB, Quantel will launch QTube, a system that delivers truly global media workflow, allowing media assets to be quickly and securely accessed from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Far more than just a media viewer QTube offers metadata editing, quality downloads and even frame accurate editing; all over the internet, with low latency and full security. Quantel will be presenting QTube in action live on the booth working with media assets literally thousands of miles away from Las Vegas. Shown working with Quantel’s Enterprise sQ broadcast production system, QTube lets people efficiently teamwork between offices anywhere in the world and even when on the road. QTube delivers a step change in creativity and efficiency - content creation will never be the same again. QTube is ‘Workflow over IP’.

Digital Rapids’ StreamZ The new StreamZ Live IP offers the flexible, top-quality encoding and streaming capabilities of the StreamZ Live family in a dedicated configuration for transcoding live IP-based sources. StreamZ Live IP supports single or multi-program Transport Stream inputs with H.264 or MPEG-2 compressed video. StreamZ Live IP features the same flexible output capabilities as the StreamZHD Live ABR encoder for reaching devices from mobile phones and tablets to PCs and connected TVs. Multiple StreamZ Live IP encoders can be combined with the Digital Rapids Broadcast Manager software for enterpriseclass management, automation, monitoring and failover.

Harmonic ProStream Harmonic Inc. has announced enhancements to its carrier-grade ProStream 4000 multiscreen transcoder optimised for adaptive streaming applications that enable operators to meet growing demand for OTT and mobile TV services, while improving the video viewing experience. New capabilities include increased scalability, premium H.264 video encoding, multi-encapsulation, and expanded compatibility with a range of content distribution networks (CDNs) and digital rights management (DRM) software. This solution is easily integrated into existing video infrastructures, and can be controlled and monitored through Harmonic’s NMX Digital Service Manager.  To manage the complexity of multiscreen and OTT applications, ProStream 4000’s high-density configuration now supports the simultaneous processing of up to 48 video inputs and 48 legacy mobile phone, 18 iPhone, 12 SD, or four transcoded HD video outputs per single rack unit (1-RU). The ProStream 4000’s new built-in multiencapsulation feature enables operators to encode once and encapsulate to a

variety of target video formats, such as Apple HTTP Live Streaming, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and AdobeHTTP Dynamic Streaming, as well as multibitrate transport streams for NDS and Widevine Adaptive Streaming.  Video quality is enhanced thanks to Harmonic’s expertise in H.264 compression, including implementation of LookAhead and VBR technology enhancements specifically engineered for adaptive streaming delivery. Additionally, the ProStream 4000’s new multimachine synchronization capabilities improve the HD multiscreen viewing experience. Harmonic has extended the flexibility of ProStream 4000 through integration with industry-leading CDNs for a variety of adaptive streaming and legacy protocols. A new open Key Management System (KMS) interface allows operators to connect to multiple DRM systems. The ProStream 4000 also boasts improved carrier-grade management capabilities through support for N+M redundancy and Harmonic’s NMX software for network monitoring and control.

EVS XT3 PRODUCTION SERVER EVS introduces the XT3 production server, the next generation of its legendary XT series server, available with significant number of improvements to meet the most demanding live and near-live production requirements. The new system will be available from 2 to 8 supported channels capabilities.  Features include increased number of supported channels: up to 8 channels in 6RU and 7 channels in 4RU version ; more audio tracks: Up to 96 audio tracks (16 audio tracks per video channel); new “Mix on One” channel features; up to 3Gb storage bandwidth; up to 550Mbps per video channel; flexible configuration: In/Out channels, 2D/3D, native codec

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switch without hardware change (including Panasonic AVC-Intra, Avid DNxHD, DVCPro50/ HD, IMX, Apple ProRES) and full 3D/1080p support including 3D SuperMotion replay.


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PRONAB Pixel Power ATL Version 9.5 of Pixel Power’s core software enables new features for the company’s entire range of graphics systems. New Automated Transition Logic (ATL) in version 9.5 brings enhanced intelligence to template changes, simplifying operations and reducing the possibility of graphical playout errors. ATL uses standard JavaScript to allow templates to modify their appearance automatically in response to changes in one or more of the objects within the template, ensuring that a single template can accommodate dynamic changes to data or graphical objects without the need for external intervention or the creation of additional templates. Version 9.5 includes full support for stereoscopic 3D graphics, across all Pixel Power graphics systems, with unique real-time control of depth and separation allowing ultimate flexibility at the point of playout. The stereoscopic 3D creation process is identical to that used for planoscopic 3D graphics making the process both familiar and easy-to-use.

Snell IQ Snell will further expand its IQ Modular 3G product line by launching a new video and audio processing platform. This compact, highly integrated processing engine enables flexible signal handling and, in spaceconstrained applications, can serve as an advanced audio processing solution. Snell will also introduce a new range of fiber optic interfacing modules that combine electrical-to-optical conversion with critical processing functions such as video synchronising. These space-saving IQ integrated fiber solutions free users from the limitations of copper infrastructure and enable them to work with both coax and fiber in planning cost-effective HD expansion and 3Gbps (1080p) signal delivery.

HARRIS BOOSTS RADIO TRANSMISSION

Zunow PL-Mount The Zunow PL-mount is a positive lock lens mount specifically developed to be used on lenses with a maximum mount length of 19mm. The PL-Mount comes standard with a V-lock support plate. This will support your PL-Mount whenever a heavy cinematic lens is attached. Thanks to the V-lock system you can easily mount your DSLR onto any quick release tripod adapter. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II’s, full frame sensor is the ideal companion for the Zunow PLMount as it fully supports its optical glass, giving you a perfect 35mm circle of light.

Harris Corporation will introduce new HD Radio and HD/FM transmission products to support radio broadcasters as they launch over-the-air services and improve overall efficiency in the air chain and transmission infrastructure. NAB marks three significant transmission product introductions from Harris for the radio broadcast space including the Flexiva air-cooled FM transmitter, the FlexStar HDI200 HD Radio Importer and multi-System Controller (MSC) for redundant transmission. The Flexiva air-cooled VHF FM solid-state transmitter provides radio broadcasters with a single platform to support analogue and global digital standards. Quad-mode operation supports FM, FM+HD Radio, HD Radio-only or DRM+ digital broadcasting, while the transmitter incorporates Harris Real-Time Adaptive Correction (RTAC) technology to optimize power and minimise adjacent-channel interference. Flexiva transmitters are built on the legacy of Harris radio broadcast transmitters, including the ZX Series and its efficient power supply, cooling and control designs. Available in power levels up to 20kW, Flexiva transmitters also leverage Harris PowerSmart technology to create a compact, costefficient transmission solution with high power density and low operating costs.

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Marquis sorts parking and bridging Marquis Broadcast will be unveiling Version 2.0 of Parking Sequence Mover and Bridging Sequence Converter at NAB 2011. These major upgrades feature new functionality for mixed Avid and Apple workflows, making Parking and Bridging highly compelling utilities for a wider range of post-production and broadcast editing environments. Version 2.0 will offer support for Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD and Interplay. This new functionality enables operators to more easily use Avid and Apple editing systems in the same creative environment, moving content to common low-cost storage with no disruption to work in progress. By facilitating the use of best-of-breed products in a single workflow, Parking also gives more freedom to facility managers when scheduling manpower and equipment resources.

AP goes digital AP will showcase the ‘Digital Publishing Engine’ on its ENPS system. This enables journalists to get multimedia content on-air, online, and to mobile devices using a single set of tools and a simple workflow. Managing user generated content is another ENPS feature. Journalists can quickly and easily monitor content from both Twitter and YouTube, as well as publish news updates to their newsroom’s Twitter feeds, all without leaving ENPS. Standards-based integration allows ENPS to function as a desktop portal for journalists, providing a single point of search and entry into key production areas, such as ingest, editing, automation, content management and multi-channel distribution.


PRONAB

DVS Atomix DVS will launch a new product for the post production and high-end presentation market at NAB. The Atomix HDMI video board will complement DVS’s existing product line and expand its range of functions. Equipped with four HDMI ports, the Atomix HDMI board fulfills even the highest demands of modern image editing. The Atomix HDMI is a highperformance video board that allows real-time image editing at any resolution from SD to 4K. Thanks to its four HDMI ports, 4K material can be played out via the four ports in quadrants or via its HDMI 1.4a-compliant port. Stereoscopic material can either be output via separate ports for each eye or via the HDMI 1.4a port in Full HD 3D making the Atomix HDMI video board perfect for the 3D market – and the optimal hardware basis for film post production as well as highquality presentations.

For real-time sequence editing, the video board features a programmable upand downscaler for format changes, a 3D LUT, multiple 1D LUTs as well as various color space converters. All processing stages can also be utilized independently for each channel in twochannel operation this way predestining the Atomix HDMI video board for high-end film, post production as well as presentation applications. Additional key features include capture and play-out via dual-link 3.0 Gbps SDI, 16 embedded audio channels as well as 16 AES/EBU channels. DVS’s own powerful SDK (Software Development Kit) is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS – allowing easy and low-latency control of all hardware functions. The RS422 interface integrated into the DVS board can be used to control professional video tape machines for frameaccurate video transmission.

A dash of 3D Dashwood Cinema Solutions will unveil a new line of Mac-based stereoscopic 3D products at NAB. Stereo3D CAT is an on-location software calibration and analysis system that simplifies the calibration of left and right eye cameras. Equipped with an eyestrain warning system, Stereo3D CAT scans 3D footage and calculates the correct camera alignment points. Feedback guides illustrate the depth of the 3D shot and provide directors and

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cinematographers with a visual aide for making convergence adjustments and proper interaxial separation. “3D camera calibration is very timeconsuming and complex – Stereo3D CAT helps speed up the process by providing quantified feedback and visual guides that quickly set up your left and right cameras in the rig,” a press release from Dashwood stated. “Production crews can finally make quick lens changes without the recalibration using traditional charts.”


PRONAB

FOR-A video Archiving recorder FOR-A will introduce the LTR-120HS video archiving recorder at NAB. Using highquality AVC-Intra/DVCPRO codec and MXF wrapper/unwrapper, it records MXF files that can be used by a variety of NLE systems to LTO-5 tape. The new recorder builds on the success of the LTR-100HS, introduced during last year’s NAB show, which supports various MPEG-2 video formats. The LTR-120HS recorder supports AVC-Intra100, AVC-Intra50, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO50, and DVCPRO files. Designed to enable “archive at ingest” solutions, it can record video footage as an MXF file in real time by simply pressing “record” and “play” on the convenient front panel controls. “LTO-5 high-capacity tape is a simple and effective archive solution for broadcasters and other production facilities,” said Pedro Silvestre, Sales

Director, FOR-A Corporation of America. “The LTR-120HS delivers reliable, cost-effective archiving for AVC-Intra and DVCPRO file-based workflows, and it’s an important new component in FOR-A’s MediaConcierge content management system.” With its internal hard drive, and with each LTO5 tape providing 1.5 TB of recording capacity and LTFS portable file system, the LTR-120HS also doubles as a material/programme exchange media server. The unit features HD/ SD-SDI I/O, gigabit Ethernet interface for file-based I/O, and RS-422 for external VTR control. Housed in a compact chassis that is only three RU high and a half-rack wide, the LTR-120HS also includes a built-in LCD screen for convenient monitoring. The LTR-120HS will be available this summer.

GlobeCast and NETIA GlobeCast and NETIA will be coexhibiting once more at NAB. The themes of the booth will be global distribution, media asset management, and playout of international content. Broadcasters will learn not only about satellite and fiber delivery of their channels around the world, but about how GlobeCast and NETIA can help them manage file-based assets for multiple platforms; create regionalised versions of content for different television markets; ingest

content locally, and play out content globally and ensure distribution with television platforms around the world. To respond to these needs, GlobeCast provides MAM solutions powered by the NETIA Content Management System, and distribution services through its worldwide satellite and fiber network as well as its playout suites in Miami, London, and Singapore. The companies will showcase CMS and Radio Assist 8.

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PRONAB

Grass Valley K2 solutions

Axon Cortex The CCP-1601 Cortex control panel is a 1U rack mount panel with 16 LCD buttons and one rotary encoder. The panel provides a hardware panel control surface for a Cortex control system. The panel is configured in the same way as the software panels in the Cortex system using the Cortex Form Designer application. All devices connected to the Cortex server can be controlled or viewed from this physical surface. Due to the flexibility of the LCD button displays the panel can be configured to work with a limitless number of ‘pages’ which can be linked together to form a logical, quick and user friendly interface. The unit is powered with an external AC-DC brick PSU unit. The rear of the unit has two lockable DC power inlets allowing for an optional redundant PSU in critical applications. The unit has an earth or grounding stud by the side of the DC inlets. The unit uses its inbuilt 100Base-T Ethernet connector to connect to the Cortex server over either a local or wide area network. The unit can be configured to use either DHCP or manually assigned IP addresses. As with other Axon devices when used in manual IP assignment mode the address, sub-net mask and gateway can be assigned using the configuration mode of the panel.

At NAB2011, Grass Valley will highlight a new series of affordable models that target a variety of demanding play-to-air and other content distribution applications. The new K2 Summit Transmission Client line is made up of five new models: two shared storage clients that connect to a K2 storage area network (SAN) via iSCSI and three integrated storage servers. The Grass Valley K2 Summit Transmission clients and servers are based upon the proven K2 Summit platform, but have been optimized to meet the specific needs of transmission/play-to-air environments. The features of the new K2 Summit Transmission Clients include: up to four SD/ HD configurable channels (MPEG-2 encoding up to 50 Mb/s); up to 16 TB of internal storage; agile playback of DV and MPEG-2 formats; up/ down/cross conversion; built in file interchange using GXF, MXF, QuickTime, and AVI formats; and up to 16 tracks of audio I/O per video channel. Since they are an extension of the K2 family they are supported by a broad range of Grass Valley applications and third-party automation and asset management solutions. “The K2 Summit architecture has been designed from the ground up to be flexible and support a variety of applications that help streamline the production, file sharing, and program delivery processes,” said Charlie Dunn, Senior Vice President of Editing, Servers, and Storage for Grass Valley. “These new transmission models bring all the features and reliability of the K2 Summit and the K2 Media Server and Storage families to the world of content distribution, but are competitively priced to reach a wide range of content distributors and file-based playout facilities.”

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New ViBEs from Thomson Video Networks The new ViBE VS7000 video system is a fully integrated IP video solution for convergent applications such as Web TV and over-thetop services delivery, traditional IPTV, and IP/ cable delivery. Best-in-class video quality and innovation in compression are built into the breakthrough ViBE VS7000 video system, which combines all major audio/video codecs, the latest adaptive streaming formats, and a resilient IT platform for native redundancy and scalability.

Wohler MADI-8 Audio Monitor Wohler’s new MADI-8 audio monitor enables broadcasters to implement the Multiple Audio Digital Interface (MADI or AES10) in their production workflows. MADI is an electronic communications protocol for an interface that carries multiple channels of digital audio. It is ideal for outside broadcasters since it greatly reduces the amount of cable and weight associated with traditional analogueor AES-based audio distribution. The MADI-8 can be connected in series within a 64-channel MADI stream to audibly monitor up to eight channels. The 1RU monitor features a 16-character by two-line LCD display as well as both coax and optical MADI inputs and outputs, mixed two-channel or mono analogue outputs, channel presence indicators, and eight usernameable presets.


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PROGUEST

DTT is the way forward for Saudi Arabia With the boom in satellite and new media platforms, sceptics have been quick to denounce new investments in traditional and terrestrial broadcasting claiming they are wasted. As I hail from Saudi Arabia, a country that has pulled out all the stops to build a state-of-the-art broadcast infrastructure aimed at reaching the farthest corners of the Kingdom, I believe it is time to counter some of these arguments. But first, let me place it all in perspective. Saudi Arabia has an area of more than two million square kilometers and a population of 27 million people. Around 30% of the population is concentrated in three main cities: Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam while the rest is scattered around the country across vast deserts. This makes it extremely difficult and expensive to cover the whole population with radio and television services. Saudi Arabian Television was launched in 1965. In the last two decades, the TV transmission network has undergone several phases of upgrades aimed at modernising the country’s broadcast infrastructure, migrating to HD and reaching every corner of the Kingdom. Although traditional, it has incorporated all modern elements to ensure that it is scalable, expandable and future proof. For many years, the country has made do with two analogue channels; Saudi-1 and a second channel. This second channel was initially the English Saudi-2 channel which began transmission in 1983. It was then replaced by Saudi Sports Channel nearly 10 years ago. With the emergence of digital technologies, the Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) saw an opportunity to distribute

more of its TV channels to various parts of the country. As part of this plan, in 2006, the first digital terrestrial multiplex using the DVB-T system was introduced in the Kingdom’s five main cities. Today, after nearly four years, we have expanded our network to cover nearly 100 TV broadcasting stations in the country. These 100 stations cover nearly 90% of the population. The rest of the network, which includes the smaller villages, is presently being upgraded. The primary distribution of the DTT signal has been done with automatic protection using two satellites: Arabsat and Nilesat. The multiplex started with four TV programmes, four radio programmes, and an interactive channel using the MHP technology. It has been changed since then to include seven TV and five radio programmes, as the interactive channel did not prove as attractive as initially thought. Saudi Arabia, therefore, boasts the largest digital terrestrial television network in the Middle East and North Africa region. DTT has several advantages; not only does it carry more TV channels on the same RF channels, but it can also reach further distances compared to analogue TV. It is also ideal for mobile reception. This means that we are able to reach more people and the smaller villages that were difficult to cover in the past. Of course, this technology comes at a huge cost. However, it also brings great benefits and more programmes to our people. Other countries in the MENA region are now following suit and building their own respective DTT networks. Tunis, Algeria, Syria, Iraq and Oman have already begun

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this process. Smaller countries are still slow in DTT start up but again, it is an expensive proposition. Saudi Arabia’s MOCI also recently drafted a Broadcast Act, which is presently under evaluation by the relevant legislative bodies in the Kingdom. Once the Act is approved, there will be a provision to issue licenses to the private sector for “terrestrial” TV channels. The frequency plan is also being prepared to have at least five multiplexes of terrestrial TV in the country. As in many countries, this will give viewers in Saudi Arabia a good variety of TV programming that is consistent with the country’s moral and family values. While there is no doubt that other media platforms will continue to develop and we see them as supplementing traditional media, DTT has been very successful in the developed world including the UK and France, despite the availability of satellite and new media so we believe it will be even more successful in our country. Saudi Arabia has always maintained that it has a social responsibility to its citizens. For us, DTT allows us to draw the perfect balance between our responsibility towards our people and catering to their diverse entertainment requirements. What we envisage is a country with a strong terrestrial backbone and a solid traditional broadcast infrastructure that is built with all modern elements and embraces new media platforms. We do not view new media as replacing existing platforms but as supplementing them. PRO Dr. Riyadh K. Najm is Deputy Minister of Engineering at the Ministry of Culture & Information, Saudi Arabia


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