FEBRUARY 2, 2023

Virtualized Avid MediaCentral powers new Al Araby newsroom

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Imagine a studio and production facility relocation of massive scale. Moving equipment 3,000 miles across continents; deploying all manner of new technology to relaunch two television channels; enabling collaboration among 550 staff members in different locations; migrating thousands of hours of existing content to storage accessible by 36 news bureaus; and building a 26,000+-square-foot, all-IP facility containing multiple sets, studios, transmission rooms, and archive areas. And doing it all with no service interruption for viewers of your existing channels.

Fadaat Media, one of the largest media networks in the Arab world, achieved what sounds like the impossible, moving their Al Araby public television network headquarters from London to Doha, the capital of Qatar. Supported by Avid technology partner in Qatar, QPlay Solutions, the project took eight months and was completed by systems integrator Ideal Systems in time to cover the FIFA World Cup, hosted by Qatar, in November 2022. Al Araby, a major television network in the Middle East/North Africa region, broadcasts news on Al Araby TV and culture-based shows in Arabic on Al Araby 2.

Modernizing facilities and workflows through MediaCentral

Al Araby TV’s goal was to deploy a centralized news and production system that could support as many as 250 users managing a variety of functions, including ingest, editing, playout, social media publishing, and archiving. To achieve its objective the company tapped Avid to build out a fully virtualized news production facility featuring the Avid MediaCentral workflow management platform.

“We went full-fledged with MediaCentral,” explains Ali Husseini, Director of Broadcast Operations and Creative Services at Al Araby TV Network.

The relocation project began in London long before any gear was ever packed. Initially, the London newsroom was upgraded to include the latest Avid news production tools, including MediaCentral | Newsroom Management, MediaCentral | Production Management, Media Composer nonlinear edit systems, and Avid NEXIS shared storage. Next, staff were trained in the new Avid workflows, encompassing news production, layout, and graphics to ensure that during the transition both Al Araby stations would continue to operate uninterrupted.

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Enabling story-centric workflows

The build-out of the Doha facility added other Avid solutions to the mix. Three Avid FastServe | Ingest servers are now used for 24 channels of live ingest, including camera feeds, newswire feeds, and content from other video sources. File-based ingest is managed with Telestream Vantage and Woody IN2IT systems. All live feeds and file-based assets are stored on six Avid NEXIS | E4 280-TB engines, providing 1.68 PB of total storage. MediaCentral | Asset Management, supported by a dedicated Avid Nexis | E4 280-TB engine, is deployed across the enterprise to centralize and manage all media assets. A combination of 15 Avid Media Composer and 12 Adobe Premiere Pro systems are used for craft editing.

The web-based MediaCentral | Cloud UX serves as the production hub of the newsroom. The MediaCentral | Newsroom Management system enables a story-centric workflow that allows the news team to plan coverage and assignments, share media, make changes to the rundown, and move from wire to air with unmatched accuracy, reliability, and control. Managing editing and graphics, adding metadata to content, archiving, and sending media for playout and publishing to social media using MediaCentral | Publisher are other ways Al Araby TV Network is using MediaCentral. The ability for different newsroom departments to work on the same interface and turn around a polished newscast quickly adds an unmatched level of efficiency to the entire operation.

The extensive search criteria available with MediaCentral helps reduce operational costs by eliminating the need to re-ingest media into the system,” Husseini says. “In addition, editors working remotely have search functionality, Avid NEXIS shared storage, and can retain files, enrich metadata, minimize data loss and time, and archive with MediaCentral | Production Management.”

MediaCentral’s ultra-fast search functionality lets teams find the content for stories they need when they need it, and use Media Composer video editing to produce content without leaving the interface. Stories can go to air and out to social media simultaneously.

“Multiplatform distribution capabilities enable us to get stories to followers and viewers faster than before—all while providing access to an end-to-end newsroom solution that enhances operations,” Husseini remarks.

The entire Avid solution is deployed as a fully virtualized environment running on the VMware vSphere computing platform. Ultimately, Avid’s tightly integrated solution and technical support greatly simplified Al Araby TV transition from SDI to the SMPTE ST 2110 protocol, helping the two Al Araby stations move into the IP domain and gain the flexibility needed to ease future expansion. The end-to-end news solution also allows Al Araby to produce more content faster, and distribute it to more platforms than ever, expanding audience reach and capitalizing on the growth of social media consumption.

“With wire service ingest and wire search capabilities, and continuing through to the assignment desk, story research, and newsroom communication management, our news professionals and managers are all now using a single platform to manage stories,” Husseini says.

Newsroom benefits of Avid cloud tools

For Husseini, newsgathering is the heart of the overall operation, with MediaCentral enabling communication and collaboration among news teams spread across the region possible. All units utilize the same MediaCentral | Cloud UX interface, helping to unify the entire operation.

“Newsrooms now are much different. News does not happen in one room in a building in a closed box. News is in the field, in the bureaus, and in the world outside,” Husseini says. “We want to have this cloud infrastructure where all my contributors, collaborators, journalists, reporters, and correspondents are connected wherever they are. All they need is a mobile device, laptop, or the internet. They can write scripts, edit, browse, access archive, do rough cuts, and send stories back for final distribution. So we are approaching the cloud as an enabler and a core function. It's going to keep us going.”

Use of the cloud is expanding throughout the Gulf region, with multiple data centers in existence and new ones being built. Al Araby TV is in discussions with providers to develop partnerships that can foster even deeper use of virtualized, centralized technologies in the years to come.

“Instead of having multiple bureaus or newsgathering points, I can build whatever I need and control it remotely,” Husseini comments. “I can manage my business process and workflow in the cloud and have complete control over it from anywhere.”

MediaCentral takes Al Araby into the future

Husseini underscores the significance of what MediaCentral offers the Al Araby stations: a centralized tool that integrates digital and linear news programming to quickly produce and repurpose high-quality content for multiple platforms at once.

“This is the future,” Husseini says. “It reminds me of the early days of broadcast when we were all on SD, and then everything moved to HD. The industry is once again moving forward.”

Learn more about Avid MediaCentral for News

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