Growing a news agency from the inside out


Lorna Garrett TV-Bay Magazine
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Growing a new media outlet in todays highly competitive market requires taking a strong look at the new ways media is being consumed. Many of the most successful recent startups are community focused, often finding a niche market that wants to be engaged in a way they perceive themselves. Al-Araby TV is a London-based news and current affairs satellite channel that has set out to do just that for Arab citizens.

Al-Araby was first launched in January 2015. Although based in London, it operates globally, with journalists in more than 20 countries bringing breaking news stories to its TV and website audiences. The organisation expanded rapidly, resulting in a move from its original home in Stockley Park to a new studio facility in North West London.

As part of its multi-million pound conversion of several existing industrial units into a studio, production facility and headquarters, Al-Araby required state-of-the-art technology throughout the facility. Beyond an open main studio with a galleried landing that allows for multi-shoot capability, they also wanted to apply their technological vision internally. They needed a scalable IPTV solution that would let them deliver 22 news and content channels within their site to 150 PCs and 30 screens located all around the new building.

However, also among the most important elements for Al-Araby was for their own team to be able to manage all of this while keeping technical and operational overhead as low as possible. Our team at Garland worked closely with Al-Araby to help build a cost-effective, end-to-end solution that met all their needs ¦ and more.

Keeping flexibility in content choice

The content for the channels is sourced from satellite and terrestrial DVB feeds and in-house channels. A flexible, high-density, cost-effective DMM DVB head-end from Teracue converts DVB satellite and terrestrial feeds to IP from 16 separate transponders. They can update this choice of channels at any time to add new channels or replace existing ones via a web interface.

An additional six DMM DVB satellite blade enables an SDI output of the most essential channels to be fed directly in to the studio for monitoring as well as adding more IP channel throughput for their IPTV system. Housed in two 4RU racks, with dual redundant power supplies, Al-Alraby has room to expand the DVB services using existing capacity and by adding more blades to the modular system.

Up to 12 in-house channels from both HDMI and SDI sources are converted to H.264 IP transport streams for presentation to the network using Teracue's powerful, compact ENC-400 encoders mounted in a single 1RU chassis with redundant power supplies. We knew this setup would meet Al-Arabys requirements for minimal rack-space and low power consumption.

Keeping bandwidth under control

Distribution is over Al-Arabys internal IP network using multicast transport stream delivery in order to reduce network bandwidth congestion on already heavily used network. To optimise the quality of channels on the Al-Araby network and stick to a strict bandwidth budget, Garland provided the Genova Live transcoding software solution from Keepixo. The solution runs on a blade-based Kontron SymKloud 2RU industrial-grade computing platform harnessing Intels VCA encoding performance.

To distribute the 22 channels of HD content to Al-Araby's 150-member team, we made use of Teracue's X-Player software application. X-player provides an easy- to-install, lightweight player application that runs on PCs. Users can access a channel list and easily select the channels they require. To provide high-quality playout across the entire facility, we also worked with the organisation to link 30 TV screens to Amino Aminet 140 HD H.264 set-top boxes.
Creating a video centrepiece

In keeping with the desire for the latest in technology, Al-Araby asked for an addition that wasnt in the original plans. They wanted a video wall that could show any of these content channels simultaneously, with key channels being in a larger screen format than other channels. High quality and reliability were vital components of any solution, but it also needed to be highly functional and cost effective.

Teracue's iCue GRID platform provided just the answer needed. Powered by a GRID Controller and GRID Processor, 16 HD channels can be presented at the same time to a large video wall within the main studio, showing channels in any combination and any layout. Management of the channel selection and layout is quick and simple through the GRID Controller interface, with seamless change of layout possible, including the ability to schedule changes as the day progresses. Al-Araby can increase their video wall capability from the original two video walls and 16 streams by simply increasing the number of GRID-Processors and GRID Stream licences, which allows them scalability in the future. This result has not only met all the requirements, but has proven to be a beautiful centrepiece for this new facility.

Al-Araby successfully made their first broadcast from the new facility on the 24th of July, says Lyes Meghriche Head of Operations Al-Araby TV. Garland's breadth of products, covering content acquisition, repurposing, distribution and play-out enabled us to work together to provide a total end-to-end solution for Al-Araby.


Tags: iss128 | gpl | garland | al-araby | teracue | x-player | amino | aminet | icue | Lorna Garrett
Contributing Author Lorna Garrett

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