Sky News Arabia (SNA), the sister channel of Sky News in the Middle East and North Africa, was officially launched on 6 May 2012. The 24-hour service goes out in both SD and HD from a state-of-the-art production facility in Abu Dhabi. The channel is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation and BSkyB and is available on multiple viewing platforms, including tablets and smartphones. The channel is based in Abu Dhabi's twofour54 media zone and has a network of bureaux spanning across the MENA region, along with offices in London and Washington, DC. It also shares access to Sky News' wider international bureaux network.
With new installations, the biggest challenges often involve getting the newsroom to adopt and rely on the new workflow. Introducing the new EVS system required training for engineers and journalists to help them settle into the new environment.
The EVS teams offered constant guidance on every aspect of the workflow, making sure everyone understood the key steps of the production process. This level of support was maintained throughout, with an EVS workflow specialist onsite four days a week to make sure all questions and requests were answered quickly.
Sky News Arabia needed a solution that promised speed and reliability as well as ease of use. Having already provided a workflow for Sky News in the UK, EVS were more than equipped to provide the new channel with a fully integrated workflow - for ingest, central storage, media browsing, editing, playout and archive management.
The workflow consists of two types of ingest: baseband ingest for SDI video recording and file-based ingest for video file import. Ingest is based around:
This delivers 32 ingest channels for baseband recording controlled by EVS’ IPDirector or by SchedulAll/Miranda iControl software.
Once ingest is scheduled, the 12 XTAccess workstations stream the material from the XS server to the central storage. This enables 32 real time streams to be sent simultaneously with the files immediately available for all users on the SAN setup.
In addition an XT3 server in the playout gallery is used for ultra fast ingest and playout - ideal for breaking news. The XT3 is connected to XNet2, EVS’ high-bandwidth media sharing network, allowing the XT3 operator to instantly access all 32 ingest ports giving instant ON AIR playout.
File-based ingest for news agency files is completed via a dedicated folder from which material is transcoded to high and low resolution on the EVS central storage. The files are immediately available for the newsroom journalists or FinalCut Pro editors. Another folder created specifically for Sky News UK gives Sky News Arabia instant access to their material for editing and fast turnaround review.
ENG file import is available for the direct import video into the EVS central storage. The system recognises the ENG cameras connected to the system and allows users to import files and create timelines for fast access to the new material.
All baseband or file-based videos are instantly available for editing in the newsroom. Operators use two editing tools as approporiate:
140 of these editing applications are available for journalists in the newsroom with ingested material ready for editing within ten seconds. CleanEdit works on the low resolution material allowing multiple users access to files at the same time with multiple formats and different aspect ratios being edited on the same timeline. As a result, users can swiftly shape content and push it to post-production for advanced editing or directly to the galleries for playout.
16 FCP stations are used for advanced editing, including 3D effects and multi-layer editing. FCP integrates seamlessly with EVS solutions with users able to browse and edit content directly on the EVS central storage.
Gallery playout is done from an XS server controlled by an IPDirector and connected to AVID iNews with a further XS server used as a backup. iNews is the AVID newsroom system where all the news bulletin rundown decisions are made by the editorial team. iNews also runs on the Xedio CleanEdit workstations to allow journalists to add finished edits directly into the rundown. Due to the MOS protocol support, IPDirector then automatically synchronises the rundown content with the playout server content. EVS developed a dedicated iNews browser plug-in, so that the iNews operator is able to see and browse the entire EVS server content.
For breaking news, playout can be done directly. Since the XT3 is connected to XNet2, it can access any of the 32 ingest ports to play content to air using the XT3 time slip function. A playlist can be created with the breaking news element, which is played in loop to let the director decide when he wants the elements on air.
The vast number of files recorded and imported at a news channel all need to be stored and archived. Three types of storage are used at Sky News Arabia:
The XS playout server has 50 hours online capacity. Files stored on this server are the ones needed for the immediate news bulletin and are cleansed regularly.
The scalable EVS SAN stores ingested files for editing and backups of files for playout. The SAN’s capacity is around 3,000 hours of HD at 100 Mbps. Once used, material is archived or deleted to make space for the new ingest.
A DIVA tape library from Front Porch Digital is used for deep archive. EVS’ IP2Archive solution allows operators to store media files on LTO tapes and restore the files on the central storage at a later date when the material is needed.
The free-to-air rolling news channel is now being transmitted in both SD and HD across the region. EVS worked with the SNA engineers on the workflow design, then installed and commissioned the system on-site. EVS’ Dubai office trained both the engineering and editorial newsroom staff, and staged full rehearsals to ensure success.
EVS products were new to the majority of the team at SNA. “EVS means speed to me - it gives me what I need in a fast-moving environment,” explained Anees Jebreen, chief sub video at SNA. “News is the fastest moving broadcast environment and you need something that answers you immediately and immediately delivers material to screen. So far this is exactly what EVS has achieved.”
The journalists at Sky News Arabia have been using Xedio CleanEdit since its deployment and have been thrilled with its ease of use. “CleanEdit is very important to us. Thanks to Xedio CleanEdit, I do my LVOs in a maximum of five minutes” said Romeila Ferrat, sports presenter at SNA. “I couldn’t do my job without CleanEdit, especially in a breaking news environment. It makes our lives faster and easier.”
Sally Nabil, news producer at SNA added “I trust Xedio CleanEdit. A producer’s worst nightmare is to start a project and lose your material. Xedio CleanEdit removes this fear. EVS helps me to do all my work in the shortest time possible. The two most important things for a journalist are speed and quality, and Xedio CleanEdit provides exactly that.”
Dominic Baillie, chief technical officer, Sky News Arabia concluded: “EVS provides reliable technology that’s designed for fast turnaround of content which is essential to a breaking news channel like Sky News Arabia. The level of support we have received from EVS through the design, launch and live phases of the channel has been and continues to be high. It is very encouraging to see a key partner pro-actively investing time and resources to fulfil their part in our success.”