Kuwait’s national broadcaster offers a first look at its new cutting-edge 4K news studio and production workflow, in an exclusive interview with Vijaya Cherian.
State broadcaster Kuwait TV has been upping its game with two parallel projects that make it the first in the region to undertake a massive, multi-million dollar 4K infrastructure revamp at its news studio, alongside the integration of a Tedial MAM system and EVS IPDirector for its production environment.
Integrated by local systems integrator, INC System Integrations, the two projects brought together a consortium of manufacturers including Avid, SAM, Calrec, SGL and Vantage on the newsroom side, and EVS and Tedial on the production side. Both projects have been completed, although the state broadcaster hasn’t yet gone to air with them.
“Kuwait TV has always led in terms of technology investment,” Meshaal Megled, Undersecretary for Engineering at Kuwait TV, proudly says.
“We have always invested in emerging technologies and have been the first to capitalise on them. We were the first to build an HD OB van in the Middle East and the first to invest in a fully-fledged archive project including restoration and digitisation. We also wanted to be the first to have a completely ready 4K infrastructure for both news and post production. Of course, having an infrastructure alone is not sufficient. It is very important that our staff understand these technologies and are able to maintain and operate them.”
The Kuwait TV News project, which includes the revamp of Studio 300 as a 4K production studio, saw the deployment of an Avid newsroom system along with a 4K Snell Kahuna video mixer, six 4K cameras and a 4K Avid graphics system. Two phases have been completed in this three-phase project, while a tender is out for the third, which will aim to change the entire look and feel of the studio floor by changing the décor, and introducing a new video wall system and fresh lighting. Phase one saw the introduction of a tapeless environment connecting the studio and the news production areas, and phase 2 saw the upgrade of the whole production system from HD/SD SDI to 4K production with Avid news.
A significant part of this project is the deployment of a full Avid production asset management system that controls all of the steps of the news workflow.
“Avid Interplay is the PAM tool, which is used to manage these steps from feed and file ingest, to high and low resolution editing, playout, and finally, to archive,” explains Abbas Dashti – News Engineering Manager, Kuwait TV.
At the ingest stage, Avid Interplay capture controls the baseband feed ingest using Airspeed 5500 servers. 4K Media Composers, however, are used to ingest the 4K feeds and the final live programme.
Media Director is responsible for the files ingest process. “Media Director is capable of ingesting all known file formats and transcoding them to AVC-I 100, which is the house format of Kuwait TV,” explains Dashti, adding that Vantage Telestream is also used to transcode news feeds, which are then available to journalists to help them create their reports.
The ingested material is then placed into Avid Nexus Storage, which presently has a 600 TB storage capacity.
“The content on these servers becomes instantly accessible to both journalists and editors to use,” continues Dashti.
Dashti explains that Avid’s Media Central brings a wide range of benefits to Kuwait TV’s journalists, enabling them to create their reports, and add their comments for the high-res editors. The journalist has the ability to add voice-over as well to their reports.
“Media Central has an option to publish the materials directly to social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with a simple click,” explains Dashti.
“Once the material is ready as per the rundown created by the chief editor, it will be sent for playout. Video, story, as well as the graphics related to each news will be synced and ready for the director to start his bulletin. Here, the Interplay command will take over the control for the playout and ICommand will control the playout ports of the Airspeed 5500 as well as the maestro graphics channels in order to run it as per the Inews rundown that has been created.”
Once the bulletin is broadcast, Avid Access, the media management tool, will keep the storage clean and ready to receive new materials for the coming bulletins. The system intuitively undertakes a house keeping process to delete unnecessary materials. Based on the rules set at the beginning, the system either deletes unnecessary material, moves them to an archive by connecting with Interplay archive or coordinates the archiving process with HSM to store the materials in LTO.
For the archive part, SGL HSM and Oracle LTO work together.
“SGL HSM brings many benefits to this system, such as project parking and a rounded integration with Avid Interplay Environment, which provides the simplicity and time efficiency required to store/ restore materials in and from the Oracle LTO,” explains Dashti.
The new system “is integrated with the previous news system in a way that allows both systems to exchange material between each other”.
“This meant that we did not have to undertake any migration.”
Parallel to this project, Kuwait wanted to put in place a modern production infrastructure that centralises many of its operations. This entailed implementing a file-based production workflow that would allow it to streamline its operations and create easier shared access to recorded content between its eight channels. This was something completely new, as the broadcaster wanted to cut its reliance on tapes.
Consequently, the Kuwaiti broadcaster began speaking to INC System Integrations about implementing such a workflow. EVS was brought into the picture to deliver the 27 XS3 media production servers, its IPDirector content management suite with over 30 workstations, an IPLink for Adobe, the Xsquare media orchestrator, the Ingest Funnel and operational and technical training both at EVS and on-site.
Working alongside EVS was Tedial as both companies have had previous integrations. Solutions from Tedial included its Evolution enterprise MAM system with Tedial Augmented Storage (AST), a storage virtualisation system that claims to provide content owners with a safe, reliable and costefficient storage system for cloud workflows and hybrid scenarios as it virtualises file locations. The result is an enterprise MAM system integrated with IPDirector PAM System along with a SAN storage system from DDP. The project included the installation of all major post-production software — Adobe, FCP, Edius, Pro Tools and DaVinci.
This integration helped create a bi-directional link between EVS’ live production asset management suite, IPDirector, and Tedial Evolution.
“KTV has always … invested in emerging technologies and has been the first to capitalise on them. We were the first to build an HD OB van in the Middle East … the first to invest in a full-fledged archive project … We wanted to be the first to have a ready 4K infrastructure for both news and post-production” Meshaal Megled, Undersecretary for Engineering at Kuwait TV
During production, for instance, Kuwait TV can use the joint Tedial and EVS solution to quickly and efficiently pass live assets like replays, highlights and clips from IPDirector, a production asset management system that’s built specifically for live media, directly into the Tedial Evolution MAM system. This then securely archives the assets on spinning and LTO disks, immediately freeing up storage on the EVS servers. Then after production, users can easily search the Tedial archive for assets and metadata – including the EVS logs – and fully restore media back into the EVS system so it can be played out in any other programming.
“This integrated solution provides Kuwait TV with a transparent way of acquiring content so that it can easily process content, using metadata and logs generated in EVS, which enables it to efficiently package content, use it in production and post-production and then archive it. The two companies’ technologies enable live content created in the EVS environment to be automatically added to archive workflows managed by Tedial systems. Kuwait TV is the first user to adopt this joint solution,” explains INC’s General Manager Adeeb Abed.
“This whole solution will help streamline their workflow rather than work in silos. By integrating the metadata, Kuwait TV will become more efficient because all their subsystems are integrated, which means they don’t have to use different user interfaces for different elements of the workflow. It will also serve as the core base for the Kuwait TV archives project. It is built now to unify the file format for all ingested material. It will facilitate easy integration with the archive system Kuwait TV is intending to build,” he adds.
EVS’ XS3 servers allows Kuwait TV to ingest multiple feeds, which are encoding natively in AVC-Intra HD and XAVC-Intra HD codecs, and to playout content in its studios during live production. With 27 servers, it benefits from up to 76 I/O channels in HD. The servers are also linked together with the EVS XNet live media sharing network, giving any operator to instantly access content recorded on any of the 27 servers.
The IPDirector enables operators to schedule the ingest, browse recorded content, manage associated metadata and create playlists for playout. The Tedial system enhances the IPDirector solution, which provides the front end for Kuwait TV. The broadcaster uses IPDirector for its acquisition and management tool along with other EVS tools.
“The Tedial integration allows for more effective use of logs. It pairs the speed and reliability of EVS technology with the secure nature of the Tedial system. It removes unnecessary additional steps from the production workflow and allows Kuwait TV to operate much more efficiently,” explains Azzam Salahat – Technical Manager INC.
The IPLink solution from EVS allows editors working on Adobe Premiere Pro stations to swiftly access content recorded on the EVS servers. Xsquare lets users manage the transfer of content to multiple in-house platforms. And with Ingest Funnel, operators can transform, legalise and master all ingest formats in the production chain. This is especially valuable for ENG material.
“This whole solution will help streamline their workflow rather than work in silos. By integrating the metadata, Kuwait TV will become more efficient because all their sub-systems are integrated, which means they don’t have to use different user interfaces for different elements of the workflow” Adeeb Abed, GM, INC System Integrations
While this project required no metadata migration was required in the newsroom, in this project, significant migration took place from EVS IPDirector into the MAM. Both companies provided operational and technical training to make sure the operators were comfortable with the new workflow.
“The production system now runs on a standard IT platform, which means all expansion opportunities are open to Kuwait TV including virtualisation, cloud, and any future technologies. The standard within Tedial Evolution is the ability to host on the cloud, or host on a mixture of on premise or virtualised system. There are no limitations,” explains Salahat, adding that both projects have been designed for scalability in the future.
While the newsroom system took six months to implement, the production environment is in the final stages of commissioning before the entire system goes on air this year.
The project was not without its challenges, explains Adeeb Abed.
“This was a significantly large project, where we had to work closely with Kuwait TV to set the technical vision and design philosophy that directed the engineering design, project scheduling, costing, quality control, and on-site move in and installation. We also had to be very careful when introducing new technologies, especially the 4K workflow as operating such a system is different from operating traditional HD systems.
“In addition, handling two projects in parallel meant that we would have to manage many stake holders, a number of major suppliers — so many different departments at the broadcaster’s — while also ensuring that all systems are integrated and aligned. And like any project today, requirements change and this impacts both the schedule and the budget.
“However, we had the resources and mechanisms in place to address both issues. We were able to preempt technical conflicts and bring them to the attention of Kuwait TV with solutions and cost savings,” adds INC’s Adeeb
- Kuwait TV News & Studio 300
- Avid Maestro Graphics and Interplay PAM including iNews system, Nexis server and Airspeed servers
- SGL HSM with Oracle LTO for archive
- SAM Kahuna 9600 vision mixer
- Calrec Summa audio mixer
- Ross NK routing
- Grass valley multi-view and glue
- Sony HDC-4300 4K cameras
Key suppliers for Kuwait TV Production:
- DDP SAN storage
- Post-production software: Adobe, FCP, Edius, DaVinci, Pro-tools