Feature: Bringing the news into view
Feature: Bringing the news into view
Tailor-made convex and concave LED screens have taken pride of place at Al Arabiya’s new news studio
Coinciding nicely with the months in 2020 when viewers were first locked down at home and forced into a greater reliance on television programming to keep up with the rapidly evolving state of the emerging coronavirus epidemic, the UAE’s Al Arabiya network went live with a brand-new state-of-the-art studio design offering sweeping views of Dubai, a sleek, modern aesthetic and packed full of new visual technology.
Since 2003, the Al Arabiya Network has been one of the most popular news sources for Arabs seeking credible news and information about the Middle East and the world beyond. The 24-hour platform publishes breaking news, politics, business, features, opinion and lifestyle.
The new Al Arabiya broadcast studio that was launched earlier in the year was clearly designed to amaze audiences. The space features an open design and integrates the direct shooting locations together with editorial workstations and an office area.
The nearly 2,500m2 facility is located in a standard office tower not originally intended to be TV studio space. Aside from the glimmering surfaces and razor-sharp architectural contouring, the space is dominated by three large curved video walls situated behind the presenters that steal the show. At 140m2 of Barco LED video wall surface in total, 594 X1.5 LED tiles, the Belgian manufacturer’s products are well represented on-screen.
When Al Arabiya decided to overhaul its studio design, its engineers left nothing to chance in order to provide the best viewing experience. The vendor selection process was thorough, but after extensive shootouts and testing, Barco was chosen as the preferred visualisation partner.
“It is all about the graphics in our new studio,” explains Fadi Radi, director of creative at Al Arabiya. “You can see a video wall in practically any studio shot with a presenter. Certainly, in times when people have become used to hyper realistic imagery, the video wall image quality will make or break the show. That’s why we only wanted the best of the best.”
However, bringing perfect on-screen image quality in such a unique studio configuration was no simple task. The design features quite a few dramatic twists and is equipped with 13 robotic cameras that travel dynamically between the two concave and one convex video walls.
Making sure that the displays’ colours look good on screen in any camera position was a big challenge, Radi recalls. “We wanted consistent, high-contrast and saturated colours for our graphics across the entire studio design, and we needed them to be presented in the best possible resolution. An additional challenge was the fact that our studio allows daylight to come in, so we needed colours that were equally stunning at night as during the day. Barco certainly has made this possible.”
The technology that drives this colour excellence is Barco’s Infinipix image processing platform. The system is integrated with a Vizrt video playout platform to ensure that colours look perfect in all camera positions, even under the tightest angles.
In addition, with Barco’s E2 screen management platform, the Al Arabiya production team can get creative through the can development of a virtually unlimited amount of content templates to cater for their 24/7 programming schedule. This gives the news team the ability to easily change the mood of the studio and adapt its graphics compositions according to the show requirements.
“The Barco technology offers us so many creative options,” furthers Radi. “One technique that we like to use for example is the virtual window, a moving camera with graphics that travels in the same direction of the camera, based on optical tracking. Thanks to Barco’s image processing, this can all be done in perfect resolution and with no sign of jittering or glitching.”
By opting for LED technology, which benefits from limited depth and small footprint, the studio space could also be used in the most optimal way. This was especially critical in the area where two of the video walls face each other at a close distance while at the same time, the robot camera needs to move in between. Another way of saving valuable studio space was the possibility to service the LED tiles from the front. This way, Al Arabiya did not have to create extra space for a service area in the back.
In its 15-year long relationship with Al Arabiya Network, Barco has relied on its local partner Intertech to bring its visualisation solutions to the end customer, and the company was once again the preferred partner for solution design, installation, testing and commissioning of the latest works. Together, the pair have installed more than 20 studio installations.
Thanks to 24/7 support and three-hour response time, Intertech has managed to guarantee 99.9% uptime for its installations. “The excellent service and fast support we have experienced in these years have strengthened us in our belief that the Intertech and Barco partnership is our best guarantee to keep our video walls up and running 24/7, without interruption,” says Safwan Harcouss, lighting manager at Al Arabiya.
Intertech also proved to be willing to listen to customer needs. During the project design stage, Al Arabiya was concerned about the weight of the LED backdrop displays. To meet the customer requirements, Barco and Intertech managed to provide a tailor-made solution to reduce the total weight of the display.
The new look Al Arabiya studio with its three Barco curved screens has been transmitting live to the public for several months now and making full use of the increased immersivity the large screens provide.
By making use of integrated Augmented Reality (AR) solutions with mixed reality inside the studio, the broadcaster has been able to create completely interactive environments together with video walls, taking its storytelling capabilities to a whole new level.