Abu Dhabi Media upgrades for the future with Imagine Communications

Imagine Communications is providing a full upgrade of the central technical facilities at Abu Dhabi Media, one of the most forward-looking media companies in the MENA region. The centre, which includes playout facilities for 15 HD channels, relied extensively on Imagine technology when it was first established 10 years ago.

Central to the design of the refreshed technology platform is the flexibility to update seamlessly to meet changing market demands. The system currently supports baseband/SDI, but is future-proofed to incorporate IP connectivity, as required. It supports 4k, HDR and other potential technical developments. The hybrid architecture supports a mix of on-premises and cloud-ready solutions, including Imagine’s Broadcast Master and xG Schedule for traffic and programme scheduling. In 2017, Imagine and Abu Dhabi Media implemented a proof-of-concept cloud playout system for disaster recovery in cooperation with du Media Cloud.

“Today, the direction of technology is more towards software-defined solutions and away from hardware,” said Ahmed Al-Menhali, director of projects at Abu Dhabi Media. “The concept of software-defined technology is helping everybody. Imagine is following that direction, and that serves the roadmap we have planned to roll out.”

The new installation provides an end-to-end broadcast chain, from ingest to delivery. The new ingest and asset management system is based on the Imagine Nexio Motion, which manages all content workflows across the system while the Imagine Versio playout solution, running as software instances on Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) workstations, supports the playout automation, including Nexio+ AMP, branding and master control switching.

The Nexio Motion also provides browse access to content and low-resolution editing. High-resolution editing software has direct access to content on Versio IOX storage solutions for highly efficient post production. Also incorporated into the network at the software level are other key applications, including QC, file transfer and production graphics, which reside alongside the central archival storage.

Abu Dhabi Media has elected to make a managed transition to IP, primarily to protect its capital investment in legacy equipment. “Currently we do not feel the need to invest in replacing all the existing infrastructure,” Al-Menhali said. “We have the HD-SDI infrastructure in place, and we intend to continue with this infrastructure for routing until we decided to move on, perhaps to some form of UHD. The important thing is that what we are building now will survive the coming four or five years, but is capable of shifting the underlying routing from SDI to IP without changing anything else.”

The continuing relationship between Imagine Communications and Abu Dhabi Media and the availability of support in the region were key deciding factors in awarding the contract to Imagine. “We have been working closely with Abu Dhabi Media for over a decade,” said Anas Hantash, head of Imagine for the MENA region, “and we have been extremely impressed with their initiatives to transition their business towards hybrid SDI and IP, software-defined solutions and virtualised environments. They wanted to be sure that IP was a coherent route for the future, and with Imagine they feel that this is being delivered.”

This major programme of work has now been designed, with installation starting at the beginning of 2018 for an on-air date in May.

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