By Vijaya Cherian
When Kuwait held its elections this year, the country's state broadcaster wanted to make a professional impact with its presentation and ensure that it displayed accurate voting results every minute. The TV station approached Miranda for a turnkey graphics solution, from template design to playout, for Kuwait TV's election coverage.
Early on June 29, 2006, Kuwait TV’s news centre sat poised for the nationwide results of what was deemed the country’s most significant parliamentary election to take place this century.
It was the first general election in which Kuwaiti women could vote.
Over 340,000 Kuwaitis, including about 195,000 women, were eligible to vote for 253 candidates.
For the first time, Kuwait TV was to broadcast the results as they came in, live across the globe.
The state broadcaster needed to ensure that its election coverage would be error-free while also ensuring seamless automation of its graphics.
“This year, in particular, we were very conscious that our election programme would be viewed by a wider audience than ever before, due to advances in media platforms, as well as the political interest,” says Hussein Alashwak, head of news engineering at Kuwait TV.
“It was therefore very important for us to make a strong and professional impact with our presentation while also ensuring that we displayed accurate voting results for an up-to-the-minute broadcast,” he adds.
For even the largest broadcast networks, the task of putting together an end-to-end election production system can be daunting, with issues such as multiple live data feeds, designing graphics templates, and analysing results.
Controlling the broadcast output can often require an entire team of production personnel, who typically have to prepare for months leading up to the election broadcast.
Traditionally, election productions have used custom systems that take months to develop, and which can be obsolete the day after the election is broadcast.
Naturally, this custom hardware approach is inherently costly and also inefficient.
It, therefore, requires extensive resources to test and fine-tune the system performance before it is ready to be used.
Seeking to avoid these problems, Kuwait TV presented Miranda with a skeletal concept based around a virtual set so the Canadian company could design a powerful graphics solution, from concept to air, by the election day.
Just four weeks prior to the election, Kuwait TV placed an order with Miranda for a turnkey graphics solution that would deliver a high quality presentation with a smooth workflow when the votes started trickling in.
“Some manufacturers would have been uncomfortable with delivering such a complex project in such a short time scale.
We had a basic idea of what we were trying to achieve and had already selected most of the kit for the special newscast.
We just needed to bring in graphics experts, with experience in election and newsroom graphics, to professionally brand the programme and ensure that data sources were displayed accurately,” explains Alashwak, adding that Miranda supplied the whole package within a matter of weeks.
“They had the resources to design the programme’s identity using rich branding graphics, and they designed and collated multiple templates with applied business logic.
They also installed the system, trained operational staff, and automated the programme play out; all in time for the big day,” adds Alashwak.
The system comprised Miranda’s Xmedia Suite template-based, graphics automation system and multiple Vertigo XG television graphics processors, which provided tight integration with Kuwait TV’s newsroom operation, the production control rooms, and the 120 remote election polling stations.
The Vertigo XG graphics engine can playout 2D/3D graphics and animations, multiple DVEs on video and clips, multi-format clips, and it supports both SD and HD resolutions.
It is designed primiarly for the insertion of graphics such as branding templates with data tickers and crawls, station logos and local weather, as well as interstitials and promos.
The Vertigo XG can simultaneously playout multiple crawls, rolls and tickers, incorporating text and animations, cell animations, clips and images, using an unlimited number of layers and individually keyed elements.
The processor also features powerful audio mixing capabilities, with support for 16 embedded and eight discrete stereo channels.
Its robust chassis includes video bypass, redundant power plus hot-swappable RAID drives and fans.
Miranda’s Vertigo XG integrates closely with the Xmedia Suite templatebased graphics automation software.
Xmedia Suite offers asset management, graphics creation, content editing, and real-time data management, as well as work-order management and playout control.
The applications’ open and modular architecture allows scaling from a single user up to hundreds of users across multiple locations.
Television ready graphics can be created directly from a user’s desktop, dropped into predefined templates, linked to live data sources, and quickly inserted into playlists.
The Xmedia Suite is sufficiently powerful to provide real-time support for the 110 live data sources carrying election results.
These data feeds were available to all editorial staff, and were used to automatically create up-to-thesecond election-race graphics and playlists.
The playout of the election graphics by the Vertigo XG processors was controlled by the Xmedia Suite’s playout controller application.
As with all newscasts, frequent updates to on-air graphics becomes more manageable with a templatebased approach.
At Kuwait TV, smart templates with built-in links to the 110 live data sources allowed for updated vote count graphics to be prepared automatically and inserted on-air, with a minimum amount of human intervention.
The Vertigo XGs were used to display tickers and crawls highlighting the latest election results throughout the election day broadcast.
“This system ensured that our operators had less to think about as any last minute changes in data results could be automatically updated in production control, immediately prior to airing the graphics.
The templates contain clever and specific logic for how each graphic is to be used on-air.
Additionally, we could make these templates available to other television stations, in different geographical locations, for the people tuning into the elections from across the world,” explains Alashwak.