The Al Araby studio while live streaming in a custom broadcast studio setup.

Al Araby TV moves to IP for new HQ

IP-based lighting network supports system-wide efficiencies

Al Araby’s HQ move from London to Doha not only prompted a physical shift, but also a technical evolution, moving to a fully IP-based lighting system, the first in the Middle East region. To design and engineer the lighting network for perfect production conditions within the three studios that make up the new HQ at Lusail City, Doha, Al Araby relied on the experience of Ideal Systems Group and ARRI Solutions

ARRI Solutions collaborated with Qatar-based lighting designer Sabri Mansouri, who consulted on the general commissioning of the studio’s lighting system, to put forward a recommendation of a fully IP-based lighting network for Al Araby’s new studios.

“The IP lighting network for Al Araby is only the second of its kind worldwide, and the first in the Middle East, so it was certainly a challenging project, due to its size and scale,” Sabri begins. “But it was clear from the outset that IP would be the only way to ensure the efficiency, reliability, and flexibility that Al Araby needed from its lighting system and collaborating closely with ARRI Solutions would be key to this project’s success.”

Intuitive IP

Although there are many technical benefits to moving to an IP-based infrastructure, a major advantage is the impact that its clear and intuitive configuration has on staffing and skill requirements.

“Lighting specialists with very specific experience with DMX networks are very much in demand across the Middle East,” explains Sabri. “However, IP is already a recognized standard in broadcast networks, so by transitioning to an IP-based lighting network, broadcast engineers will already be familiar with this type of set up. Any broadcast engineer can therefore quickly select, rig, and connect additional fixtures into the network, adjust existing set ups or troubleshoot issues quickly across the network. For busy, live, 24/7 news production, this is critical for an efficient and effective production environment.”

“There is a preconception that moving to an IP-based lighting network is going to require having dedicated specialist support in a broadcaster’s inhouse engineering team, and this really isn’t the case,” Sabri continues. “It’s important, of course, that the planning, design, and initial installation of an IP lighting system is delivered by a specialist, however the day-to-day running is something that the engineers can handle effectively without specialist support.”

Comprehensive monitoring and control

Al Araby’s studio network comprises three state-of-the-art production environments: a 430 square meter newsroom, a 290 square meter morning studio and a 235 square meter blackbox studio.

The lighting network is based on TCP-IP protocols from the control desk to the luminaires. “The IP lighting network for the three studios is accessible as one comprehensive control system, providing maximum flexibility: the engineers can connect to all nodes and switches through a PC, and immediately have full access to all lighting fixtures,” explains Sabri. “Troubleshooting and network maintenance are much more comprehensive processes when working through the IP network, the team can easily check that all fixtures are up to date and get a snapshot of performance in an instant across the entire network.”

Al Araby TV will also be equipped with ARRI LightNet, a unique software platform that offers centralized monitoring, management, and fault detection for broadcast studio lighting networks. Data from all devices on the network, from fixtures through to network switches is displayed in real-time on a single interface, maximizing efficiency for broadcast engineers working in busy studio environments. 

ARRI LightNet will also provide Al Araby’s engineering team with vital information on Luminex, IP locations and direct access via a web browser, providing a centralized monitoring hub which can be accessed from anywhere via a tablet or laptop.

Stability across the lighting system

“A huge advantage that a move to IP-based systems brings is overall stability to the lighting system,” states Sabri. “DMX configurations can bring in lots of looping, there can be issues with faulty cables or connections, and these issues can affect the whole system, until an issue is identified and isolated.”

Sabri explains that as each fixture within an IP infrastructure has its own individual MAC address, faults can be pinpointed quickly, rather than having to try multiple process and component replacements to try and find where the problem is. “DMX splitters can often produce flickering or visual issues, but as they can display across a number of fixtures, it’s hard to identify the root of the problem,” he continues. “Time is wasted, and fixes can be complex, or require multiple approaches, whereas within the IP system, the engineer will see exactly where to step in.”

The lighting design for the studio complex specified ARRI SkyPanels throughout the three environments, complemented by industry-leading profiler, moving head and effect lighting fixtures. This ensures optimal light distribution and quality to support broadcasting requirements into Ultra High Definition (UHD) and beyond. “We chose SkyPanels for our main base light, because we love the high quality of light that is produced,” explains Sabri. “We did a lot of work matching color temperature with the other lighting fixtures, to ensure broadcast grade lighting that Al Araby has come to expect from ARRI lighting."

Collaborative consultancy

Sabri continues to drive the implementation of inter-studio IP-based lighting networks for broadcasters and production environments across the Middle East region, collaborating closely with the ARRI Solutions team. 

“I’ve been working with IP networks for the past ten years and my long-term relationship with ARRI Solutions enables customers across the region to ensure the benefits of IP connectivity reach right down to the last lighting fixture,” Sabri concludes. “Successful installations such as the Al Araby project demonstrate that ARRI Solutions is driving advanced IP workflows, which further the integration of lighting into the overall broadcast network. I am certain that this is the future of lighting workflows for studios, and I will continue to champion the benefits of higher network stability, reliability and efficiency to leading broadcasters and content producers throughout the Middle East, and beyond.”