Sky News Arabia Puts Vizrt at the Core of its News Graphics

Sky News Arabia, the new 24-hour free-to-air Arabic news channel, launched in May using a sophisticated Vizrt system to deliver its live news graphics. Vizrt is the sole news graphics provider for the Abu Dhabi based channel. This is a departure from the news graphics workflow used by Sky News in the UK, sister channel to Sky News Arabia, which uses both Vizrt and another provider.

The channel has a variety of uses for real-time 3D graphics, such as the “screen furniture” of multiple tickers, side panels, maps and Breaking News alerts constantly animating around the video window. In addition, the news content includes full-frame 3D animations in its stories, as well as displaying maps and background story graphics displayed on a large video wall in the studio. The Viz World map server allows news producers to generate animated 3D maps instantly from their newsroom system, providing useful geographical context for every news story. Everything is generated with a consistently branded look that is uniquely Sky News Arabia.

Roland West, Creative Head for Sky News Arabia, explained the choice of Vizrt’s graphics system.

“When we set out to create Sky News Arabia, the key requirements to delivering a successful graphics package were quality of finish, ease of use, unity of platform and a breadth of graphic presentation,” he said. “Having built on the knowledge shared by Sky News UK and Vizrt through a collaborative relationship, we have successfully launched the channel on a graphics system capable of achieving the quality and speed that Sky News demands.”

System efficiency, which could deliver breaking news first, was the primary objective in designing the Vizrt workflow. This was achieved by building in a high level of automation into the graphics templates used by operators and in the newsroom. This provides a very high quality 3D animation, with consistent branding ready to take to air within seconds of a story breaking. This can be added to and enhanced as more information becomes available throughout the day.

This results in two distinct workflows to deliver a well-rounded channel output: reliable templated news graphics (by the graphics design company, Astuce Media) integrated with Sky News Arabia’s iNews newsroom system for ultra-fast population by producers and editor. These are enhanced by longer, full-frame graphics designed by the in-house design team, who can respond quickly to news priorities passed to them by the editorial team. These graphics can be built into the story video, to explain key points, as well as used interactively by the studio talent on the Newswall in the studio.

“Sky News Arabia’s requirements presented us with a genuine challenge,” says Martin Burkhaulter, CEO of Vizrt. “The workflow is extremely streamlined. It relies a great deal on graphics automation of sophisticated templates that are populated by news producers. The emphasis is very clearly on speed and getting breaking news on air with the minimum of delay. I feel sure this is a key factor that will set Sky News Arabia apart from its competitors. Good integration between all aspects of the Vizrt graphics system was fundamental to a smooth and fast workflow, which meant that sticking with one system throughout was absolutely the right decision.  The success of their launch on May 6 has already proven what good TV journalism, backed up by fully integrated graphics created by their local design team, can do.”

“This was always going to be a challenging project– particularly in integrating a well-proven Sky News UK ethos and workflow into a Middle Eastern context and broadcasting everything in Arabic,” adds Oliver Pitkin, Project Manager for Sky News Arabia. “We pre-built the entire technical infrastructure in a warehouse provided by TSL in the UK and then shipped it to Abu Dhabi. We have had terrific support from Vizrt at every stage of the process. We continue to receive support and advice from Vizrt locally and we expect our well integrated Vizrt core to become the backbone of the Middle East’s leading channel for breaking news.


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