It is a rare media business that goes from launch to top of the national ratings in just two months, but that’s exactly what Bangladesh’s Deepto TV has done, powered by a combination of HD programme content and a technology platform designed and implemented in conjunction with systems integrator Advanced Broadcast Solutions Asia.
Launched on cable and satellite in November 2015 with a name that loosely translates as “the light or birth”, Deepto TV is the vision of Mr Kazi Zahedul Hasan who, as well as being head of Kazi Media and the Kazi Farms Group, is a Harvard-qualified architect/engineer.
Such was Mr Hasan’s involvement in the project that he was even responsible for architectural design of the new station’s headquarters in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka.
Kazi Media’s original business plan for Deepto TV was for a 24-hour news channel but it was felt that, with a plethora of regional and international news outlets already available in the Bangladesh market, a better focus would be that of unique programme content.
To that end, the company invested in multiple programme studios at Deepto TV headquarters and other studio sites with a total of four drama and series sound stages constructed. In addition, two studios for programmes such as news briefs, talk shows, and morning programs were constructed at the station’s HQ.
Hitting the ground running, the station spent over a year prior to launch producing original drama series, including Aparajita (Undefeated), Palki (Palanquin), and Khujey Phiri Takey (He Returned to Find). The station also worked on dubbing Turkish production Sultan Suleyman into Bangla and complemented its offerings with daily news, talk shows, and morning show programmes, as well as cartoons and other family content. Kazi Media has also commissioned several documentaries on Bangladesh which will launch on Deepto TV.
Over a period of three years, Advanced Broadcast Solutions Asia and Managing Director Dennis Breckenridge consulted with Kazi Media on everything from equipment selection to building design and construction, equipment supply, and integration.
According to Breckenridge, the relationship with Kazi Media has been a unique one. He says the holistic approach of business consulting, technical advisory, facility advisory and, finally, supply and install helped the station launch with minimal technical challenges.
“Originally,” says the ABS Asia MD, “they thought they would be a news channel and about midway through, looking at the market and income possibilities, decided to change it to more of a mixture, doing very specific dramas and series for the Bangladesh market. It was an interesting process as we went through the whole job, continuously changing and trying to adjust the business model, the equipment, everything to meet that growing need.
“In the technology, we certainly had to adapt. It was very much focussed on large newsgathering and kind of 24-hour news type of operation. Originally, we had designed it with three studios - two big programme studios and a news studio. [Mr Hasan] basically ended up changing one of the studios to a very intricate set for a series and building additional studios. So, there was actually an additional two studios built in order to accommodate the drama and series type of programming in addition to entertainment type of programming and a bit of news.”
The Deepto TV site includes:
Grass Valley Stratus (SAN & K2) for News and MAM
GV LDX cameras for TV production
Sony Cameras for ENG and Drama production
GV Karrera and GV Director for Production Switchers
GV Glue and routing
Sennheiser audio mics
Yamaha GL series mixers (to exploit audio over IP vs traditional wiring)
GV Dyno Replay
Octopus News Room Control system (NRCS)
“All programs are done in HD,” says Breckenridge. “Some of the drama is actually being shot in 4K so they’re definitely on the high definition side. It’s Grass Valley LDX cameras for the programme studio and news, it’s mostly Sony cameras for the drama and the eng.
“It’s a lot of Grass Valley here and there, so there’s Karrera switchers, there’s Stratus for the news and playout and MAM system, there’s a GV Director switcher they’re using for news and then 15 edit suites using EDIUS editing software.
“The news is done using OCTOPUS for their NRCS and then most of the editing is done inside of Stratus. They use the low-res workflow in Stratus with EDIUS to do that. So, there’s 25 seats of news editing and then the 15 edit suites are just programme editing, promo editing and the drama series.”
On the audio side, Yamaha mixers are used with Dante used throughout making the facility’s audio infrastructure almost entirely IP based.
“One of the reasons for that is,” says Dennis Breckenridge, “one of the Production Control Rooms (PCRs) has pretty high amp so 2ME or 3ME Carrera switcher, large mixer, and then the other PCR has all the normal playout facilities, but it has a GV director, so a small-scale switcher, eight inputs, smaller audio console and the rationale of doing all the IP is we were able to basically make it so they could run from either one of the PCRs. If it was election time or something like that and they needed heavy capabilities, then they utilise the primary PCR. Normally, that would be used for their program suite, so game shows and other types of normal programming. It was done in an effort to try to minimise the cost rather than building out very high end, very expensive PCRs everywhere.
“All the KVM, all the monitoring is all done over IP. The audio is done over IP. Obviously, the control network for all the devices is all over IP and then the news suite, there’s no baseband, it’s all purely file-based.
“So, outside of your normal camera cables and things like that, the amount of traditional video cabling, size of router for a large broadcast facility is very, very minimal, actually.”
While the focus of Deepto TV did evolve away from that of a news channel, the station equipped with a full complement of newsgathering systems, including standard ENG packages with Sony cameras. Using small bureaus in various locations, news stories are given rough edits in the field and sent back to Deepto HQ via IP. These are then finished within the low res work flow.
On the drama production side, Deepto has four primary dramas in production with shooting undertaken from every day to every two or three days. A rapid turnaround schedule sees editing done within EDIUS with finishing completed in Autodesk’s Smoke and Flame.
While it would be standard practice in many integration projects for SIs come in with large teams and spend 6-12 months on site to install and handover systems, Dennis Breckenridge says Advanced Broadcast Solutions sees its role in projects such as Deepto TV as one where it is supporting, not dictating to the client. Taking advantage of a growing technical expertise in Bangladesh, ABS supplied oversight and design in the installation and worked with Kazi Media staff to integrate all the systems together. This not only saved on labour and manpower costs, but also left behind an in-house knowledge bank of staff familiar with every system.
“It was very much a team effort between the two groups,” says Breckenridge, “which has its challenges. How to label, how to do all those type of things to make sure that it’s easy to maintain in the future so those were things that we were teaching them and I think it was good. Sometimes, if you just come in and do everything for somebody, they’re too scared to pull out a wire or plug in anything and I feel like they feel comfortable and they own the facility versus feeling like somebody should come in and do everything for them.
“So, the philosophy I have is our goal is not to just kind of come in here and take over, if you will, or tell them what they’re going to do, but it really is an interaction and the fact that the CEO was so involved and participating in the process and supporting the process and wanting to know how to make efficiencies, what type of things could make a difference and willing to spend the money where it mattered and working together to find savings where it wasn’t necessarily critical, I think that that would not be typical.”
Having successfully launched and hit the number one spot with audiences, how does Breckenridge rate Deepto TVs new facility?
“Overall, the quality of equipment and capabilities are, in the end, as capable as any of the other facilities, even in Singapore or anywhere like that. The operation of it as far as workflows in the region, I think is quite good. The level of IP use or file-based workflows used is I think a bit more advanced than a lot of facilities. Obviously, it’s a green field, so it’s a bit easier, but I think they really embraced that, which was good. The style of the building and the operations and the dramas, even the sets and everything that Kazi have constructed are far above what I’ve seen almost anywhere in the region. So, I think his vision was to really create high quality, very unique product and that’s reflected in both the facility and the choices in equipment that he used in that process.”
Visit www.deepto.tv and www.advancedbroadcastsolutions.asia