Qatar National Day (QND) is celebrated throughout the country annually on 18 December as a spectacular national commemoration of the day in 1878 when Sheikh Jassem bin Mohamed bin Thani succeeded his father as the ruler of Qatar and unified the country, thus establishing Qatar's independence. It is a public holiday, full of traditional food festivals, a centrepiece parade, multiple air shows, and entertainment throughout the day and night, culminating in an immense fireworks display. Hundreds of thousands turn out each year to share their pride and loyalty to their homeland, witnessed by Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, who walked down Doha’s Corniche to acknowledge and meet the crowd.
The State National Day Celebrations Organising Committee (SNDCOC) was the host broadcaster for the televised coverage of the celebration, and produced the live programme centred on the country’s capital of Doha, which was aired by all Qatar National Broadcasters. The content was also free to access for all GCC broadcasters, including Al Jazeera, Qatar TV, Al Rayyan Satellite Channel, Al Kass (who also provided the OB van) and numerous other broadcasters in the region.
Qatar National Day 2015 was ‘big’ in every way. With so much going on, a comprehensive and challenging RF setup was required to cover the main celebrations centred Doha’s West Bay, fronted by Corniche Road. The SNDCOC called on Spanish production services, technical consultancy, and RF systems provider, Sobatech Group to realise their ambitions.
Xavier Soler, Sobatech managing director and television production technical director and consultant for the SNDCOC said, “This is the second consecutive year that we were awarded the contract for technical direction of the live broadcast. The SNDCOC’s plans for the celebration and broadcast this year were quite extensive. The challenge for us was to successfully execute the large number of proposals that came down from the production department.
They really wanted ‘amazing’ shots for their live feed, which required the largest RF deployment we’ve ever done, including 15 members of our own specialised, highly experienced staff. “For an event like this with a large amount of RF Links in middle of a busy city like Doha, all frequencies, antenna type and location, filters, power used in transmitters are really important.” For the QND project, Sobatech Group used Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance RF transmit and receive technology from its own inventory plus additional Cobham kit hired from UK-based Broadcast RF. The range included Cobham’s SOLO ENG, SOLO4, and SOLO7 HD Nano transmitters, plus SOLO7 NanoVue HD and PRORXB receivers.
Sobatech also deployed its own Cobham PRORXD that together formed the heart of a ten-channel, 8/4-way reception network that combined DVB-T and Cobham ultra-mobile video link (UMVL) modulation.
The RF setup was comprised of one network of eight 12 dBi antennas, extended via an optical fibre system designed by SBNlab, a Sobatech Group Brand, which covered the 10 square kilometres of the paved Corniche Road area that served as the focal point of the parade and celebrations. A separate network of four 12 dBi antennas, also extended via an SBNlab-designed optical fibre system, covered 50 cubic kilometres (about 12 square miles) of sea and airspace in the Corniche Road area.
A single ASI relay system with a Cobham SOLO7 Nano HD transmitter and 10dB amplifier delivering a total output of 27 dBm was installed eight kilometres from the central TV compound to focus on the airspace, with reception working at UMVL modulation to enhance its performance for high speed operation, and two 12 dBi antennas, a 12dBi antenna, and two Omni 4.5dBi antennas linked to one UMVL-enabled PRORXB 4-way receiver.
A total of eight 8-way receivers were deployed - six for the Corniche Road network and two that combined road, sea and air. A second network was established with two PRORXB 4-way diversity receivers and the PRORXD diversity receiver provided by Sobatech Group. For ground-based transmitters, a Cobham SOLO ENG transmitter with 3dBI S-Band flexi-antenna was mounted on each of two Segway-mounted Steadicams.
One handheld camera was fitted with a SOLO4 and 3dBI S-Band flexi-antenna; and a studio configuration camera six kilometres from the TV compound was equipped with another SOLO ENG, this time with a 27dBm SOLO ENG Transmitter and 9dBi sector antenna. UK-based RF specialists VideoSys provided the telemetry system, providing full colour control to a camera located 6km away from the TV compound, as well as for the Steadycam and a variety of handheld cameras.
A total of six PoV cameras were deployed for aerial work, in this case with telemetry systems designed by Bradley Engineering that were further customised by SBNlab. Two parachutists in the Qatar National Parachute Team, who participated in a sky-diving performance that included airborne feats described as “one excitement after another”, were supplied with SOLO7 Nano HD transmitter-equipped PoV cameras, one with a 3dBi blade antenna and the other with a 2dBi linear antenna. “The shots we obtained were spectacular and, importantly, uninterrupted, which provided highly appealing options for the television production,” said Soler. “But our next aerial aerobatics challenge was much higher, and much faster.”
Another PoV camera with a SOLO7 Nano HD transmitter was mounted in the cockpit of on an advanced Pilatus PC-21 aircraft for coverage of the aerobatic display team’s performance over the bay. This was the first time that a live camera and video link had been installed inside an aircraft for Qatar National Day. In previous years, the shots from aircraft were pre-recorded.
Typically, when RF equipment is installed far from a television compound, such as in an aircraft, a technical team just had to rig it up and hope for the best as there was no practical way to test it properly. For the high speed aircraft shots, however, Sobatech needed more certainty and decided to use Cobham’s new NanoVue HD receiver and display device to ensure it. “We were careful to do complete field testing on the technology before the event, particularly for use with the aircraft to ensure that the transmit and receive system could compensate for high speeds and potential issues with the Doppler effect,” said Soler. “Using NanoVue HD we were able to check the RF systems for the aircraft, and the parachutists, before their flights and found that the RF system worked perfectly, which meant that we were able to take HD feeds straight into production.
As far as I’m concerned, this equipment is mandatory for this type of production.” The coverage of the day was by all first-hand accounts “amazing” and included shots never before achievable for Qatar National Day. Solar concluded, “Events of this scale test the performance of RF systems to their very limits. Cobham transmit and receive systems enabled us to go wherever we needed to go to get a shot, and this year we needed to go further than we’d ever been to cover more than we ever had.”