KidZania and Al Jazeera train the next generation of broadcasters

KidZania Al Jazeera camera operator girl
Neal Romanek
May 10th 2016 at 2:52PM : By Neal Romanek

The "city for kids" at London's Westfield mall now features a functioning broadcast studio, put together by Al Jazeera

KidZania London, a play-city for kids at Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd's Bush, has brought international broadcasting to the under-12 set. 

With equipment from major broadcast suppliers, Al Jazeera Media Network has built a television studio, which will alow children visiting KidZania to work in front of or behind the cameras, using real studio equipment in an optical fiber based multicam 4K studio workflow.

With more than 23 locations worldwise, KidZania partners with leading brands to allow children to experience more than 60 different professions. As broadcast partner in London, Al Jazeera Media Network built a replica studio and developed a series of training modules that children can undertake.

Kidzania Al Jazeera kids and greenscreen

The studio is made up of three distinct components, all largely operated by children, under the supervision of KidZania staff: the studio floor where the presenter delivers a five minute newscast to three camera heads, a production gallery where children can take control of various aspects of the production process, and a color separation overlay (CSO) or green screen setup.  

Much of the studio was outfitted with equipment by Blackmagic Design. Audio mics were sourced from Trantec, the sound mixer was from Beringer and lighting from Chauvet. All monitoring was acquired via Samsung with HP PCs.

On the studio floor are three Blackmagic Studio Camera 4Ks providing a live feed over optical fibre, which is run via an ATEM Studio Converter and patched via SDI into a Smart Videohub 12x12 video router. The same optical fibre provides talkback and tally, with each camera operator having their own set of noise canceling headsets, enabling them to take direction from the gallery. 

The system was put together by Al Jazeera, and the set was designed by Totem, who built a real Al Jazeera set to the scaled dimensions specified by Kidzania.

KidZania Al Jazeera broadcast studio weather

"We looked at the project brief from KidZania who explained that workflows had to be easy to use both for children and for KidZania supervisors who not accustomed to working in a TV environment," said Al Jazeera's manager of technology Europe, Anil Chaman. "We went out to the marketplace with this brief and what caught our imagination was the simplicity of Blackmagic’s products. We tested a trial system in our broadcast facility and the Blackmagic kit matched the brief perfectly."

“The more complex roles such as vision mixing and audio are handled by a KidZania supervisor,” said Chaman. Blackmagic’s ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K with the ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel was employed to produce the newscast on. “We then monitor everything from a series of preview monitors and while simultaneously recording to a Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio Pro. A secondary broadcast deck is used for VTs.”

Al Jazeera had previously worked with KidZania in its UAE and Qatar locations when the decision was taken to expand to the London theme park.

“Our aim was to replicate the broadcast experience as closely as we could, without all of the complexity,” said Chaman. “KidZania has very strict guidelines for partners like ourselves and ease of use was chief among them. What I liked about Blackmagic’s offering was its physical packaging. It’s naturally very user friendly and intuitive to use, whilst still providing us with all the functionality we’d expect of our own studios.”

Scaling was very important to Al Jazeera. “We even went as far as building a replica version of the same desk used in our own news broadcasts,” Chaman explained. “It had to feel real in every aspect of its design and operation or it was never going to work, even down to the training modules themselves, which were developed with our editorial team.”

Al Jazeera KidZania control room