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Arrakis Virtual Consoles Serve Massive Translation Audience

Systems integrator Naztec International Group built a unique system in Saudi Arabia

Some of the work areas in the master control room at Makkah City.
Some of the work areas in the master control room at Makkah City.

Radio World Buyer’s Guide articles are intended to help readers understand why their colleagues chose particular products to solve various technical situations. This month’s articles focus on consoles and mixers.

Arrakis Systems products are playing an important role in a recently completed major translation project in Saudi Arabia, as are two dozen Nautel transmitters.

Systems integrator Naztec International Group Florida designed and implemented a unique broadcast system enabling live audio translation into 10 languages — expandable to 30 — for the largest pilgrimage infrastructure in the world, Makkah City, known to many Westerners as Mecca.

The project was commissioned by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as part of “Vision 2030,” the kingdom’s plan for growth and expansion.

Naztec spent two years designing, building and installing this complex system that reaches millions of people around the world in multiple languages. Currently supported languages are Arabic, English, Urdu, French, Persian, Turkish, Bangla, Malay, Hausa, Russian and Chinese.

The installation connects three broadcast sites miles apart through fiber optics and microwave to stream digitally to custom applications, websites and platforms, as well as through FM radio broadcasts.

The first site contains the master control room for monitoring the system along with the data racks, encoders and translator cabins equipped with Braehler Interpreter Consoles. Some 50 translators and 25 sound, streaming and broadcast engineers keep the system running 24/7.

The second site at Makkah City houses a dozen Nautel VS2.5 FM transmitters, combiners and two FM antennas, along with racks of decoders and two-way monitoring equipment.

The third site at Arafat City houses another dozen Nautel VS1.5 transmitters, combiners and two FM antennas, in addition to other equipment. Since last year, from the Arafat site, the one-day pilgrimage event has had more than 250 million live concurrent listeners from around the world.

Transmission hardware in Makkah City.
Transmission hardware in Makkah City.

In addition to the 24 Nautel FM HD-compatible transmitters, the system uses two automatic 5+1 transmitter switching systems and state-of-the-art equipment and software, notably the DARC AoIP Virtual Console by Arrakis.

“The Arrakis console sits at the heart of the master control room and was chosen for its ease of use with Dante networks, which allows for seamless audio mixing and adjusting,” according to Naztec. “The multi-touch feature of Arrakis is perfect for touch screens, enabling control over multiple faders at the same time.”

It said presets allow for ease of switching from the live broadcast to the automation system; the sound engineers can manage the live broadcast and make adjustments as needed.

Equipment was shipped from West Palm Beach in Florida by plane and ocean freight. A team of engineers and technicians from Florida completed the installation on-site. The architect was Sal Pazhoor, Naztec International Group’s president and CTO.

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