twofour54's sparkling new Abu Dhabi 'intaj' facility was opened last week and promises to bring a fresh approach to Middle East production and post, writes Chris Forrester.
Tony Orsten, CEO at twofour54 (named after Abu Dhabi's 24 degrees North, 54 deg East geographic coordinates) said the studios were not just to create extra hours of new MENA content, important as that is. "Today's launch introduces the final component of twofour54's content creation community, which is designed to facilitate the development of a sustainable media industry in the MENA region."
"We have in our region around 330m people, 60% of whom are under 25%," Orsten explained, adding that some 450 people had already 'graduated' through the company's 'tadreeb' training academy helped by its partner organisations such as the BBC and Thomson Reuters. Orsten said that training was the bedrock of what they were doing, of people coming into media and for those already working but who wanted to improve their craft skills as well as improving their understanding of broadcasting. "This will lead to new businesses here."
But he stressed that buildings, and facilities like those at twofour54 were also important so that programming could be made. "We are a content creation community. Our media partners help make that possible," he explained. "Our media partners, whether in the shape of CNN, or the BBC or Harper Collins, they take part in our work and people like CNN, as well as building their own facility here, will also take our young people. They'll be part of the training process, taking interns into the system, from the region, and in order to learn more. Every media partner present with us has a similar commitment to participation."
At twofour54's heart is a 6-studio complex, available on a wet or dry basis, and complete with edit suites, post production facilities, sound, graphics, and all the other elements expected by today's demanding producers. The six studios are headed by a 650 sq m beast, a pair of 280 sq m spaces (both already fully hired) and two 60 sq m 'babies', each fully equipped with Sony HDC-1500 HDTV cameras, and the sort of technical provision that would make any studio manager green with envy. "And not a tape machine in the building," said Orsten.
Twofour54 is also looking to tap into the explosive growth of local channels out of the region. Its near-neighbour Dubai is uplinking hundreds of channels onto Nilesat and Arabsat. Twofour54 has anticipated increased demand and pre-installed encoding, multiplexing and encryption kit ready to handle DTH clients.