Al Arabiya creates massive augmented reality U.S. election set with Vizrt and Spidercam

The augmented reality graphics displayed results for the 2016 U.S. election using a 9200 square meter map and 30 meter tall graphics.

Al Arabiya AR election graphics hero

One of the largest news channels in the Arab region, Al Arabiya, part of the Middle East Broadcast Channel group, wanted to cover the U.S. election in a way that reflected the impact the election has on the Arab world. They also wanted to be able to explain the complexity of the election in a very clear and memorable way for their viewers.

To achieve this, Al Arabiya partnered with Vizrt and Spidercam to create the world’s largest augmented reality (AR) set used in a live news production.  “During the past elections, we made use of immersive graphics with live data, but for the 2016 US Elections, we thought bigger,” says Al Arabiya’s Head of Graphics, Fadi Radi.

Al Arabiya election coverage by the numbers:

  • 150 people involved from Al Arabiya, Vizrt and Spidercam
  • Complex 3D models with up to 80 million polygons
  • 9290 square meters of augmented reality graphics over Dubai Media City lake
  • 2025 square meter videowall in front of the MBC building
  • 55% of total viewers in the Middle East watched the election on Al Arabiya
  • 82,000,000 Al Arabiya social media followers
Al Arabiya AR election graphics feature 1

For 2016, Al Arabiya took their election show outdoors and used the MBC building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as a backdrop for a giant virtual videowall, and the Dubai Media City lake as a platform on which to place various other immersive graphics, such as maps, dynamic 3D models, comments from social media, and live election results.

MBC’s team of designers worked in Viz Artist to design the election graphics as immersive objects. The sizing and positioning of the graphics had to be estimated, since the physical set-up would not be in place until four days before the election. 

Spidercam typically installs their camera rigs in stadiums where existing support structures are in place, but for the Al Arabiya election coverage, the venue was a public location with the camera operating above a large lake.  Lacking any natural structures around the lake to mount the winches to, temporary cranes on one side of the lake, and trusses mounted on the roof of the MBC building on the other side of the lake, were used to provide the anchor points for the system. 

Another challenge was the outdoor location itself. Although rain was unlikely in Dubai at that time of year, the potential for high winds in such an exposed location that could interfere with the stability of the camera system was always a risk. However, on the night, the weather conditions were favourable, and the stability gyros built into the Spidercam system were more than capable of handling the prevailing weather conditions.

The production went very well with stable camera shots and high quality tracking data throughout the production.

Al Arabiya AR election graphics feature 2

Vizrt has been working with Al Arabiya for over ten years. When approached to take part in a project of this scale it was obvious that the best resources needed to be allocated to ensure that the coverage went smoothly. 

Viz Virtual Studioengineers were on site to test the system ahead of the the election night and work with Spidercam to calibrate and test the tracking systems. The Vizrt system comprised of a single Viz Engine to generate and display all of the live election graphics in real-time. Spidercam provided live tracking data that was processed with Vizrt’s Tracking Hub to accurately control the graphics during the live presentation. 

“Al Arabiya has a track-record of thinking big, but this concept is on a completely different level”, said Ian Davies, Regional Manager of Vizrt Middle East. “When I first heard about the project, it was clear that it was going to be a visually stunning production, with Al Arabiya’s talented team of designers producing graphics for such a beautiful outdoor location, but I think the results surprised everyone by being even better than we had imagined”.

Davies continued, “Given the high profile nature of the event, it was critical that the right resources were provided to support Al Arabiya, so Vizrt supplied the latest and most powerful Viz Engine for the project, plus specialist technical resources to help ensure that everything went smoothly.  I think the results speak for themselves. This was truly a world-class production that raised the standards for everyone.”

The result was a visually stunning AR presentation that gave the viewers detailed insights in the historic U.S. election.