On Wednesday June 17, MediaKind’s Christopher Wilson, Market Development, Sports, joined a panel alongside Rob Koenen, Founder & CBO, Tiledmedia, and Jonathan Newth, CEO, Focal Point VR, to discuss real-world applications of 360-degree video and how it can help transform the way viewers experience live events in ‘the new normal’.
Moderated by Chris Pfaff, Founder and CEO, Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC, the panel explored how live 360-degree video can be captured, produced, streamed and delivered to enable best-in-market quality live VR streaming to existing headsets and mobile devices, at the lowest possible bitrates.
The sessions are now available to watch on-demand.
During the webinar, MediaKind, Tiledmedia and Focal Point VR announced the launch of a brand-new partnership and following this news, Chris Pfaff spoke to Christopher Wilson to discuss what this entails in further depth.
Chris Pffaf (CP): So, on the day the Premier League resumed in England, June 17 seemed a very fitting occasion to announce the launch of the only broadcast-quality, end-to-end VR streaming solution of its kind, combining MediaKind’s Cygnus 360° Events solution, Tiledmedia’s Clear VR technology and the Focal Point VR stream processor! For those who weren’t able to attend MediaKind’s recent webinar, could you explain what this partnership service entails?
Christopher Wilson (CW): Our combined, integrated solution is ideal for the live sports market, for the capture, rendering and distribution of 360-degree and VR content. We have built an end-to-end chain that drastically lowers the barriers to entry, by minimizing the investment and risk involved in delivering 360-degree experiences to audiences.
Our partnership offers the opportunity to trial this immersive technology, with the full knowledge that they will have access to a leading technology platform with guidance from media experts, who can support and inform across every single aspect in the live production chain. This ranges from content capture through to playback on a device. On the processing side of things, aside from the on-premise camera rigs, everything else can be provided from within MediaKind’s cloud environment, which can then scale on the input side and on the delivery side, with no change to the overall commercial model. You can essentially tailor your service according to the needs of your live event.
CW: Let’s start at the capture end. Until very recently, the 360-degree market has largely revolved around the use of pro-streamer devices – but they require a lot of specialist knowledge to configure. This is where Focal Point VR come in; they address what you do with the technology and provide the necessary expertise to capture 360-degree content.
On the processing side of things, this is where MediaKind excels! Here, we are providing a scalable processing environment that can support multiple camera feeds, multiple resolutions and multiple publishing points. We are enabling service providers to take their 360-degree content to a number of different end points and platforms.
We are then able to publish this live content through the streaming technology developed by Tiledmedia. This is a standard based format that enables low bitrate delivery (as much as a 75% bitrate reduction) of very high quality 360-degree content – and this of course plays a major role in helping to scale the distribution and particularly for much higher resolution images.
Finally, we reach the all-important ‘Play’ side! Consumers now have a wide range of different devices and through the scalability of our technology, we are enabling service providers to target all of them. We are already able to deliver to resolutions up to 8K – and the key here is that we can play the 8K content on existing devices using only 4K decoders. In the future we will be able to attain even higher levels.
This is where we see VR starting to become a real game-changer for the media industry; we can achieve this level of fidelity not only on the distribution path, but also in the headsets that you see in the market today.
CW: It’s a simple premise – it’s about choosing what you need across the whole chain. We can provide everything end-to-end if required, but we can also offer a particular service or consultation at any stage within this chain as well. We are enabling service providers to select every individual element they need, as and when, for any given event.
Of course, sports are the first thing many people associate with 360-degree content – but other applications could extend through to a live tour of a museum or visit to a local zoo. Due to the accessibility challenges associated with the lockdown period, there are many other public places we could provide unique perspectives to. The overall goal is to create the high fidelity, immersive experiences that make all of these opportunities accessible to everybody.
CW: There are a number of different challenges when it comes to scalability. From the ingest side, this includes the number of channels and the number of 360-degree cameras that you need to pull into this platform. Within our cloud environment, you can scale to meet the need of the particular event. And this doesn’t just apply to 360-degree cameras; this could incorporate a mixture of 4K or 4K HDR cameras as well.
Then there’s the issue of the scalability of the formats (i.e. the resolutions). The platform is designed to scale, whether that’s a 4K, 8K – or even higher – resolution. We can scale on the processing side and support the type of content service providers want to offer to their subscribers.
Finally, by working with our partners – and in this instance, Tiledmedia specifically – we can distribute through a scalable CDN, which doesn’t require per-user server components to drive the VR experience.
CW: Despite all the challenges of the lockdown period, it’s a really interesting time for anyone involved in this industry. Whether it’s from live streaming or remote production, broadcasters, pay-TV operators and service providers can learn so much more about their audiences and tap into previously unavailable markets. Events are behind closed doors. Communities have struggled to stay in touch. But the barriers to entry for 360-degree content have been lowered and live immersive video is ready to come to the fore. Now is the time to experiment and enhance that end user experience!