Appear, the global enabler in media processing and delivery technology, has announced that JPEG XS encoding in its X Platform was used to successfully deliver live 3D virtual reality (VR) content for a major sporting event that took place earlier this summer.
Deployed in partnership with production company Mobilelinks and fan experience technology provider Cosm, JPEG XS provided the basis for the successful delivery of live VR content for the event’s beginning and ending shows, as well as for live 3D VR content across five major sporting events (boxing, basketball, beach volleyball, gymnastics and athletics) three times each day throughout the entirety of the event. The companies also supported the delivery of video-on-demand (VOD) content for 30 additional sports throughout the event.
In the run up to the major sporting event, there was appetite to deliver more immersive content experiences, like 3D and VR. But supporting these content formats in live streams presented a challenge, as the only connectivity between the main sporting venues and the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) 80 kilometres away was two dark fibre lines—and these needed to carry all video content from the event, including 10 camera channels in 4K.
JPEG XS encoding represented the ideal solution to deliver 3D VR content on the available bandwidth, thanks to its prioritisation of low latency and high quality, while also providing practical levels of compression. As the production company on the ground, Mobilelinks deployed JPEG XS encoding in Appear’s X Platform hardware within its outside broadcast compound. The X Platform was also deployed at the IBC.
The combination of JPEG XS and SMTPE ST 2110 in a fully redundant network was a flexible and reliable solution to meet the delivery needs of this project. By implementing 2022-7 over the network, Mobilelinks could support a high redundancy level with seamless switching, which was imperative in the event of hardware failure on any of the physical links and switches.
From the OB compound, the X Platform JPEG XS encoders compressed live video feeds at a lossless rate so they could be transmitted to the IBC with minimal latency. From the IBC, the live VR content could be delivered to VR headsets across the globe, where users were able to access the immersive content via the Oculus Venues app. Cosm was responsible for developing the VR content within the app, and used 3D lenses on two cameras at each event to create the 3D VR content feeds.
“While we’ve produced VR content for hundreds of major sporting events, this was the most ambitious VR project we’ve worked on to date. We knew that for this event there would be high expectations, targets and challenges. Using IP to transport feeds across long distances in a practical way and having the right technology in place to support this kind of undertaking was paramount,” said Fabrice Lorenceau, VP Live Production & Video Technology at Cosm. “Working with Appear and Mobilelinks ensured we were able to deliver the best possible immersive experience, and we are thrilled to have delivered hundreds of hours of multicam live VR content in 4K without any hiccups. Given the number of feeds needed to carry 3D content and just two fibres available, there was no better way to transport these signals than with the technology used. It made our live operations really smooth.”
Along with providing live VR content for the beginning and ending shows and the five sporting events direct to consumers, the content was also used as live event and VOD coverage for major sporting broadcasters. In fact, during the sporting event, the three companies together delivered over 100 hours of live VR content in 4K.
“We worked closely in partnership with Appear to assess how viable its solutions would be for such a technically complex project as this. Not only did we need compression technology we could rely on when delivering such bandwidth intensive content, but given the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the possibility that we would need to be able to perform remote production from hotel rooms,” said Martin Simons, Head of Encoding at Mobilelinks. “Appear’s X Platform JPEG XS encoders ticked all our boxes—not only is it the best in class from a technological perspective, but its compact hardware is likely to become a go-to solution for remote production in the future.”
Prior to the event, Appear, Mobilelinks and Cosm conducted trials in Los Angeles and Stockholm to test the technology and ensure it could sufficiently support 3D and virtual reality content in 4K.
“Contribution and remote production for any live sporting event is technically complex—add in the delivery of live VR content during a pandemic, for a high-profile event like this, and the complexity intensifies tenfold,” said Thomas Bostrøm Jørgensen, CEO at Appear. “But even when presented with such a challenge, we knew our technology would fit the bill. We’re thrilled to have been involved in such an ambitious and successful project, delivering true 4K, low latency content to be enjoyed by people all across the globe.”