At a time when people have become comfortable with
watching video on their smartphones, handheld technology
is taking another leap for ward. With the advent of Google
Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, and other inexpensive
virtual reality (VR) viewing devices, people can now use
their smartphones to become immersed in a 360° VR
Content creators are ramping up efforts to provide
compelling VR/360° video content. In particular, they
want to live stream VR/360° video to viewers via their own
services, apps, or online video platforms (OVPs) such as
Facebook or You Tube.
Before jumping into the emerging VR/360° arena, producers
need to consider that acquiring live 360° video requires the use
of specialized, professional grade 360°-view camera rigs. One
such camera, the Nokia Ozo, is a compact handheld rig with
an array of eight 2K x 2K sensors that are stitched to gather
fully spherical video.
Since high-end 360°-view cameras are relatively expensive,
the best VR/360° video applications are likely to be high-value
entertainment and sports, such as must-see concerts and
world-class tournaments. Even customers who are present at an
arena might want to use streaming VR/360° video to experience
the show from different angles or VIP vantage points.
For events where tickets are either very expensive or
sold-out, producers can generate new revenue by offering
sponsorships or the use of VR/360° video services. And
large, global audiences will appreciate being able to attend
the event—without time or travel constraints—by virtue of
VR/360° video streaming over the Internet.
FOCUS ON A SEA OF DATA
The main technical challenge to live VR/360° video
streaming involves the real-time encoding of the massive
amounts of 4K-resolution picture data associated with this
high-caliber, spherical 360° video. The delivered stream
contains the picture data necessary for viewing in every
direction, even though viewers only see the portions of the
picture needed to construct the direction they are facing at
any given moment.
The volume of picture data that needs to be processed for
VR/360° video is enormous because live Ultra HD (UHD)/
4K-resolution video must stream as adaptive bitrate (ABR)
Live and Virtual Reality:
packages. These packages must include multiple UHD and
HD variants that allow for client bandwidth variability and an
optimal quality of experience (QoE). They must also be able
to flow over the internet as a high-quality RTMP contribution
stream from which OVPs can encode their own ABR variants.
While 1920x1080 high-definition (HD) is the minimum
recommended resolution, in reality the premium VR/360°
video experience dictates the use of UHD, which at
3840x2160 pixels is four times HD resolution. VR/360°
video creators might even run their UHD video at a
richer 50/60 frames per second (fps), instead of the more
common 25/30 fps.
With four to eight times HD’s picture information, the
demanding live encoding process requires advanced, robust
implementations of bandwidth-efficient encoding schemes.
Advanced codecs, such as HEVC (H.265) and AVC (H.264),
keep UHD and VR/360° video file sizes manageable for more
efficient streaming over the busy, bandwidth-challenged
At the Nexus of
Live 4K VR/360 Streaming Experience Depends Upon
Real-time, High-Efficiency Encoding and Processing
BY MATTHEW REHRER, PRODUCT MANAGER, TELESTREAM