About Migu (CMCC Cloud VR)
As a wholly owned subsidiary of China Mobile – the largest mobile operator in the world – Migu is a key player in the streaming market in China. Migu has given its viewers access to compelling sports content for many years. This includes English Premier League football, multiple Olympic Games, CBA basketball, and World Table Tennis (WTT), to name but a few of the sports events that Migu’s customers have had access to. Migu also offers concerts of the most popular Chinese artists, and much more.
Migu has always strived for optimising and innovating its services. This is why it launched its CMCC Cloud VR application on mobile phones and headsets, to evolve streaming from flat 2D into immersive VR video experiences. (“CMCC” stands for China Mobile Communications Corporation)
Experienced with VR video, Migu has long been aware need for viewport-based streaming to providing the best user quality while keeping bandwidth and decoding requirements in check. Already back in 2020, China Mobile and Tiledmedia cooperated on an official showcase demonstrating an 8K VR Live stream using MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) in combination with Tiledmedia’s viewport-adaptive ClearVR streaming technology. This demo, hosted in the city of Guangzhou, also included ZTE providing 5G edge equipment, camera maker Kandao, and headset manufacturer Pico.
Late 2022, CMCC Cloud VR was ready to deploy viewport-based VR streaming to its consumers. It issued an RFP for a solution that needed to support the distribution of 8K VR content, live as well as on-demand, through China Mobile’s CDN. Tiledmedia responded with a proposal, and we were pleased to be selected by CMCC Cloud VR at the end of the tender process in early 2023.
To facilitate service delivery and optimize our customer support in China, Tiledmedia established Shanghai Tiledmedia Technology Co., a subsidiary that we colloquially refer to as Shenwa (“Magic Tile”).
Putting the ‘V‘ in front of the IP
After formalizing the agreement in February ’23, the CMCC Cloud VR and Tiledmedia teams went to work. Migu integrated Tiledmedia’s Unity Player into the CMCC Cloud VR application. We deployed our transcoding platform on a public cloud in China, and together we optimized the contribution of the camera signal to those cloud transcoders. We also fine-tuned the parameters of China Mobile’s CDN to minimize motion-to-high-resolution latency and get the best user quality. After a final check, the 8K FoV (Field of View) system officially went online on April 5th ’23, with a live stream of a CBA Basketball game. Users with a Pico 4 or Pico Neo 3 VR headset, previously limited to a 4K VR resolution, got access to an 8K VR live stream, enabling a 4-fold pixel count increase in the user’s viewport. This upgrade together with a perfect camera angle right at the sideline resulted in a compelling, immersive VR streaming experience, rivalling the VIP seats in the stadium!
CMCC Cloud VR has streamed a multitude of events using the ClearVR viewport-adaptive distribution. These include WTT Table Tennis, CBA, UFC mixed martial arts, music concerts, conferences like the World AI conference and red-carpet events like the Shanghai Film Festival. With an unmatched collection of content rights, a production team that can quickly set up at any location and cloud-based transcoding, Migu can serve a wide variety of high-quality VR content to its users on its various applications. Using Tiledmedia’s web-based Cockpit, CMCC Cloud VR engineers operate and monitor the live streaming transcoders. They are also able to harvest the live stream into an on-demand content item using the Cockpit, and to transcode highlight reels for on-demand viewing.
The CMCC Cloud VR app has several “modes of operation”. The default is a split scene, with a video in the front 180 degrees and a rendered environment in the back. The two halves are fused together and then transcoded as a single VR360 video scene. This gives users that VIP and front-row seat feeling, and a nice detail is that the background changes to fit the event. It could be an MMA training room for UFC, an urban basketball court for CBA, etc. When entering the app, users can quickly enter a live stream through the recommended page that pops up. Or, they can use their virtual avatar to walk around into different areas of a 3D world to find interesting content. After entering a live event, fans have can choose between the tiled 8K VR feed, the non-tiled 4K version, and a rectilinear feed displayed on a virtual TV screen.
A different mode of operation uses a (tiled) 8K VR180 feed in front of the viewer that is combined with a virtual 3D environment visible when looking around. This provides a higher resolution than the 8K VR360. It’s a production quality that is almost “too good” for current headsets, but ready to shine on upcoming headsets with higher resolution displays like the Apple Vision Pro (see our Vision Pro blog for details).
Stream into a bigger pool
The CMCC VR app offers 8K ClearVR live streams to Pico headsets, and traditional 4K VR live streams to mobile devices. CMCC Cloud VR is now working to expand the reach to more mobile devices and more headsets, including the Nolo Sonic 2 and the YVR 2.
Porting our Tiledmedia Player SDK to devices like Nolo and YVR has been made easier because of the China Mobile-led effort to standardize applications on VR headsets with the implementation of GSXR (General Standard for XR). This effort is a sign of China Mobile’s strong commitment to next-gen video streaming.
As most mobile devices still have “only” a 4K video decoder, 8K VR content is unavailable on them unless the video player leverages viewport-adaptive distribution, which lowers the decoding workload. ClearVR viewport-adaptive streaming also lets sports and music fans zoom in on their favorite athletes and artists way further than traditional video would allow, without losing sharpness.
The pixels in a VR headset cover a very large viewing angle, so unsharp video is much more noticeable on the headset than on a smartphone. Headset users benefit greatly from that jump in resolution from 4K to 8K. It makes details like text and athletes’ faces more visible, enhancing the immersive experience of the user. With headset usage not yet mainstream but manufacturers constantly innovating and improving their hardware, CMCC Cloud VR and Tiledmedia will make sure that as many headset users as possible will be able to enjoy this high-quality immersive service.
Raising the Bar
CMCC Cloud VR is preparing further upgrades, including increasing the framerate to 50fps (great for fast-paced sports), and increasing the VR360 resolution to 12K for on-demand content. Tiledmedia Cloud and the Tiledmedia Player SDK already support these two features, so it’s a matter of upgrading the production. In terms of operations, we are in the process of automating and standardizing the interface of Migu’s CMS with the Tiledmedia Cloud transcoding platforms through APIs.
Summing up, CMCC Cloud VR is offering rich and exciting content to its users, and with Tiledmedia’s software, it has opened the door to a next-generation video streaming experience. The benefits of ClearVR – particularly the increased video quality and reduced user-side bandwidth — form a key component in CMCC Cloud VR’s innovation plan. If you revisit this case study from time to time, you will see that more features and announcements are added over time, reflecting the ongoing, joint innovation in this engagement.
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