Showing 8K Personal Video at the French Open

Showing 8K Personal Video at the French Open

A major sports event is always a great occasion to show off new tech, especially if the sports event is a tennis Grand Slam. This was certainly the case for our new personal 8k distribution tech, as shown by France Télévisions at the French Open Tennis Championships in Paris from 26 May to 9 June. Building on our NAB 2019 presence, the demonstration took our ClearVR tiled Streaming tech to a new application space.

Tiled streaming is not just a great solution for VR360, it also enables the distribution of regular rectangular (“planar”) 8k content to consumer devices. How this works was shown to interested parties at the French Open Tennis Championships over the last two weeks. Bernard Fontaine, who heads up the Innovation work at France Télévisions, showed countless visitors how 8k content can be streamed to existing tablets and phones, providing the user with an attractive, interactive experience.

One of the full 8K shots we made available in tiled format (courtesy France Télévisions)

To be exact, Mr. Fontaine showed tiled streaming of 8k content hosted on Akamai to a Samsung S3 tablet over WiFi, either connected to the local ethernet, or to a 5G phone acting as a modem. We adapted our ClearVR technology for “planar” content for this use case.

8k Planar: like VR, but with zoom

With planar content, ClearVR largely fulfills the the same role as for VR360: we only send the pixels that the viewer sees, at the resolution that they are displayed. The difference is that with planar content, the user can not only pan around, but also zoom all the way in and out.

New, 8k cameras are now entering the broadcast arena. It will take a while before 8k broadcast goes mainstream, but the intelligent, interactive streaming application that we showed at the French Open is available today for users inside a sports venue or at home.

The demonstration was part of a large set of demos all showcasing the use of 8k content, with participation from France TV, Advantech, Harmonic, Intel, NEC, Sharp, Tiledmedia, and VLC.  See the France TV Lab blog “8K Experiment at Roland Garros 2019” for details on the other demonstrations.

8k Tiled Workflow

The workflow was as follows: France Télévision camera woman Nathalie Gallet shot the 8k rushes. These were condensed into clips and encoded into 200 Mbit/s HEVC mezzanine files by Harmonic, and then ftp-ed to Tiledmedia’s ClearVR Cloud platform. ClearVR then processed this file, creating a tiled representation of the clips in an HEVC-encoded, mp4-compatible format.

Next, the packaged content was uploaded to an Akamai origin server, and a link to the manifest was provided to the “ClearVR Planar 8K” demonstration application running in the France Télévisions demonstration area at the French Open.

From that point, the app on the Samsung S3 was able to retrieve the streams from the CDN and play them back seamlessly. Users were able to choose the fully zoomed out view, or zoom into the pixel level without any visible loss of detail. Bitrates for this 8k demo hovered around 20 Mbit/s, which can be further optimized. The technology is compatible with all modern Android and iOS devices.

The only challenge we faced was in getting the colour space correct in the content that was provided to Tiledmedia. For 8k just as much as for all 4K Ultra-HD workflows, getting the colour space and the dynamic range correct end-to-end is the hardest part of production and distribution of UHD content.

(Photos by Tiledmedia except where indicated)