PCCW Global and Ideal Systems enable live 360 VR 3D broadcast of Hong Kong Sevens

PCCW Ideal Systems HK Sevens
Image credit: PCCW Global

PCCW Global and broadcast and media systems integrator Ideal Systems say they have successfully delivered the world’s first live 360° and 3D multi-camera coverage of the 2017 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with the support of Now TV, the official host broadcaster of the event, providing viewers with an immersive virtual reality (VR) viewing experience.

PCCW Global said its expertise in live mega event management and new media technology delivery, together with Ideal Systems’ broadcast solutions and virtual reality technology, enabled the team to deliver a complex solution in less than six weeks from project initiation.

Ideal Systems delivered the content acquisition using a number of pitch-side Nokia OZO 360° cameras. The cameras provided a UHD IP signal that was delivered over HKT fiber to Nokia servers in the control room, to facilitate live stitching from each of the cameras’ eight 2K lenses to create multiple stitched 3D UHD streams. These 360° audio and video streams were switched and passed through to the Harmonic Electra VS encoders for delivery to the PCCW Global media delivery network. Six streams were routed from the stadium for live distribution by Now TV to consumers’ mobile devices, PCs and VR headsets, including Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Zeiss VR One Plus and Google Cardboard via YouTube 360.

If your browser supports 360 video, it looked something like this.

PCCW Global said the challenges of real-time live VR streaming – compared to traditional TV – revolve around the complexity of dealing with data rates that are significantly larger and more demanding on the delivery networks, with close to 6 Gbps of uncompressed video coming from each OZO Live Server. To put that in context, reports from Broadband Forum suggest that even basic VR video requires 17 times the bandwidth of normal HD video.

“This world’s first delivery of a complete source-to-screen solution for immersive 360 VR viewing was one of the most exciting projects our team has been involved in, because while it truly showcased our innovation and media delivery capabilities, it also tested our abilities fully, leveraging as it did both our extensive experience in delivering mega sports events, and our ability to successfully put such a complex solution together in a very short space of time,” said PCCW Global CMO Mike van den Bergh.

“We had no play book to go by and are writing the rules as we go,” said Jim Butler, founder and CEO of Ideal Systems Group. “It is a bit daunting to be first, especially with an event of this magnitude and duration. We are delighted that it has been such a successful project for us and PCCW Global and ultimately Now TV’s viewers.”

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