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Video: VR 360° Live Streaming Workflow

Much more than HD or 4K, delivering an immersive 360° or virtual reality (VR) experience in a live streaming environment introduces new levels of complexity to the streaming workflow, beginning with capture and continuing all the way to output. In this excerpt from his presentation at Streaming Media East 2016, Wowza Systems Senior Director, Technical Marketing Ryan Jespersen describes the key elements in the live streaming workflow for VR 360° video: camera and rig, stitching, processing and delivery, and output. 

Learn more about 360 VR live streaming at Streaming Media West.

Read the transcript of Jespersen's remarks:

Ryan Jespersen: What really happens in a typical workflow is you have the camera and the rig. Whether you're using a 6 GoPro system, a 12 GoPro system, or a 16 GoPro system, you're talking about a huge amount of mini HDMI to HDMI cables. You need some way to capture that into a device, such as a Magewell USB native HDMI-to-USB 3. You can plug that in, but you need a laptop that has all those inputs. You need 6 USB 3 inputs, or 12, or 16; you need multiple cards to be able to capture it all. It becomes a hell of a rig to be able to maintain.

Now VideoStitch has come out with the Orah, Giroptic has come out with their 360° camera, and they're building all-in-one devices that combine the camera rig and the videostitching in the same device and make it a lot more portable. As this industry matures, and more people come to VR and 360°, that's going to become the case.

However, VideoStitch still sells their Vahana VR software. If you want to bring your own rig and you're looking at this for 4K film production, fyou're bringing these really, really high-end cameras. You can still use our software and be able to stitch that together if you have a machine that's strong enough to be able to process all these graphics and stitch it together. In a traditional case, a lot of the stitched video that comes out is over RTMP, but as you see more and more IP camera models are using a Power Over Ethernet (PoE) switch at the back. You need a power or PoE injector to be able to power the device and then transfer the data over a network. That traditionally is done over RTSP, so it's a very low-latency protocol. RTMP and RTSP are very good for transmitting low latency. However, you can't deliver directly to devices that RTMP requires the flash player. RTSP is not available without using VLC.

If you want to deliver live VR streams to an iPhone, or you want to deliver to devices on the internet, you need to to repackage it to Apple HLS or MPEG DASH, or one of these HTTP streaming protocols that have 20-30 seconds of latency to them. It gives us a scalability and the device reach to be able to get out there.

That's where Wowza fits in. With Wowza, we can do Wowza Streaming Engine, which is what we're doing today in a local environment. You can deploy that software in the cloud on your own data center or you can use our SaaS service or a Wowza Streaming cloud service that's pretty much a deployable virtual model that has a CDN built into it, and then be able to deliver to all of these users all around the world.

Here's an example of a 6-camera GoPro rig. You have some that are 4-camera, you have some that are circular, and then people are taking the same idea and using extreme high-production cameras. What's funny is, you see a GoPro video, and do you really think that GoPro ad that they just spent $5 million for was done using GoPros? Hello no. They're using RED or other extremely high-resolution cameras to create these beautiful scenes that sell us on GoPro. Having said that, with this particular camera rig, you're talking about extremely high resolution on each of these devices but you still need a way to transfer that, capture it, and then stitch that together. That's where VideoStitch with their Vahana software comes in, and there are other vendors out there that create that stitching software as well.

Here's an example of a 16 GoPro rig. This GoPro rig alone, I think, cost in excess of $5,000. It's not a cheap setup. This slide shows the VideoStitch Orah. This is just a screenshot of what the Vahana VR software looks like. In this example, you can see we have 6 different feeds from 6 different GoPros. You can see the resolution. In this example, it's coming in at 1280x960. It's then stitching that together and you can control the encoding and the bitrate. You can control the final resolution of the output, all of those different steps when stitching it together, and then you can transmit that over RTMP to a streaming server that they can then scale that to a global or even local audience.


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