Did you watch our exclusive #30yearsVodafone gig live stream on your phone? If so, you'll probably be wondering how those amazing 360 degree cameras work...
Did you catch our exclusive #30yearsVodafone gig with RUN-DMC and Raleigh Ritchie at Scala in London? You can watch the whole thing now on desktop on the Vodafone UK YouTube channel. Or, if you want to feel like you were really there, on the Vodafone Power To app. In both, (YouTube and the app), we let you choose a spot and control the camera yourself.
But how does that amazing technology work? And how do you go about live streaming a gig over 4G as it happens? To find out, we’ve been speaking to the live streaming gurus at Mativision who made it all possible. Read on for a look behind the curtain at the future of entertainment…
From smart cameras to smartphones
Watch the #30yearsVodafone RUN-DMC gig on the Power To app and you’ll be able to choose one of the three available cameras, then control the camera you selected, spinning it round any which way you choose. To make that magic possible, we worked with live streaming experts Mativision, employing an arsenal of smart cameras that each one stitches together a completely spherical, completely controllable view of the world. Mativision’s Anthony Karydis explains:
“Our cameras are not conventional cameras,” he says. “They’re small devices, each the size of a typical coffee mug, and each one incorporates six HD mini cameras. When the images from these six cameras are combined, we get a full spherical image – a 360-degree bubble around the camera position. The viewer is then given full freedom to look anywhere in this sphere. It’s as if they were in the venue, turning their heads around.”
It’s similar to how the fully rotatable images in Google Street View are created, except with live video instead of static photographs.
“With the #30yearsVodafone gig, viewers are given a choice of several of these 360-degree cameras at different positions in the venue, allowing them to change from camera to camera whenever they like without any discontinuity in the experience. And, importantly, the cameras are all fully synchronized to the audio.”
“It turns watching any event into an interactive experience,” Anthony adds. “That way, the viewer becomes the director of the show.”
But the cameras are only one side of the story. While the app lets you relive the experience on your iOS or Android phone, if you tuned in on Sunday 18 January, you’d have been able to see the gig live, as it happened. And getting the information from Mativision’s smart cameras to thousands of smartphones around the country was the perfect job for our ultrafast 4G network:
“To live stream an event with our spherical cameras, we have to transmit all their separate streams together,” says Anthony. “With six HD cameras inside each one, and three cameras at the gig, we’re essentially streaming 18 HD video Streams at once, and that’s much more demanding than conventional live streaming. So using a powerful network to link us to our streaming servers is a must, and Vodafone’s 4G network proved excellent in providing us with the performance we needed.”
“We pumped more 4G capacity into the venue because we knew how much bandwidth it would require,” Vodafone’s Mike Hayes says of the operation. “We essentially split the capacity into different areas of the building, which enabled us to provide Mativision with upload speeds of upwards of 40Mbps– more than enough for the network to deliver the consistent 15Mbps required for the live stream.”
This meant deploying a picocell, and utilising small antenna that are often used indoors in places like shopping centres and office buildings to give dedicated capacity to large individual groups. That’s because it can be difficult to get complete coverage in places like gig venues, and we needed to be sure that Mativision’s stream could consistently find our network through the crowds.
With all that tech in place, then, and with our 4G network doing what it does best, Mativision’s footage and the audio was able to sail from the event directly to our phone without delay, all in glorious HD.
Live streaming the future
So that’s the story from stage, to camera, to smartphone sorted, but what does the future of live streaming look like? Is it a sign of things to come? According to Anthony, the technology is already changing the music industry for good, and it’s only going to get even better…
“Live streaming is already common in music,” he says. “More and more events offer live streaming on the side, and in many cases it’s almost taken for granted. Most big festivals offer live streaming, and many artists choose to use streaming of at least one of their concerts as a promotional tool for the rest of the tour.
“For us, though, it’s about making it immersive: we can present a totally different experience to viewers that’s like actually being there. We try to recreate as much as possible the feeling of being at the actual event,” he says, “by forgetting the pre-edited video approach and offering the viewer a choice of different viewing positions and angles. I may be biased, but in my mind the future of live streaming definitely lies in this immersive experience.”
Head to the Vodafone UK YouTube Channel to stream the whole RUN-DMC and Raleigh Ritchie gig right in your browser.
And with the help of powerful new hardware, Anthony believes that we’re about to enter a whole new world when it comes to immersion:
“By combining these interactive experiences with emerging Virtual Reality (VR) headset technology, it’ll be possible to offer a completely hands-free experience to viewers. But VR doesn’t have to mean specialised, costly headsets like the Oculus Rift,” he says in closing. “In the near future, the smartphone will prove to be the real window into mainstream Virtual Reality.
“Inexpensive headsets like Google #Cardboard already allow people to use their smartphone as a VR projection device by placing it inside and in front of your eyes, and that kind of thinking will eventually make beaming full virtual reality experiences as simple as downloading a mobile app just like Power To. That’s the future of live streaming, and we’re really looking forward to it.”