During the Roland Garros 2019 tournament, France TV demonstrates live streaming of 8K video to connected TVs and mobile devices using a trial 5G local network deployed by Orange. This blog describes the details of the technical project at a high level. A follow-up blog will be written after the event to discuss the results and explain how the partners are shaping the future of 8K and 5G.
A press release announcing the project can be found here, and a more detailed press release was made by Federation Française de Tennis Orange and France TV during the tournament.
France Télévisions - Caméra utilisée pour Roland Garros 2019
France Télévisions - Plan Rapproché
Genesis of the project and definitions
A few months ago, Bernard Fontaine, Director of Technical Innovations at France Televisions, had a crazy dream to “stream live video in 8K to connected TVs and Mobile using a 5G network.” This dream guided most of our actions. In order to better understand the scope of the project, let us first start by setting the stage with some definitions.
8K is a video resolution format that has been standardized by ITU-R as UHD-2 with the following parameters: 7640x4320x60/120 using ITU-R BT.2100 color space representation and the distribution of 8K has been defined by ARIB in Japan, using HEVC Main 10 for video and HEE AAC for video. This blog provides a description of where 8K stands today.
For this trial, we decided to use HLG production and HLG distribution for live. For VOD, we chose to use PQ10, as it better fits the production workflow.
5G is a new transmission standard developed by ITU-T that can deliver very high speeds (up to 1Gbps). For the Roland Garros experiment, we aimed for 250Mbps. Broadcasters are looking at using 5G to transmit free-to-air TV channels using the 5G standard (eMBMS) as specified by 3GPP Release 14 and higher. Given the current state of the art, this trial only used unicast technology. This blog provides a description of where 5G for video stands today.
Content production and transport workflow
The goal was to reuse existing technologies as much as possible to build the system in a very short amount of time. On the production side, we used two Sharp broadcast 8K cameras on the Philippe Chatrier Court. The 4x12G SDI signal is then transported over fiber by Ereca to the headend that is located in the France TV compound. The 4x12G SDI signal is then fed to an 8K Blackmagic Design switcher that feeds all of the different encoders.
Figure 1 describes the production and SDI transport workflow.
Figure 1: France Televisions’ production and SDI transport workflow
Live encoding workflow
On the encoding side, we decided to use multiple technologies, in order to benchmark them but also to provide some redundancy:
The NEC 8K live encoder, deployed for 8K NHK service in Japan, is hardware-based and produces a TS Multicast, this is a 4RU box.
The Advantech encoder, which recently announced and demonstrated an all-in-one live encoder/packager with Spin Digital at NAB 2019, is also hardware-based and produces a single bitrate HLS stream, this is a 1 RUbox.
An Intel SVT-HEVC 8K prototype version takes an IP input and produces a live, adaptive streaming output in HLS format; the server used was a 2RU server, running on a dual Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 processors.
The NEC encoder TS output feeds the Harmonic Cloud VOS Origin server running on dual Intel server processors Xeon Gold 6152 that performs the following functions:
- Live packaging into the DASH format
- Live 2 VOD extraction
- Web server
Once the live feed is chunked and transformed into a VOD file (long lasting catch-up), which can be used as a catch-up asset for further processing. One of our goals was to be able to feed mobile devices that would not necessarily be able to support 8K or the HLG format. Therefore, we took an 8K HLG SBR (single bitrate) file and transformed it in an ABR (adaptive bitrate) file either in HDR10 for TV or SDR for mobile devices. This function is performed by the Harmonic Cloud VOS Media Processing unit, running on dual Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 server processors. The cloud media processor also performed other tasks. It took a VOD asset in ProRes 444 HDR10 format and converted it into multiple output formats:
DASH ABR SDR BT 709 for mobile devices
DASH SBR BT 2020 HDR10 for TV
TS export in HEVC Main 10 at 65Mbps in BT 2020 HDR10 for satellite (Eutelsat) distribution to 8K TVs equipped with a DVB-S2 tuner
TS export in HEVC Main 10 at 100Mbps in SDR BT 709 to be further processed for personalized 8K broadcasting by Tiledmedia.
We have defined the following target for the different encoders.
Tableaux -8k experiment at Roland Garros 2019
Figure 2 describes the France Televisions’ content preparation & distribution workflow.
In order to manage all of the video assets (i.e., mezzanine, catch-up TV and VOD) in a centralized way, we needed a powerful NAS solution. Intel provided two NAS servers of 96 TB capacity each to be shared between all of the video processing elements depicted in Figure 2. The NAS servers used Intel NVME SSD storage and are based on dual Intel Xeon Gold 6152 server processors with 10G cards.
The datacenter network and the management network were provided by Juniper using QFX 5100-48T. Infrastructure is secured by an SRX 4200 firewall.
We took a picture of the data center, powered by Intel server technology and Juniper for network aspects.
Video processing workflow summary
Figure 3 captures all the different workflows supported by the platform deployed at Roland Garros 2019 in a single diagram.
We provide a summary of the different services supported by the platform:
As well as the different associated technical parameters:
From an architecture point of view, the contribution feeds are encoded using hardware encoders (NEC, Advantech), while the rest of the processing: Live transcoding (Intel), Origin (Harmonic), NAS (Intel) , File transcoding & media processing (Harmonic) are cloud based and can therefore be deployed in either a private cloud (as was done at Roland Garros) or in a public cloud (for events applications).
5G distribution & devices
We decided to feed two 8K TVs in unicast mode at 100Mbps max. Using 5G state-of-the-art transmission, a single 250Mbps link sufficed.
As we could not get 8K TVs with IP input support in time for the event, we resorted to using a PC to decode the streams and feed via 4x HDRM 2.0 the Sharp 8K TVs. We used two different technologies for the PC player.
The first decoder was from Spin Digital. It is a fully software-based decoder using a next-generation desktop-grade Intel Core i9 processor to decode 8K at 60fps in real time, and a GPU to render and display the 8K picture. The SpinPlayer supports both SDR and HDR streams.
The second one was an open source VLC decoder, in two different flavors:
An Nvidia-accelerated solution using a powerful Intel i7 8700 K processor
An all software solution using a powerful Intel i9 9980XE processor
Note: Windows does not support HLG signaling yet, so we had to convert HLG to HDR10 in the player.
Each PC was connected via 4x HDMI 2.0 to a Sharp 8K 70” TV that supports both HLG and HDR10; in our case, it was always used in the HDR10 mode.
VLC has developed a Tablet interface as shown in the picture that enables to control the TV using a touch menu.
Illustration - installation 8k Roland Garros 2019
5G distribution and clients
All of the IP streaming was uplinked from the France TV compound to two base stations:
one serving the France TV showroom.
one serving the Orange showroom.
For the 5G reception, we used the official FFT partner Oppo telephone as a 5G gateway that routed all IP incoming traffic over Wi-Fi.
We also tested the playback of VOD assets in DASH ABR SDR to Oppo phones directly over 5G at the Orange showroom. From the ABR ladder described above, the VLC player on the phone selects the representation that offers the best streaming experience..
Distribution to satellite
In order to address the TV market, we used DTH reception (DVB-S2) and encoded the content at 65Mbps using the Harmonic Cloud VOS Media processor. The content was the TS file was sent over satellite and transmitted to the 8K TV located in the France TV showroom.
Personalized 8K streaming to tablets
One of the benefits of the 8K technology is that it enables shooting the entire court with one single camera. Using tiling technology, you can stream this video to a “legacy” mobile device (i.e., smartphone, tablet) and let the user navigate in the content and zoom in. The tiling technology, developed by Tiledmedia, then makes sure the content is streamed in such a way that the tablet only retrieves the part of the video that is in view, and only at the resolution that it is being displayed. This ensures an unmatched quality compared with the traditional approach where that employs a digital zoom and therefore results in fuzzy results. It also ensures that no bandwidth or device decoder (and battery!) resources are wasted. We used Tiledmedia’s technology to tile the 8K content and offer an up to 25Mbps feed over the public internet via CDN distribution to consume the content produced at Roland Garros.
In terms of workflow, Harmonic’s Cloud VOS Media processor took a ProRes file in HDR10 and converted it into SDR BT 709, then creating an HEVC 100Mbps TS file. This file was sent over FTP to Tiledmedia, who processed it in the public cloud and made the content available through its app running on a tablet in the France TV showroom. The app retrieved its content (tiles) via a CDN with as the last link a 5G access network. 5G provided the lowest delay to get the tiles on time and offered the best quality of experience. While our current workflow was on-demand, the tiling technology is suitable for live services, with glass-to-glass delays equal to those in modern OTT streaming systems – i.e., below 10 seconds.
The 8K video mapped into the tablet screen
The picture above shows the 8K video mapped into the tablet screen.
The following picture shows the screen size window navigating into the 8K content stored in the CDN and delivered though a tiling mechanism.
The screen size window navigating into the 8K content stored in the CDN and delivered though a tiling mechanism.
What is this is all about?
The photo below shows the equipment used to produce 8K over the 5G network: on the left rack the Nokia 5G equipment, on the middle rack the Intel servers that host all the SW based media processing and Juniper network equipment, on the right rack, all the hardware processing elements for SDI distribution, live contribution encoding.
Team present during the photo shoot at the end of the set up
Above is the picture of the team present during the photo shoot at the end of the set up.
From left to right: Vincent Nalpas (France TV), Jean Paul Chevreux (France TV), Alex Janniaux (VLC), Bernard Fontaine (France TV), Thierry Fautier (Harmonic), Eric Mazieres (Intel), Hiroaki Kawaguchi (NEC). Not present in the picture: Patrick Gendron (Harmonic), Xavier Ducloux (Harmonic), Francois Hannebicq (Intel), Kaino Masazumi (Sharp), Jean-Baptiste Kempf (VLC), Rob Koenen (Tiledmedia) Igor Shaula (intel), Tibor Auer (NEC), Brain Carr (Advantech).
Picture of the TV and 5G teams working together
Here is a picture of the TV and 5G teams working together in the last (s)mile:
The project started 2 months before Roland Garros. The system was staged at both France TV and Orange in less than a week. It required a lot of collaborative work from all the companies involved and given all the new elements and services that we developed, we believe this is the most ambitious 8K streaming project created to date.
The platform that we created can address multiple needs for Live, catchup, and VOD to TV and mobile devices. It supports classical streaming, but also new immersive services such as personalized broadcast using 8K and 5G technologies.
Although we used 5G for the transmission, fiber and DOCSIS 3.1 can and already are being used to transmit 8K over wired networks. As a result, consumers will now have many more choices and can enjoy new mobile experiences as well.
As promised, we will provide more glimpses into our experiments after the event is over, once we have time to analyze the results.
This is just the beginning of the 8K and 5G journey, and perhaps the first stepping stone for the Paris 2024 Olympics. We believe by then, all of the technologies demonstrated today will have reached enough maturity to be deployed at scale to consumers.