MediaKind forgets crucial technology behind new 360aaS launch

Barely was the ink dry from our coverage of MediaKind last week following insights from a partner company involved in virtual reality ventures, does the Ericsson Media Solutions spinout launch a new 360-degree-as-a-service (360aaS) live video product as a pre-NAB teaser trailer. We love it when issue by issue the saga deepens in satisfying concatenation – particularly when it transpires that MediaKind is concealing an important technical detail.

The “mutton-dressed-as-lamb” vendor is now taking an aaS approach to 360-degree live sports with the launch of Cygnus, a cloud-based workflow for live video processing and multi-platform publishing service. MediaKind says Cygnus enables TV operators and content companies to enable 360-degree live coverage either directly via a headset or on a multiscreen device as a companion to broadcast or streamed services.

It was halfway through December when Faultline Online Reporter began to take MediaKind’s 360-degree ambitions half-seriously after it streamed a multi-channel 6K 360-degree live basketball match for German operator Deutsche Telekom. In this case, Tiledmedia, the video tile stitching specialist who got in touch with us last week about this very deployment, had been working with MediaKind for well over a year prior to the DT Magenta VR event, some six months before the MediaKind brand was formed – prompting suggestions of MediaKind perhaps being more advanced in the VR space than most people realized.

Of course, this is only half the story. Despite there being no mention of Tiledmedia in this week’s press release, certain wording implied MediaKind had again recruited Tiledmedia’s ClearVR SDK, ClearVR Cloud and ClearVR Packager technologies together to support low latency streaming using some clever encoding techniques. A Tiledmedia representative confirmed to us that MediaKind’s Cygnus is indeed powered by ClearVR, adding that no other company out there could back up such claims like live 8K at speeds of 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps – so clearly feeling scorned by the omission.

So, MediaKind has gone from lauding live 6K 360-degree events just a few months ago to diving head-first into live 8K 360aaS, when we know the Deutsche Telekom Magenta VR project took Tiledmedia and MediaKind an arduous 18-months to complete.

“With viewport-adaptive tile-based 360-degree video, live capture can be increased beyond 4K resolution, typically used in live 360-degree events over the past year, without requiring the consumer display device to have a matching capability for full-resolution decode,” states the MediaKind release. This sounds awfully similar to Tiledmedia’s method of addressing bandwidth issues by stitching VR360 or panoramic video titles as input, then splitting these into tiles, encoding it and then packaging it up for CDN delivery. Joining the dots therefore wasn’t difficult and the fact this viewport-adaptive tile-based technology is the primary technique for overcoming constraints and limitations of capturing live 360 video at resolutions above 4K – credit should certainly be given where credit is due. For its software streaming library to operate, it requires specially packaged containers of VR360 or panoramic content to be placed on a CDN.

MediaKind adds that from a single high-quality contribution source, live 360-degree video is processed and delivered into suitable resolutions and formats for simultaneous live publishing to an operator’s app over public CDN, as well as via social media platforms. MediaKind drums up its technical support and monitoring throughout of events as an important component of Cygnus – reducing delivery risk and the need for operators or service providers to place specialist staff on-site.

Given Tiledmedia’s unfair exclusion from the Cygnus party, it’s likely MediaKind has left out some additional important technical details which were also used during the DT event. For example, a CDN technique was developed jointly by Akamai and Tiledmedia to pre-fetch tiles for storage at the network edge for easy access, after finding it was taking an age to fetch new tiles from the CDN during headset movement.

Besides, for resolution any higher than 4K, Tiledmedia believes a proven workflow won’t arrive for at least another six months so we understand that MediaKind quite simply could not achieve the feats being claimed this week without the involvement of ClearVR – implying the future success of Cygnus depends heavily on it.

Given everything written here, our initial remark about taking MediaKind half-seriously in VR and AR is on the cusp of tatters unless the company can convince us otherwise with a demo and discussion – which Faultline Online Reporter will try to squeeze into our busy NAB schedule next week.

Until then, all we have to go on is this typically vague statement from MediaKind in response to our queries, “Our objective with solution and product launches is to provide an overview of the offering and pave the way for a follow-on discussion. These offerings are typically a combination of technologies and services from both internal and partner capabilities. In the 360-degree streaming domain, our partnership with Tiledmedia has already been published. We will be demonstrating the 360aaS solution at NAB Show including Tiledmedia’s viewport-adaptive technology.” At least we got an admission.