Same old story for VR but MediaKind powers on with 360 at NAB

NAB 2019 marked debuts for both Synamedia and MediaKind, each emphasizing somewhat different aspects of their respective arsenals compared to what we saw at IBC six months ago. While MediaKind was eager to show off its 360-degree video capabilities following our critical coverage last week, Synamedia came right out with a bunch of clever new machine learning features for reducing operator bandwidth and storage costs a substantial amount. The latter launch we have covered in a separate story in this issue.

Modestly, even MediaKind admits to being surprised by the uptake of its products and services for 360 video use cases given the many restrictions to getting the technology mainstream. Despite having only launched its 360-as-a-service (360aaS) product last week, called Cygnus, the technology has already been put through its paces at Deutsche Telekom (DT) and the Ericsson Media Solutions spin out assured us at NAB that operator interest is growing. Of course, it would say that.

We took issue last week with the fact MediaKind’s Cygnus launch announcement forgot to credit the leg work being done by Tiledmedia, a video tile stitching specialist, which essentially handles the processes perhaps considered somewhat sexier. This probably goes some way to explaining the reason behind MediaKind’s omission, which in turn prompted us to downplay MediaKind’s own contribution to its own product. We therefore sought to rectify this at NAB this week, as representatives from both MediaKind and Tiledmedia explained to Faultline Online Reporter that tiling is only one part of the equation – which ultimately addresses redundancy by getting the resolution just right.

With its heritage in live video and leveraging public cloud infrastructure, MediaKind, meanwhile, tells us it developed software to push elements of live events into the cloud using a cube map projection which is more efficient for encoding and averaging out data across the projection. This appears to be one of the most advanced applications of the cube mapping computer graphics technique, involving pre-rendered panoramic images then being rendered by a graphical engine as faces of a cube (so six separate faces) whereby the center of the cube serves as the viewpoint – essentially creating the illusion of being in a scene. Cube mapping is primarily used in video gaming so the emergence in video is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

These encoded streams are then fizzed over to Tiledmedia, applying its ClearVR technologies to stitch VR360 or panoramic video titles as input and then split these into tiles, encoding them and then packaging it all up for CDN delivery (in DT’s case exclusively Akamai). Of course, Tiledmedia could not help but be a little disheartened by the lack of public credit, yet with MediaKind’s existing infrastructure and customer list brimming with tier 1 operator accounts, the company won’t be losing any sleep over it.

We snuck in a quick demo of a 360-degree basketball match and were impressed by the quality and smoothness of the panning as we moved our viewpoint first of all using a tablet and then using an Nvidia Shield remote. Given the limitations of trade show WiFi, it’s virtually impossible to set up a live stream let alone a live 8K 360 video at 10 to 12 Mbps.

Just a few hours spent patrolling the show floor and anyone would notice how few VR headsets were front and center at vendor stands. Yet one consensus was clear, that as headsets improve, there will be a need to go above 8K – and on that note it just so happens that the Ultra HD Alliance rolled out some new guidelines at the show outlining a strategy (see another separate story in this issue).