Powering Amazing Virtual Reality Video Experiences

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen an evolution in visual computing enabled by cloud-based computing. This evolution is bringing forth the next wave, what we term the visual cloud. The first wave was characterized by the emergence of VoD, user-generated video content, and multiplayer online games. This second wave will be characterized by virtual reality; augmented reality; 3D scene understanding; and interactive, immersive live experiences. There is a growing interest in immersive virtual reality and 360-degree video experiences. In the ever-evolving live-streaming landscape, these innovations are gaining mainstream attention—powering virtual attendance at events such as live sports and concerts—as they are enabled by high-resolution delivery.

In fact, high-definition video is a key part of making immersive experiences so engaging. 4K video (also referred to as Ultra HD or UHD) is a hot topic with new cameras, screens, supporting technologies, and experiences entering the marketplace. Despite being one of the hottest consumer electronics trends, there isn’t much content bolstering 4K yet. Immersive experiences call for 4K that drives new 4K challenges, innovations, and adoption.

As more devices come with 4K screens, viewers will increasingly be able to perceive whether they are watching high-resolution video. But there are several challenges to reaching them with immersive 4K content, especially for live events. The first is having a fully enabled 4K video workflow to handle four times as many pixels as 1080p video, plus additional data to meet Ultra HD Premium certification, which greatly increases contrast, brightness, color, and audio standards.

Another big hurdle is the delivery of content to viewers. Streaming 4K content requires a lot of bandwidth, with sites such as YouTube generating 4K streams that use the H.264 video codec with bitrates of about 20 Mbps. Also, not all consumers have access to high-bandwidth Internet, and they are using myriad devices. The ability to transcode content on the fly—and reach any viewer regardless of their device or bandwidth—requires enormous amounts of computing power.

Fortunately, Intel is working to remove these impediments by reducing the server footprint needed to process video for delivery and by reducing the bandwidth required to stream it—all while maintaining or improving the viewer experience. The new Intel® Xeon® processor E3-1500 v5 product family features Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics built into the CPU. Intel® Quick Sync Video is another key component, providing hardware-accelerated video decoding and encoding for software to leverage. Used together with a software development tool suite that helps companies like Wowza Media Systems achieve high-performing and efficient media solutions and applications, they can deliver fast, high-density video transcoding and streaming, along with cool video experiences.

Other developments in the visual cloud industry make it easier for consumers to access high-quality immersive content. The video codec known as H.265 or HEVC can reduce a video’s file size by up to 50 percent while maintaining the same quality. The Intel Xeon processor E3-1500 v5 family natively supports hardware-accelerated HEVC transcoding, which makes it even more cost-effective to reach almost any screen with a live-streaming experience best suited to each viewer. (Other formats such as AVC and MPEG-2 are also supported.)

For a behind-the-scenes view of this technology in action, check out how Intel, Wowza, and Rivet VR are powering immersive VR experiences at the legendary Blue Note jazz club in New York City. Watch the video. Or see how fast video replays replays are transforming sports refereeing. Read more.

See how you can deliver amazing video experiences too:

  • Discover Intel hardware and software building blocks that enable delivery of visual content via the cloud at intel.com/visualcloud.
  • Media software developers can try the free Intel Media Server Studio Community Edition at makebettercode/mediaserverstudio.

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see Intel’s Optimization Notice.

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