What is in this article?:
- Second-screen systems and social media integration
- Sports — your way
- A new wave of applications
Sports — your way
Live sports provide a good example of how this technology is being used and the opportunities it can afford. For every sporting event covered, broadcasters are capturing hours of premium content that currently goes unused. For example, in a soccer game with up to 18 cameras recording 90 minutes of content, for every 90 minutes of viewed content, another 26.5 hours of content ends up “on the cutting room floor.” In other words, 90 percent of captured sports content is never aired.
Clips or highlights created during live productions and stored on servers can be made available instantly to Web app subscribers. The process begins with the processing and transfer of synchronized live multicamera media recorded on production servers. All metadata associated with event footage are used as keywords enabling easy content retrieval. Third-party stats are integrated into the database and associated to video clips and highlights, which are made available to the user in near real time. A second-screen timeline of events being produced is created, into which external elements such as ads, stats or surveys can be inserted. This enables a high degree of interactivity and facilitating cause-and-effect programming. Content providers can add value to media by creating context from live events through multi-angle replays at various speeds, on-the-fly edits, and the insertion of graphics and statistics.
The aim of the workflow is to enrich the viewer’s experience during live sports broadcasts. To this end, we need to guarantee the delivery of the events and the associated content in a timely manner. The whole process needs to happen in a short amount of time (e.g. less than 120 seconds), starting from the moment at which the action occurred at the venue.
For example, here are the main actions that need to be achieved in less than 2 minutes:
- Clip the action at the venue;
- Transfer clip (including multiple angles and metadata) from the venue server to a central database;
- API ingest for third-party items (graphics, statistics) and Web application;
- On-the-fly video transcoding into required format;
- Distribute the timeline, content and metadata to connected devices.
The above-stated constraints, minimizing extra resources at the venue and the timely delivery of the content, lead us to move the transcoding service located in the data center. The external transcoding service needs to provide multiple bit rates for each video so that the player client can dynamically adjust the chosen video stream as a function of the available bandwidth. Video formats vary as a function of the video capabilities of the smart devices.
A publishing layer communicates with one or multiple standard CDN services to deliver the content to viewers. This distribution policy isolates distribution scalability issues from the central facility scaling. The use of HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) to distribute the content is perfectly compatible with major CDN services.
Protecting the rights of the content owner
Rights holders usually want to limit the offering to their subscribers. Aside from the advertising, this is one of the major business models used to monetize the content. One of the services a CDN offers is to geo-block access to the content from viewers who aren’t located in the region where content rights have been cleared. This is a first step, but it isn’t a sufficient measure to prevent access to the content by unauthorized viewers.
The use of the HLS model to distribute the content enables the use of caching services provided by delivery networks. However, this can represent a content security breach to our limited access requirement. Therefore, the platform needs to take control of the cached playlists and video segments, limiting their access to only authorized viewers. To this end, we can rely on the capabilities of HLS to encrypt the video content and to provide the corresponding DRM keys through a separate service only accessible by the transcoding service and the player.
The end-to-end workflow encompasses server technology, an integrated suite of video production management applications, viewer application software and a cloud-based content delivery network. The video production applications cover ingest control, metadata management, on-the-fly editing, playout and scheduling. The process is managed completely through a simple Web interface.