COVID-19 has severely limited this year’s calendar of live events so far, but things are beginning to change as we enter the second half of 2020. With some sporting events already taking place behind closed doors and audiences restricted to watching the action on screens, could 360° content offer broadcasters, sports leagues and rights owners with a unique way to engage and connect with fans, and enable immersive and highly personalised viewing experiences?
Join MediaKind, Tiledmedia and Focal Point VR on Wednesday June 17 for an exciting deep-dive discussion around live 360-degree content, exploring how it can transform the way viewers experience live events in ‘The New Normal’. Discover how 360° video can be captured, produced, streamed and delivered to enable best-in-market quality for live VR streaming to existing headsets and mobile devices, at the lowest possible bitrates.
A panel of Christopher Wilson, Market Development, Sports, MediaKind; Rob Koenen, Founder & CBO, Tiledmedia; Jonathan Newth, CEO, Focal Point VR; and moderator Chris Pfaff, Founder and CEO, Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC, will discuss real-life applications of this technology across live sports, theatre productions, music events, concerts and more.
Register now to learn more about 360° technology and how it enables:
New interactive consumer experiences through simple, cost effective and scalable 360°-as-a-Service deployments
Service providers to connect with audiences and enable impactful, immersive experiences that cut close to ‘being there’
Focal Point VR Ltd are delighted to report the successful conclusion of the trial phase for the ‘Virtual Veronese’ project in conjunction with the National Gallery and Royal Holloway, University of London. Virtual Veronese is ‘a first of its kind’ R&D prototype created in collaboration with StoryFutures, based at Royal Holloway, University of London. The experience was produced as part of the £80 million Creative Industries Clusters Programme, which is funded by the Industrial Strategy and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Many of the National Gallery’s paintings would have originally hung in spaces that are very different to the gallery setting they are in today. Paolo Veronese’s ‘The Consecration of Saint Nicholas’ was commissioned in 1561 as an altarpiece to hang in the church of San Benedetto al Po, near Mantua, Italy. During the recent two-week trial, visitors to the National Gallery were able to experience the history of this Renaissance masterpiece in a completely new way. Through the prototype, visitors experienced new forms of immersive storytelling to understand what this painting would have meant in 16th century Italy. With the inquisition at the height of its powers, a Catholic Church anxious about growing Lutheran influence, the public heard how the simple commissioning of a painting was a powerful act of loyalty to Rome. As a guide to this experience you could choose either Veronese’s patron and Abbot of San Benedetto al Po, Andrea Asola (played by a modern actor); or, The Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Christianity at the National Gallery, Dr Rebecca Gill.
Focal Point VR designed and built a custom Stereoscopic AR video capture rig specifically for the project. Filming covered Dr Gill and also the actors playing the renaissance monks. Working with scriptwriter Catherine Skinner, Focal Point VR produced Augmented Reality versions of the experience for the Magic Leap and Mira headsets. These allowed the public to see the real painting set in the recreation of the 1562 chapel and to watch the stories unfold with real video located in the scene. A further trial was run with Oculus Quest headsets to give comparative research in Virtual Reality.
Focal Point VR developed the entire application and worked closely with teams at the National Gallery and StoryFutures to ensure the smooth, public operation of AR & VR headsets.
Ian Baverstock, Chairman of Focal Point VR said “The opportunity to tell the story of this amazing painting was a great challenge. We wanted visitors to understand the political and religious significance of the art but in a short, intense experience. Most of all, we really wanted the viewer to directly connect the painting on the gallery wall in front of them with the dramatic developments in European history that it symbolises from 400 years and 2000 miles away. Using AR or VR based on the painting is a great way to make that connection“.
Lawrence Chiles, Head of Digital Services at the National Gallery said “We’re thrilled to bring this exciting research project to fruition, which helps achieve our ambitions for innovation at the Gallery. It will help us understand how our visitors respond to new technologies and enable us to tell the stories behind our art in new and compelling ways”.
Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryFutures, said “We hope this gives visitors to the National Gallery a real feeling for the magic and transformative nature of what immersive storytelling can do. This is research that tests out the potential for immersive storytelling to engage audiences in new ways and showcases the brilliance of companies in our creative cluster like Focal Point VR”. Will Saunders, Executive Producer said, “we hope audiences will love this experience and that StoryFutures’ work can help organisations like the National Gallery adopt cutting edge technology and innovation in story form to help the UK become a world leader”.
Initial responses from its audience testing in the gallery are overwhelmingly positive. One art and history teacher stated… “It brought the era of the painting to life, I’d love to use this with my students”. Another gallery visitor said, “I really felt I was in the church with the monks”.
‘Virtual Veronese’ was live in the National Gallery from 23rd July through to 5th August 2019.
Focal Point VR part of winning Audience of the Future Consortium
Focal Point VR is delighted to announce that it is a member of the WEAVR consortium which has won one of 4 large UK Research and Innovation funded Audience of the Future demonstrator competitions.
What is WEAVR?
WEAVR is a new non-linear social viewing platform designed for live events. WEAVR uses real time data to drive storytelling, weaving together disparate data sources with deep AI and using immersive technologies to create a multi-layered, hyper personalized, interactive viewing experience.
Audience of the Future
Imagine being inside the world of your favourite stage performance or watching your favourite athletes every move with enhanced stats for the entire match, or immersed with others, solving a detective narrative involving dinosaurs and robots in a national museum or shopping centre.
This will become a reality for UK audiences from 2019 as globally renowned IP, storytellers and technology companies come together to demonstrate cutting edge immersive experiences thanks to funding through the government’s industrial strategy.
The awards will be made across the areas of Sports Entertainment, Visitor Experience and Performance. The demonstrators will be tested at scale with 100,000 users to evidence the business models behind them.
WEAVR Consortium wins Sports Entertainment Demonstrator
Esports – video games that are played competitively and watched by massive audiences – has the fastest growing global audience for live sports. In 2017 over 388 million people worldwide watched esports, and the number of esports fans is projected to grow a further 50% by 2020.
Our consortium will produce a new platform called WEAVR that leverages the data-rich environment of esports to transform the way esports – and further down the line physical sports – are experienced through cross reality technologies by remote audiences.
The WEAVR consortium includes ESL UK, REWIND, Cybula, Dock 10 and the University of York as well as Focal Point VR. The team includes leading academics and innovators across immersive technologies, data-driven content production and broadcast. WEAVR will transform the experiences of millions of esports fans, generate new audiences and open up new revenue streams for the broadcast entertainment industry.
Being part of the winning WEAVR consortium represents a huge vote of confidence in the technology and strategic direction that Focal Point VR have pursued.
We will be looking for new investment and new partnerships as we take our 8K+ 360 live streaming technology and products deeper into esports and physical sports future broadcasting.
Focal Point VR will also be hiring additional engineers to augment the existing team as we take on the additional workload of the WEAVR integrations and demonstrations.
The official WEAVR Launch Press Release can be found here.
12th September 2018. Guildford, Surrey, UK.Focal Point VR will attend IBC to show its professional broadcast quality virtual reality (VR) 360° live-streaming platform capable of being deployed anywhere in the field.
Focal Point VR has developed an ultra high quality high resolution 360 and VR live stream platform capable of delivering VR video streams up to 8K. However until now high bandwidth 4K+ VR streams required a fixed line broadband connection to deliver. In partnership with Livewire Digital, Focal Point VR will demonstrate an end to end, go-anywhere solution pairing Focal Point VR’s Camera and Stream Processors with RazorLink® Smart Networking technology embodied in the Livewire Digital SilverBlade II.
Jonathan Newth, Focal Point VR’s CEO, said “The ability of VR Video to ‘teleport’ the media consumer to another place live represents an entirely new paradigm for video. We are really excited to be working with Livewire Digital to enable live VR video streams from virtually anywhere.”
Commenting on the partnership with Focal Point VR, Tristan Wood, Managing Director, Livewire Digital, said, “Immersive video is an exciting and growing market which requires the fast, reliable communications that RazorLink Smart Networking can deliver.”
Come and visit us on the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Pavilion in Hall 5, Stand B48c at the RAI – Amsterdam, Netherlands 14th September – 18th September 2018
If you can not attend IBC we will be live streaming from the stand to 360 social media during the show. Visit our show YouTube channel or our Facebook page during show hours and join us wherever you are.
Focal Point VR PR
T: +44 7771 558545
About Focal Point VR
Focal Point VR is a 360 and VR video production and technology company. We are dedicated to creating the technology necessary to realise the dream of people being able to put on a VR headset and be ‘teleported’ to another place, live. Focal Point VR has developed a range of 360 cameras and live stitch products based on its proprietary Ubiety ultra-high resolution software platform. We provide clients with hardware and software solutions to deliver professional broadcast quality VR video live streams; we also have a full service production team which can handle end-to-end VR video production, post or live.
Livewire Digital design Software Defined Networking (SDN) solutions that provide reliable, optimised communications links that operate over cellular, terrestrial and satellite services. Combining networking knowledge with expertise in broadcast video, electronics and mechanical engineering, Livewire Digital offer leading edge products and bespoke systems to a broad range of markets and organisations.
Focal Point VR are delighted to announce that we are now selling our own camera rigs and stream processors. We recognise there is a strong demand for very high quality 360 camera rigs which include live headset preview mode or live streaming. Over the last 2 years we’ve been increasingly assembling our own rigs and processors for the live streaming projects we’ve been commissioned to film. We’re now making the results of that development available to everyone.
The first 2 systems we’re putting on sale are aimed at the 6K resolution market. We’ve got a dedicated 3 camera rig – the FP-6K – and a matched live stream processor – the FP-A6 on sale. We’ll be publicly showing these systems at AR & VR World at Excel in London this week. During their debut month, both systems will have a 10% introductory discount. We’re also offering 2 day hire of the systems with the hire costs refundable against subsequent purchase.
Focal Point VR’s live production stream processors are based around our proprietary Ubiety software platform. Ubiety has been designed to meet the demands of the highest quality 360 and VR live streaming environments. Amongst other things this feature rich platform includes support for low latency ultra high resolution 360 streaming using NDI and exceptionally fine control over stitching using our StitchPaint technology.
We’ll continue to expand the range with new products in the pipeline aimed at 8K filming and streaming due to be announced shortly.
Focal Point VR is launching its 360° Virtual Reality live stream software platform – Ubiety – at BVE 2017 on Feb 28th-March 2nd.
Virtual Reality offers an entirely new way of experiencing the real world. With streamed VR video, this emerging technology can give people the chance to be in the best seat in the house for every future real-world event. Focal Point VR is creating the technology necessary to realise the dream of people being able to put on a VR headset and then be ‘teleported’ to another place, live.
Focal Point VR is showcasing Ubiety at BVE 2017 ExCel London on stand Q54, Hall S1-8.
Attendees of BVE 2017 will have the opportunity to experience VR ‘teleportation’ courtesy of Focal Point VRs Ubiety technology. Discover an entirely new way of experiencing real world live events through streamed VR video, for a demonstration come and visit us on stand Q54.
The Ubiety software platform supports everything from delivering an HD 360° stream to YouTube through to multi viewpoint 360° and stereo VR ultra high resolution (6k and beyond) event coverage delivered to customisable VR apps and html5 players. www.ubiety.tech
The Ubiety Platform is comprised of two main components; the Ubiety Stream Processor, which connects to the VR cameras and processes the video into a VR stream; and the Ubiety VR Player which runs on the viewer’s VR device. Ubiety can be configured to stream over a client CDN or can be setup with a managed CDN providing a complete turnkey camera to headset solution.
About Focal Point VR
Focal Point VR is dedicated to creating the technology necessary to realise the dream of people being able to put on a VR headset and then be ‘teleported’ to another place, live. Ubiety is the first stage in a roadmap building to a fully depth-enhanced, live, ultra-high resolution VR video streaming platform which will deliver true ‘presence’.
Focal Point VR demonstrates the power of the VR experience with a live production from the IMG Champions Tennis
Best viewed live and in high definition, sport has long been considered immune from many of the pressures facing linear TV. However, young people are switching off from TV sport as part of a drop in average audiences of nearly a tenth in six years, analysts have claimed.
Recent research by Ampere Analysis found that 18 to 24-year-olds, the younger end of the so-called ‘millennial’ age group, were 17% less likely to identify sport as their favourite form of programming than the general population.
At the same time viewing figures for TV sport are down on both sides of the Atlantic. It has been widely reported in the US that broadcast audiences for NFL matches have dropped across all major networks while UK sports channels, including Sky Sports, BT Sport and Eurosport reveals 2016 average weekly viewing is down by 9% compared to 2010
The data should ring alarm bells for pay-TV operators that rely on sport as the main draw for subscribers.
Ampere suggested that the rise of online streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube, as well as social media, was providing stronger competition for young people’s attention.
This should come as no surprise. As a demographic, millennials have become accustomed to being more in control over how and when they consume TV content and, as a result, streaming services have grown in popularity with this audience more than any other.
“With an ageing fan base, broadcasters must get their eyes back on the ball if they are to retain – and grow – this highly desirable audience,” says the analyst.
There is a way in which sports rights holders and live event content owners can innovate a way out of the impasse.
Streaming an event live in 360° to smartphone apps and virtual reality headsets offers a fundamentally different experience and what’s more, one that puts the viewer in control.
“VR video offers a genuine alternative way of consuming video,” says Ian Baverstock, Co-Founder, Focal Point VR. “It is different from conventional video recording in the way people perceive it. You lose some advantages of editing and action replay and the ability to zoom in and out of a picture. In effect, you lose the directed experience. But what you get in return is a feeling of authenticity and presence which is of tremendous appeal to a cynical youth audience who don’t value content served when someone else is in control.”
Instead of being mediated through someone else’s perspective, VR is about being live and present at the event.
“It’s about having the freedom to look around and see what is really going on,” says Baverstock. “Offering consumers, and especially millennials, the chance to be part of something live yet under their own control is extremely valuable.”
To help prove the point, this week’s matches from the IMG Champions Tennis, including the final on Sunday December 4, are being live streamed in 360-degrees to a specially created app available to a select audience of broadcasters, sponsors and technologists.
The season ending finale of the ATP Champions Tour features some of the greatest players ever including John McEnroe and Pat Rafter competing indoors in front of a packed house in the awe-inspiring Royal Albert Hall.
Viewers will be able to switch between multiple streams for different perspectives on the live action much as they would access a Red Button on TV but all without leaving the VR stream.
“We are not editorialising in any way,” explains Paul James, Co-Founder and Head of Production. “This is a viewer-based experience where they are the editor. The viewer makes the decision about when and where they want to watch. Our role is to make sure that when consumers do come to VR for the first time they experience such a ‘Wow’ that they will want to return for more.”
The event is also a prime opportunity to experiment with various aspects of what is still an emerging technology. Three different rigs will be arrayed around the court ranging from a stereo pair for 3D capture, a GoPro mounted rig for output to YouTube and a high-end system comprising three Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K outputting dual streams of 4K and 6K.
Signals from the latter configuration will be fed into Focal Point VR’s own encoding, stitching and packing solution and delivered [by content delivery network/over the internet] to the app and also to an embeddable HTML5 player.
Longer term, the ability to share the experience with friends and family will be essential to the success of live VR. Developments by companies including Facebook are already working to crack the issue by introducing avatars and voice into the live feed.
“Ultimately you want to be able to share the experience of attending an event virtually with a member of your family who may live many miles away. While this capability is unlikely to be available in the first commercial launches of VR, the technology will soon offer the chance for both of you to teleport to the same experience. A step even beyond that is to enhance the ability to move around within and interact with the VR world, for example by being able to point rather than just look. Our technology allows broadcasters to engage with consumers on a completely new level.”
Focal Point VR successfully completed the live streaming of the Champions Tennis from the Royal Albert Hall. The project included several firsts for UK sport broadcasting as well as for Focal Point VR.
The live stream featured multiple cameras, each streaming in multiple formats simultaneously to both a proprietary Focal Point VR app over a Content Delivery Network and to YouTube. The combination of Black Magic based VR rigs and Focal Point VR’s optimisation technology allowedviewers to experience the event in 6k UHD.
A VR video (so headset highly recommended) of highlights of the match between Ferreira vs McEnroe can be viewed here:
The playback was available on headsets, an HTML5 microsite and via YouTube. Using Focal Point VR’s custom app for Android offered the highest quality stream as well as real time, gaze control enacted, viewer camera selection between the different cameras. There was also viewer selectable resolution/bitrate to allow for bandwidth variation amongst different users.
Paul James, Focal Point’s Head of Production, said “Working with IMG and the Royal Albert Hall teams to live stream the Champions Tennis was a great opportunity to explore the impact of VR cinematography and production techniques for streaming. It’s an intrinsically different set of problems to normal 2D television production and the team responded fantastically as new insights were learnt at the event.”
Three cameras separately streaming live, in multiple formats and to multiple destinations was also a new area for Streaming Tank and Webcast Sport, our broadcast partners on this project. The dramatically different implications of the medium for live events are starting to become clear.
The Net Camera was surprisingly compact and offered a new experience to viewers.
The Corner Camera (which affectionately became known as the Ball Girl camera) lived up to the dream of really giving the viewer a strong sense of ‘presence’. With over 180º of action delivered using the Focal Point VR proprietary stereo streaming rig.
Finally the Baseline camera, in a more traditional TV camera position provided a less immersive experience compared to the Net and Corner cameras.
In conclusion, the ability to position VR cameras in less traditional places significantly increases the feeling of involvement for the viewers.
For each camera, the lack of cameraman and need to move the camera, its compact size and remote operation opened up new possibilities over traditional broadcast. Once the cameras were in place, the lack of need for an on site production and direction team also surprised many people and really brought home to everyone involved the user directed viewing that was being offered. VR video really is moving to a more authentic viewing experience with viewers more directly involved in the action. The entire projected reiterated the need to share best practice around VR video production. The Royal Albert Hall team, in particular, were great partners as they rapidly adapted their usual processes to accommodate the new medium.
Focal Point VR partnered with Webcast Sport and Streaming Tank to deliver this VR stream.
The Champions Tennis tournament organised by IMG is the season ending finale to the ATP Champions Tour. Former Grand Slam Champions, World No.1’s and national icons compete in one of London’s most famous and iconic venues.