Edge of Innovation

Video Livestream Tech Making Events More Immersive

Jess Joho Author, Kill Screen
multi-streaming the Moana premiere

Disney’s “Moana” premiere event in Hollywood used multi-streaming video to put fans in control of how they experienced the live event over the internet.

Anyone attending or viewing the “blue” carpet world premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studio’s “Moana” at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre got to see Dwayne Johnson swaying his hips to the island beats drummed on traditional Polynesian Pahus.

Former wrestler turned actor Johnson, who voices Maui in the animated adventure, was one of many stars attending the movie premiere. Fans not at the event tuned into live multi-stream coverage using their computers and smart TVs from the comfort of their homes.

“We’re taking people inside the craziness of the event,” explained Disney’s Derek Prestegard, the Walt Disney video engineer behind the event. “You just can’t get the chaos of the blue carpet in 2D.”

moana multi-stream premiere

Offering fans that kind of access to the premiere event helped make “Moana” a top box office hit. The movie earned more than $82 million in the U.S. in its first five days, according to Disney.

The online multi-stream experience allowed viewers to click, drag, and arrange four different streams to play at once on a single webpage. Live viewers could choose between different camera angles and two video-on-demand (VOD) streams with more information about the film.

“For anyone with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), this is the perfect way to experience live events from many perspectives,” said Rick Hack, who manages media and entertainment partnerships for Intel.

Four simultaneous 1080p video feeds were livestreamed, featuring scenes captured by three HD cameras and one 360-degree camera. The technology gave fans a front row seat, but even better it gave them control of switching to whatever action they found most interesting.

Livestreaming Evolving

Livestreaming technologies have evolved rapidly in recent years. From pioneering platforms like Livestream, Twitch and Facebook Live have opened new possibilities for people to witness live events beyond TV sets.

After Facebook Live launched to the public in April, the potential of livestreaming became immediately apparent when BuzzFeed garnered over 800,000 views on a video of employees trying to explode a watermelon using rubber bands.

This desire to engage viewers with memorable experiences is driving livestreaming to evolve into multi-streaming and the use of 360 video and virtual reality (VR).

Multi-streaming technology “empowers our users to make their own choice about how they consume a live event, as opposed to pre-packaged programming that decides for them,” said Sarah Amos, executive producer of livestreaming at ABC.

“It increases the types of stories we can tell, the casual nature of how we tell them, and the desire of the digital audience for an authentic experience,” she said.

Tech Used in Multi-Streaming the “Moana” Premiere

Considered a large-scale, professional-level production, the setup used to multi-stream the “Moana” premiere fit into a single 500-pound server rack. According to Prestegard, the multi-channel streaming solution could easily be scaled up or down.

“It could be compacted down to a two-use server platform, with a pair of redundant systems running two channels each,” said Prestegard.

multi-streaming hardware

Among the professional-quality equipment used for the “Moana” multi-stream were 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor-powered NUCs.

“These NUCs deliver the captured video streams out to the web or into the cloud,” he said.

About the size of a smartphone, tiny computers were at the event capturing all four live feeds then seamlessly encoding the data in VP9 for later use as video on demand (VOD).

Immersive Video streaming

Digital video innovations are hitting the masses in a variety of ways, especially through coverage of live events like movie premieres, fashion shows and sports. At the recent New York Fashion Show, fashionistas could watch live runway events streamed in VR and powered by Voke, a company recently acquired by Intel. And it’s becoming more common to see 360 degree replays in a variety of sports.

These 360-degree video and VR experiences require high-end cameras, ample computer power and software to stitch all the angles together. They then need to stream over the internet flawlessly.

multi-streaming equipment at the Moana premiere

“Livestreaming, to a degree, is only as good as the tech and method in which you’re delivering the feed,” said Amos, describing the challenges for integrating immersive experiences into multi-streaming.

While E! jockeyed their bulky TV cameras to capture stars moving around the blue carpet at the “Moana” premiere event, a mounted 360-degree camera delivering each moment to viewers at home. That 360-degree camera allowed viewers to choose whatever angle they liked best as Johnson made his way to another fan’s selfie and another interview streamed to Facebook Live.

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