The French Open international tennis tournament, held at Roland Garros through June 7, was one of the first major sporting events to use Microsoft’s IIS7 Live Smooth Streaming technology. It is designed to distribute HD video without the usual streaming issues often experienced on the Internet.
The broadcast was encoded on the Inlet Technologies’ Spinnaker 7000 live streaming platform and distributed to the Web on Level 3 Communications’ Content Delivery Network.
Throughout the tournament, France Télévisions partnered with Microsoft, Inlet and Level 3 to offer free coverage exclusively on france2.fr, france3.fr and france4.fr, in addition to the traditional France 2, France 3 and France 4 TV channels.
It’s the fifth consecutive year that France Télévisions broadcast the full week of tennis from Roland Garros on the Internet using Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. This year’s coverage marked the first time the video streams of the seven simultaneous games used Silverlight technologies and the IIS7 Live Smooth Streaming technology for HDTV.
Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming technology, still in beta, is a media delivery method that improves the quality of distribution and is designed to avoid any breaks in the streaming flow by varying the quality in real-time according to factors such as the available bandwidth or the usage rate of the CPU on the client computer.
Inlet’s live streaming Spinnaker 7000 encoders and its Armada on-demand video management system, which supports Smooth Streaming, allows Web users to receive live HD streams and benefit from DVR capabilities (pause, rewind a few hours back, etc.) with no stuttering, buffering or other interruptions to their viewing experience. The HD 720p format corresponds to 720 lines displayed progressively 25 times per second, for a resulting resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels.
Smooth Streaming uses the standard downloading of HTTP files for connection to video streams, even through firewalls. Video streams can also be cached in existing servers on Level 3’s network to allow a massive diffusion of the service on the Internet. This is all monitored from the Level 3 Broadcast Operations Center.
The Silverlight application is capable of dynamically detecting that CDN Level 3 flows and can switch between them without any breaks. It can also modulate the quality of the flow according to the condition of the client computer.