MediaMonks Uses AWS to Deliver 4K VR to NBA Fans

(Image credit: AWS)


SEATTLE—In a recent partnership with the NBA to offer live VR feeds from basketball games this season, MediaMonks was able to move VR production beyond 1080p into a more realistic experience in 4K 60fps by working with AWS. 

Scheduled for ten games this season, the 4K 60fps VR broadcasts are available via Oculus Venues, a free app for Oculus headset owners, that mirrors the in-person experience while interacting with others in the virtual space.

Lewis Smithingham, MediaMonks’ director of creative solutions noted that “the NBA has always been ahead of the game in delivering innovative experiences for fans, including VR broadcasts, but what makes this project unique is that we’ve upped the ante with 4K 60fps to make it feel even more authentic. [It is] like you’re interacting and talking with your neighbor as you would in the real world. It’s at 4K 60fps that VR gets interesting, and you can enjoy it for a longer time.”

To make that happen, the core of MediaMonks pipeline for the project used 46 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) GPU-based G4 instances, along with other camera and encoding technology that allow its team to achieve 4K UHD 60fps. 

Amazon CloudFront delivers the broadcast directly to the Oculus headset, while AWS Direct Connect helps ensure that the signal does not traverse the open internet and prevents fluctuation, protecting the stream quality and preventing dropped frames, the companies reported. 

As MediaMonks has moved more of its workflow into the cloud with AWS, it’s eliminated physical and geographical barriers to innovation, opening new doors to create experiences like those developed for the NBA. 

“With the cloud, we can enlist the best creative directors, pipeline designers, and graphics teams from around the world and bring their skills together under one virtual roof to make creative progress together,” said Smithingham. “At the same time, we’re able to expand mind share on projects by bringing in a larger team than we would on-location due to travel expenses and other costs. AWS solves two of our major challenges in that we’re a distributed team, and require a high level of redundancy for live broadcasts. In any live production, things can go wrong, and you need to have the ability to scale and drop in redundancies at will, which is what AWS provides us.”

MediaMonks has also found that its broader adoption of cloud-based technology is helping reduce its carbon footprint, and recently signed the Amazon Climate Pledge. “The cloud virtualizes racks of hardware that would have been transported on production trucks and keeps air travel to a minimum,” he said. “Instead of flying in a 20-person crew from around the world to an event venue with haul gear, we can send a lean team on-site with a portable flypack; we turn on the servers, connect, and we’re working with virtually no limitations to innovation. The cloud is fundamentally reshaping production as we know it; for broadcasters, it’s like making the leap from horse-drawn carriages to rocket ships.”

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.