Last week, I (along with over 103,000 fellow digital media enthusiasts) had the pleasure of attending NAB Show in Las Vegas. Primarily a show focused on the latest and greatest advancements in the traditional video production and broadcast space, this year’s show featured a sizable area dedicated to the 360 Video and Virtual Reality industry that Subvrsive calls home. It was great to see a host of familiar faces and get a taste of what’s to come. Here are a few of the trends I noticed as I walked the show floor.
HEVC (H.265) Encoding
One of this year’s biggest trends is that more and more products are beginning to feature and support HEVC encoding, which is fantastic news for the 360 Video industry. In a nutshell, HEVC encoding is a new type of video compression that provides double the quality for the file size compared to the previous standard. This means that people will be able to stream a 4K 360 video using the same amount of data as a 2K stream would have taken under the old format. For 360 live streams, we’ll now be able to provide stunning 4K quality at half the internet speeds or double the quality at the same speeds. This is also great for playback on devices like Samsung GearVR, as files will be half the size, making them easier to download and store on devices.
To say that 360 Cameras have come a long way since last year’s show would be an understatement. This year’s show floor was packed with new cameras featuring advanced functionality and superior image quality compared to cameras already on the market. Z Cam and Kandao VR were two of my favorites and took the cake in terms of stereo camera quality, with the new Google Jump camera not far behind.
Network Production Solutions
Another trend that generated a lot of buzz is the ability to do live 360 video production over a network, rather than over analog connections. The days of sending analog video signals over copper cables to broadcast trucks parked outside of event stadiums could very well be coming to an end. Instead, it may soon be standard practice to send 4K video to offsite production studios over fiber network cables.
There was a lot of talk this year about next-generation optical flow stitching, which many see as the future of 360 Video stitching, especially for stereoscopic content. Basically, optical flow stitching solutions – some of which are cloud solutions and some of which run directly on PCs – are computational engines that stitch 360 Video automatically, saving countless hours of post-production manual work. At this stage in the game, most of these solutions have issues that need to be worked out, but I expect that this will happen soon and that optical flow stitching will be standard practice before we know it.
All in all, this year’s NAB Show was a great event that showcased a lot of exciting advancements already at use in the 360 Video and VR industry, as well as a lot of great stuff to come.