tennisFocal 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.

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Focal Point VR partnered with Webcast Sport and Streaming Tank to deliver this VR stream.

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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.