Communications, computing
and content research

Visualise

Radically enhancing the spectator experience at public events

The Problem

Spectators at large-scale live events tend to have a poor experience, often due to their location because they can't see all of the action from their viewpoint, and the lack of information and personalised content.  Large-scale public media-centric events are now common-place for example, the World Rally Championship, Formula One, the Olympic Games, Glastonbury and the British Open. Typically such events deploy a huge infrastructure of production and transmission equipment with many fixed and portable cameras. Most of the content is never made available to local spectators except through a single feed of edited output to portable TVs or large screen displays.

The objective of VISUALISE is to provide an enhanced experience for spectators at events through local area access to a rich range of media via hand-held devices. This will include action taking place out of sight, archive material and real-times statistics. For example, spectators at the World Rally Championship would be able to experience all the key events even when these occurred many hundreds of miles away. They are also able to follow a team or an individual's performance (using live timing, live GPS tracking and live video at selected locations).

The Goals  

  • To develop video compression and streaming techniques that work effectively with low coast wireless broadband networks.
  • To integrate fixed (service park and trackside) and mobile (in-car) cameras into a live-viewing infrastructure.
  • To develop enhanced spectator interactive using standard mobile terminals (i.e. mobile phones and PDAs).
  • To integrate live timing and GPS data in a seamless Visualise interface.
  • To analyse live timing and enhance the performance of current (WiFi and HSPA) and emerging (WiMAX and LTE) wireless techniques.
  • To allow rapid planning and deployment of networks through the exploitation if advanced propagation modelling tools.
  • To provide content management, distribution and integration with the existing broadcast infrastructure.
  • To develop a demonstrator, hosted by ISC (International Sportsworld Communicators) at the UK stages of the 2006 and 2007 World Rally Championship.
  • To investigate business cases and charging models.

 

The First Trial

VISUALISE provided wireless hotspot coverage in the hospitality area at Walter’s Arena in the Rheola 2 stage on Friday 1 December 2006.  This enabled spectators using wireless handheld devices to access the service comprising live local video feeds, remote feeds from the Swansea Service Area, WRC statistics and results service, archive material, together with Team, Driver and Stage information.  This has never been done before and was successfully completed and acknowledged by guests as achieving its goals.  Multicast coverage was successfully achieved within the hospitality tent at Walter’s Arena with a range up to 40m with limited drop-out

The trial also included a measurement exercise which formally evaluated the performance of the network and explored range extension potential through the use of enhanced and directional antennas. Data logging was also conducted to enable comparison of error performance with predictions for a range of network parameter configurations.

The Second Trial 

Visualise returned to the World Rally Championship (WRC) Wales Rally GB in November 2007 for the second trial.  The trial was successful and the team were able to transmit live streaming of multi channel video over WiFi to spectators at the rally.

Spectators in the hospitality area at the Walters Arena were able to watch and select a choice of video channels showing the action at different parts of the rally course, using WiFi enabled PDAs and mobile phones.

Two video cameras were located around the rally track, remotely from the stadium, and another was positioned inside one of the rally cars. The video feeds allowed spectators at the venue to have personal access via the hand-held terminals to a choice of real-time audio and video streams across the stages from both the trackside and the in-car cameras, providing a greatly enhanced spectator experience. 

The video channels were also displayed in split-screen format on a large outdoor display and on plasma screens in the hospitality area. Normally at such events there is only a single feed of edited output relayed to portable TVs or large screen displays.

The Achievements

The Visualise team has developed:

  • A complete hardware/software system to deliver the Visualise experience.
  • A wireless module to track and store the location of all drivers in the WRC.
  • A low-cost mobile camera acquisition system using long-range WiFi links to stream IP-TV content directly to mobile terminals and the Internet.
  • An in-car audio-video system to stream live content to spectators.
  • A rugged H.264 AVC encoder to compress, packetise and serve live IP video streams at 256 kb/s.
  • A Windows Mobile interactive GUI with integrated multi-channel video.
  • Dynamic selection of live video streams based on user preferences (i.e. follow a specific driver or watch content from a particular location).
  • An advanced computer network that operates anywhere on the planet by combining satellite access to the Internet (BGAN) with local WiFi, cellular and WiMAX communications.
  • GPS tracking and interactive map displays.
  • World-leading simulation models of multiple-antenna enhanced WiFi and WiMAX communication systems.
  • Novel video compression algorithms to reduce data rates and enhance tolerance to dropped packets.

A variety of exploitation routes are being investigated.

 

At the Wales Rally

At Gloucestershire County Cricket Club

Technology Strategy Board's video featuring Visualise


Watch the video

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© 3C Research Ltd, 2009