ESPN Goes Live with VR at X Games

Organizers of ESPN's X Games Minneapolis 2017 delivered live virtual reality streams of three X Games disciplines in addition to the standard ESPN broadcast.
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Organizers of ESPN's X Games Minneapolis 2017, which took place in July, delivered live virtual reality streams of three X Games disciplines in addition to the standard ESPN broadcast. The events Skateboard Vert, BMX Street and Skateboard Street Amateurs were aired, live and exclusively, to 48 countries on Samsung Gear VR via the Samsung VR app in collaboration with Samsung Electronics and Digital Domain.

Sam Reisner, staff software engineer with the ESPN Advanced Technology Group, explains that Digital Domain captured the VR content with six 360° cameras. The 360° cameras "were worked into a standard UHD 4K switcher, allowing their engineers to switch the cameras and cut and/or dissolve the angles, as well as key in graphics and position 2D graphics in the sphere." The bars across the top of the VR screen with timing, scoring and standings were created in-house.

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The six cameras that shot the VR broadcast are a proprietary technology created by Digital Domain

"Then Digital Domain took all of the feeds and stitched them together, live, and switched them to a 4K HD signal that represented the whole 360° view that mapped out into a rectangle," Reisner continues. "That allowed the producer to present the live VR video like any HD video in terms of transport, recording, streaming and switching. A few years ago that was something that you couldn't do live, but now they can."

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