Intel demos 8K HDR streaming from the Tokyo Olympics


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The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, is full of firsts—first Olympics with virtually no fans in the stands, first time the year on all the signage does not match the year it’s actually taking place, first mixed-gender competition (4×400 relay), first transgender Olympian (women’s weightlifting), first Olympics in which the top-ranked contender (Simone Biles) dropped out of all but one event in her field.

Intel demonstrated something of even more interest to TechHive readers, at locations in Los Angeles, CA, Portland, OR, Brazil, and elsewhere: The first time that 8K/60 fps HDR video of Olympic events was live-streamed from Japan over the public internet. This amazing feat was accomplished using Intel technology from end to end.

intel 8k hdr demo infographic Intel

This infographic details the entire end-to-end process of streaming 8K/60 HDR content on the public internet.

Japanese broadcaster NHK captured footage of various events in 8K (7680×4320) at 60 fps and 10-bit HLG high dynamic range with 4:2:2 chroma subsampling using Sony F65 CineAlta cameras. That raw data, which requires a bandwidth of 48Gbps (!), was then sent via fiber optics to the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), where it was converted to a 4x12G SDI electrical signal.

Next, the signal was encoded and compressed using the Spin Digital Enc Live V1.0 HEVC codec on a server with four Intel Xeon 8380H scalable CPUs and a total of 112 cores running the Ubuntu/Linux operating system. Other hardware included 384GB of RAM and 480GB of Optane 900P SSDs. The HEVC output from the system included a contribution signal at 250 Mbps and a distribution signal at 50 to 100 Mbps, both with 4:2:0 subsampling. Perhaps most impressive, the encoding and compression was performed in nearly real time with a latency of only 250 to 400 milliseconds!

The distribution signal was then uploaded to an open cloud service. Intel wouldn’t identify which one it used, but it could be any such service, such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. The stream can utilize two protocols: HLS (HTTP Live Stream), which packetizes the data and uses a variable bitrate, or RTP (Real Time Protocol), which sends the data without packetization at a fixed bitrate.

intel 8k hdr demo stands Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Each person and seat in this long shot were perfectly clear in 8K. The shadow detail in the upper stands was impressive, and the recap footage in the inset window looked much better than it does in this photo.

I attended the demo in Los Angeles. It was set up in a conference room at the Skirball Cultural Center, which has fiber-based gigabit internet access. The stream was picked up by a gigabit ethernet router that passed it to a Windows 10 PC via Wi-Fi 6E. That computer included one Xeon W-2295 CPU with 18 cores as well as 64GB of RAM and a 1TB Intel SSD. Spin Digital Player V2.2.2 decoded the video in real time, which was then sent to a 75-inch 8K TV via HDMI 2.1 from an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. Here again, Intel would not reveal the make and model of the TV. All told, the latency from encoding in Japan to display in Los Angeles was said to be 2.5 to 4 seconds.

The image on the TV included two windows in the lower right corner with stats about CPU usage, Wi-Fi bitrate, etc. Decoding the HEVC bitstream occupied about 42 percent of the CPU’s bandwidth, while rendering the video out consumed about 32 percent of the GPU’s capabilities. Wi-Fi bitrate varied between about 20 and 100 Mbps because they were using the HLS protocol, which sends packets in bursts. I was told that, for some reason, the RTL protocol didn’t work at Skirball, though it did at Intel’s Portland, OR, facility.

When I was there, it was super-early in the morning in Tokyo, so they were streaming pre-recorded events, including swimming, sprinting, basketball, and skateboarding. As you might imagine, the image was amazingly sharp with loads of detail; I could even read the names on ID badges in medium shots! In longer shots of the stadium, the seats were much more clearly discernable than they would be at lower resolutions, and drops of water that splashed about during the men’s 50m freestyle were razor sharp.

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