Object-Based Broadcasting May Soon Be Near Reality (Finally!)

Alyssa Purrier
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 12:48

From wider color gamuts to impeccable resolutions, there have been evolutionary advancements to image quality and consumer electronics. While these have added an exciting element to what is seen on screens, the improvements haven’t changed the way TV is watched. Broadcasters are still restricted to a single 16:9 box frame.

In our hyper-connected world, how do we compete with second screens and engage the tech-savvy viewers of today? Some say the answer lies in object-based broadcasting.

From Traditional to Object-Based Broadcasting

Object-based broadcasting (OBB) is the idea of capturing media and breaking it down into individual objects (i.e. audio, video, communication channels, captioning, etc.) comprised with detailed metadata. When broadcasted, consumer devices (i.e. smart TV, phone, tablet) can then reassemble the information according to their distinct requirements using the accompanied metadata.

Essentially, TV programming could go beyond the constraints of a single stream and change depending on the device, environment and consumer preferences to broadcast more flexible, captivating multi-screen experiences.

However, it’s significantly more complex to execute compared to traditional broadcasting—where media is captured and compiled into a linear segment, displaying the same information across devices (regardless of their individual specs). Though, the upfront labor associated with OBB has the ability to produce significant advantages from the outset.

Benefits of OBB

The elasticity of OBB gives more control to both the viewer and the broadcaster, offering benefits for both parties. Below are just a few examples.

For the Broadcaster

●       Targeted ads

●       Automated soundtrack switching based on geographic licensing restrictions

●       Enhanced storytelling

For the Viewer

●       Enlarged on-screen graphics for individuals with low-vision

●       Swapping to sign language presenters for the hearing impaired

●       Automated “catch-up” videos to update a consumer on their favorite show

Despite these benefits, finding ways to integrate the new tools with current workflows has been a challenge, making progress difficult over the years.

However, recent advancements with consumer electronics, mobile networks and internet protocol (IP) systems have allowed some forms of OBB to be tested in the last few years. In fact, a three year collaborative project known as 2-IMMERSE commenced near the end of 2018 and exhibited promising growth for the industry.

2-IMMERSE

Funded by the European Union, the 2-IMMERSE project created an open-source platform for object-based, multi-screen entertainment to advance the development of customized experiences. It utilizes a containerized, microservices approach that makes the software lightweight and scalable.

To show how the software could be used, the team created a set of situational experiences to turn into prototypes. Here are just two of the innovative examples:

Note: These are brief descriptions of the possibilities, you can view the highly detailed versions on the 2-IMMERSE website.

1. MotoGP at Home

Imagine a father and son who want to watch a MotoGP race together; the father is an avid fan and the son, a novice. They both turn to the TV displaying the main race and leaderboard, with their own second devices (linked to the TV) in hand. Different data feeds, camera views and videos can be pushed to the second device.

Since the dad is immersed in the sport, he selects the live feed from the on-board bike camera of one of his favorite racers to view on his tablet, in addition to the main screen. The son doesn’t know any of the riders, so he chooses to view the list of general information about each competitor on his smartphone, where the riders shown on the main screen are highlighted. The media on both the tablet and smartphone are scaled to size thanks to the individual packaging and metadata of the objects.

2. Soccer at a Bar

Picture a group of friends arriving at a bar to watch a soccer game. Once inside, they join the bar’s wifi and link their phones to the connected TV. For customers to feel more immersed in the action, the owner has chosen to increase the crowd volume of the game and remove the commentator audio. One friend arrives late and misses a goal, so someone in the group uses their companion screen to replay the action, selecting the camera angle from which it’s viewed.

While these may simply be prototypes of how OBB for multi-screen viewing could be used, 2-IMMERSE did a real trial and evaluation of a MotoGP experience—including assessments from 93 individuals. The results and consumer feedback were overwhelmingly positive. It seems OBB for common use is closer than ever, nearing reality more and more everyday.

See the results of the MotoGP trial and dig into the technical specs of the 2-IMMERSE project in the August edition of the Motion Imaging Journal.