5G and AWS Wavelength for live media production
The introduction of 5G mobile services and its promise of higher bandwidth, lower latency, and network slicing brings the possibility of delivering better customer experiences. It also enables the creation of new forms of media and entertainment such as:
- Augmented and Virtual Reality (VR) – often referred to collectively as XR, these types of services can be delivered with more flexibility by combining 5G network capabilities with Mobile Edge Computing (MEC). Scenes can be rendered in the network and XR content can be delivered directly to headsets with minimal local graphics processing.
- Video streaming – the benefits of being able to deliver video and audio at greater speed with better quality opens up possibilities of streaming more interactive video to larger screens.
- Game streaming – just like location services and mobile games have created new genres of games, the capabilities of 5G and MEC opens up for new types of low latency gaming experiences. High-quality game content can be streamed directly to less powerful devices with no upfront downloads required.
These use cases will mature at different speeds for different geographies and markets, gradually improving the end user experience for consumer, professional, and enterprise use cases.
5G and edge computing for remote production
Discussions around 5G for video are often focused on the distribution of content and the increased quality, bitrates, and ubiquity it enables. In this post, we look at how the combination of 5G networks and AWS Wavelength edge computing can change how companies produce content, especially for live events such as sports, news, and live entertainment.
Traditionally, live event production involved sending outside broadcast (OB) trucks and staff on location to produce the events. Program feeds were then sent back to central locations via contribution feeds for onward distribution using satellite, fixed leased lines, and bonded cellular links. These production setups require large capex investments in equipment, which sits idle for most days of the week.
Using AWS for remote production allows you to provision infrastructure only when it is needed, so you only pay for what you use. It also enables faster innovation since you are not locked into equipment procurement cycles, allowing you to experiment with new production formats with reduced risk.
With the addition of 5G and edge computing using Wavelength Zones, network latency in cloud-based remote production can be reduced, reducing the need for fixed lines and satellite connectivity. 5G also comes with the promise of network slicing capabilities to provide content providers the assurance that network capacity is available to them when it is needed.
With the expansion of productions in 4K Ultra-HD resolution – where each camera requires a sustained bandwidth of 12 Gbps – we cannot expect 5G to carry all camera feeds using uncompressed video for complex and large productions. With developments in contribution video codecs, such as JPEG XS, which provides high compression ratios with low latency, small and midsized productions can be carried over 5G. This reduces the need for equipment and staff to be transported to the event, and simplifies set up on location.
The preceding diagram shows how contribution can be done over 5G with video switching, audio mixing, and graphics can be done on instances in the Wavelength Zone. The production is operated by either a local crew connected directly to the 5G network, or by a remote crew connected via an AWS Region.
For productions that benefit from minimal latency, such as fast-moving sports, having a local crew is beneficial because any delay in switching operations is minimized. For other productions, such as live music or multi-camera news events, the benefits of a centralized production crew may outweigh the downsides of slightly increased latency. The model you select depends on your production needs – a combination of local and remote crews is also possible.
With production done in the Wavelength Zone, a smaller number of program feeds can then be brought back to an AWS Region for packaging and content protection, fan-out to affiliates, or editing and compositing. Additionally, the program output can be encoded in the Wavelength Zone for direct distribution to a CDN for ultra-low-latency video streaming to end consumers.
Additional iso angles and clips can be recorded in the Wavelength Zone and either drip-fed back to the AWS Region during the event for highlights and package creation, or logged and archived in bulk after the event has finished.
The graphics capabilities of GPU instances in Wavelength Zones also opens up the possibilities for new production formats. Video feeds from multiple fixed cameras can be stitched together to allow operators to use a virtual camera to see the event from any conceivable angle, without moving the actual cameras.
What comes next?
Customers tell us that network coverage and bandwidth availability will continue to be a concern for some time, which dictates the types of events are suitable for 5G production. It is reasonable to expect that fixed venue events in urban areas with good network coverage will be the first to take advantage of the new technology. Distributed events in less densely populated areas, such as sailing and Nordic skiing, will follow much later.
Questions also remain around which commercial and provisioning models will be available for reserving capacity through network slicing. Media companies will likely prefer to provision slices with specific service level requirements (SLRs) for individual events spanning days, or even hours.
These questions will be addressed in time. Introducing 5G and Wavelength into live production will ultimately make remote cloud production more accessible for a wider range of productions, as well as improve media companies’ ability to experiment and innovate around new production formats.
AWS helps studio customers reduce operational burdens so they can spend more time creating with the most comprehensive set of cloud capabilities for content production. Explore https://aws.amazon.com/media/content-production/ to learn more.