Live 4k, 360, VR and full-body avatars create presence at the French Open 2016

[This story from SVG Europe describes the many technologies being utilized to evoke presence for remote and in-person audience members for this year’s French Open tennis tournament; for more information about the Virtual Reality and the on-site RG Lab, see pages on the RolandGarros.com website. –Matthew]

RG Lab at French Open (from RolandGarros.com)

Virtual Reality at the heart of France Télévisions Roland-Garros 2016 set up

By Catherine Wright
Friday, May 20, 2016

As Roland-Garros organisers prepare for the French tennis tournament beginning May 21, France Télévisions is again showcasing the group’s latest technology developments at the RG Lab, under the supervision of its Head of Innovations Bernard Fontaine. This year, the focus is on virtual reality and 360° production. For a start, all the matches taking place on the main Philippe Chatrier court, the Suzanne Lenglen court and the number 1 court are being broadcast live in 4K and in 360°. France Télévisions chose to highlight the technology of a number of French technology start-ups — notably VideoStitch — by using the company’s recently launched Orah 4i camera for the first time, backed-up by Intel’s Quick Sync encoding.

All 360° live operations are stored on cloud technology from another French start-up FireKast. The same company also developed a RG360° virtual reality app, which is freely available on iOS, Android or Samsung Gear VR. The app enables viewers to watch the matches of the courts mentioned above in 4K and in a full 360° environment, either live or in replay and to therefore totally immerse themselves in the tennis games.

In the RG-Lab, two other start-ups are demonstrating their know-how in the area of 360° production, Push Pull TV with a 36O° experience on Android TV and Arkamys, with its 360° immersive sound technology.

The replays of the 360° matches also feature on YouTube’s Live 360 player, on the francetvsport channel, as well as on Francetvsport’s Facebook site, as well as on the Roland-Garros Facebook site.

Avatar technology for the fans

But the broadcasting group is going a step further by enabling tennis fans to create their own Avatar. Roland-Garros visitors who wish to do so can step into a 3D scanning booth which will reproduce their entire body and create their own digital clone, which will then be able to play tennis in a totally virtual manner. The technology is developed by French-based Silkke, with the support of Nantes Métropole.

The RG Lab, which this year is installed in the French Tennis Federation’s Museum on the Roland-Garros compound, is also bringing to the fore more French research on the subject of Avatars and virtual reality including the work of the Mines Telecom Institute and CEA Tech. Li-fi demonstrations should also be on the cards, as well as the Internet of things with, for instance, Kineti’s connected furniture.

All the excitement around VR could obscure the continuing push into UHD and 4K technology, which for the last three years at least, has been at the forefront of the group’s Roland-Garros set up. In association with the French Tennis Federation, and as was the case in 2015, the group will broadcast the men and the women’s singles semi-finals and finals on a dedicated UHD TV channel, broadcast by TDF on the digital terrestrial network (channel 81) to Paris viewers and by Eutelsat satellite for the rest of the country (Channel 444 on the Fransat bouquet). A real first however will be the live testing of UHD High Dynamic Range images, with the support of the r&d 4Ever consortium.

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