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Harmonic helps the viewer take control of France Televisions French Open coverage

Harmonic's Thierry Fautier tells TVBEurope about the company's involvement in a demonstration which aims to let viewers choose which camera angle they want to watch in real time

Harmonic is one of a number of technology companies working with France Televisions trailing innovative new production processes during this year’s French Open tennis championship at Roland Garros.

France Televisions is demonstrating a number of new innovations around what it calls Augmented Tennis at the RG Lab in Paris.

During the tournament, the broadcaster is using live pictures from Philippe Chatrier court to demonstrate:

  • Augment interactivity: Providing the user their choice of viewing experience.
  • Augment reality: Enhancing the users perspective with augmented reality
  • Augment quality: Revisiting images of the past in UHD thanks to artificial intelligence
  • Augment speed: Showcasing video broadcast over 5G high speed networks

Harmonic is part of demonstration which aims to let viewers choose which camera angle they want to watch in real time. The test is integrating an UHD mosaic from EasyToole, and is then encoded by Harmonic and broadcast on a video player specially developed by VisualOn for an experience without loss of quality on mobile, tablet and TV.

This year’s French Open was originally due to take place in May but was pushed to September due to the coronavirus pandemic. That has meant that all of the demonstrations have had to be slightly amended as access to Roland Garros has been limited to staff and players. “Without Covid we would all have been on site and streaming to France Televisions’ compound,” Thierry Fautier, VP of Video Strategy at Harmonic tells TVBEurope. “Because of Covid we have moved all the equipment to the Cloud, which is also new. We receive the feed from France Televisions at Roland Garros and we push that to the internet.”

The multiple camera viewing experience involves HD cameras on Philippe Chatrier sending 3G SDI feeds to a switcher. Harmonic publishes those feeds in SRT to the public internet in 2160p50 AVC transport stream format at 50 megabits per second. With the SRT feed in its Cloud, Harmonic encodes in 4K HEVC multibitrate to its packager that will produce 2160 HEVC CMAF Dash low latency at 20 megabits per second. “That can then be sent to a mobile device, a tablet, or a 4K Android TV,” explains Fautier. “Viewers can then click on a widget to change their viewing options, so they could watch full view, or they could opt for picture in picture. It’s very flexible. You can design the interface for mobile, which would be different to TV, we can customise the interface and offer that on any Android systems.”

Fautier says there are many benefits for Harmonic in taking part in the trial.

“First, we’re learning how to build a complete end to end system from capture to delivery to consumer. Second we have a customer who is pushing us by asking some difficult questions, and third, we’re able to demonstrate that even with Covid we can make this work. We cannot take our servers to Roland Garros so Cloud has come to the rescue.” he explains.

“Of course from a technology point of view, we’re quite happy to demonstrate that with 4K technology, you can produce a seamless experience on 4K capable devices. We’re doing this with a number of partners, but we were the one to make sure this happened, and France Televisions has been able to  demonstrate something which has never been shown before, with this level of professional quality, using the internet, and it’s all been done remotely.”