In 2006, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) achieved a broadcast industry milestone when the agency successfully produced the first live high-definition (HD) transmission from space. NASA and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have announced that on April 26, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time (US), NASA will take another step in advanced video innovation as it pushes the envelope with live 4K.
Together with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and AWS Elemental, NASA is now able to stream live 4K video to enhance its ability to observe, uncover and adapt new knowledge of orbital and deep space. The live feed from 250 miles above Earth will be encoded using AWS Elemental video processing software on board the International Space Station (ISS) and on the ground at Johnson Space Center for delivery by AWS in the cloud to multiscreen devices.
The opportunities that live 4K video unlocks for the agency are significant. Visual impact, for one: There is something special about “live” versus video that’s recorded and played back later. When it’s live, what you’re seeing and hearing is happening in real-time, somewhere above the Earth. It makes the viewing experience more magical.
While NASA has been able to get live TV down from spacecraft dating back to the Apollo missions, the resolution wasn’t always vibrant enough to give viewers a vicarious experience. Even the advent of high definition (HD) video and, later 4K on-demand content, didn’t always give space fans the “just like being there” feeling. Having the ability to send down live UHD/4K, with four times the resolution of full HD, is truly approaching the threshold of “just like being there” for the viewer.
Not only does the superior image quality of live 4K enhance the viewing experience for the public, it also benefits the work of scientists. Having extremely high-resolution video from the ISS can help engineers and payload developers better monitor experiments as well as spacecraft performance, and aid trouble-shooting.
That’s not to say that encoding video – let alone live 4K video -- in space is easy. That’s where software-based video processing and cloud services work together to make this historic event possible.
The ISS orbits about 250 miles above the Earth and travels at a speed of 17,200 miles per hour (27,600 km per hour). The encoder onboard the nation’s microgravity, orbiting laboratory must be stable and reliable; failure is not an option.
Size is key: every ounce of weight and inch of space is precious, so the encoder needs to be as small as possible. It must also be easy on power consumption, and satisfy NASA specifications for loudness, fan speed, and chemical composition of every component comprising a given product. NASA conducts human factors engineering testing, to make sure it meets the crew’s needs from an interface standpoint, so the user interface has to be simple, yet robust.
The flexibility of software-based video processing enabled AWS Elemental Live to address all of these issues and to help deliver the first live 4K video from space for NASA and bring it to viewers via Amazon CloudFront.
The history-making event takes place as part of “Reaching for the Stars: Connecting to the Future with NASA and Hollywood,” an NAB Show Super Session in Room N249 of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) on April 26. Produced by NASA, NAB and AWS, the panel event will include a live interaction with astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will share real-world examples of scientific experiments and discuss the power of live 4K video in supporting NASA’s work. The panel and live stream from space will be available to the public for multiscreen viewing in live 4K and down-converted high definition (HD) video at https://live.awsevents.com/nasa4k.
This is a bright and orange-y day, for me and for everyone on the AWS Elemental team!
When Elemental joined Amazon Web Services, we did so in the belief it was the ideal combination of deep strength in video infrastructure and world-class expertise in cloud services. We had a singular goal of helping our customers keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape for streaming and broadcast video.
Today, we update our formal identity to reflect this goal, and officially become AWS Elemental. This new name, logo and brand captures our customer promise: to help perfect the media experience for viewers, now and in the future.
We see tremendous opportunity and change coming to the media and entertainment market segment. New delivery approaches. Lower cost development. More agile workflows. All this adds up to better experiences for our customers, their development teams, and their bottom line.
Simply put, our job at AWS Elemental is to take on the undifferentiated heavy lifting in video workflows and allow customers to focus on creating captivating content, monetizing it efficiently, and delighting their viewers. Since our founding in 2006, we have been honored to deliver on this promise to more than one thousand customers.
To give you a more detailed sense of the innovations we are driving, we’re showcasing a number of advancements in video processing and delivery, including real world applications and use cases, at next week’s NAB Show, where I’m pleased to say Amazon Web Services will power the world’s first live 4K video stream from space as part of a live discussion with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. The workflow leverages technology from our entire portfolio: AWS Elemental Live for live encoding, AWS Elemental Delta for just-in-time packaging and origination, Amazon CloudFront for content delivery, and Amazon Route 53 for DNS. It’s an honor to help support the agency as it engages in an amazing historical first.
Of course, there’s much more to be said about the exciting future of video technology and what our customers are doing to make it a reality. I look forward to continuing that conversation as we make it so, together.
Editor’s Note: Grand Slam Tennis tournaments are among the sport’s most anticipated events annually, with millions of fans globally now streaming the live or catch-up TV action on their favorite mobile devices in addition to those watching on TVs. The Australian Open kicked off the action in Melbourne in January. It will be followed by the French Open this May (Roland Garros in Paris), Wimbledon in July (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London), and the US Open in August (Flushing Meadow, New York). Read on for insights into how Australia’s Channel Seven redefined the tennis fan’s viewing experience.
One of four Grand Slam tennis championships, the Australian Open is among the country’s most-watched sporting events. In January, leading Australian broadcaster Seven Network unlocked the Open experience to viewers. Serving up every match live with the launch of pioneering freemium OTT live sports offering, with viewers streaming over 64 million minutes live. Seven partnered with Elemental and Amazon Web Services for a complete live end-to-end workflow and a first-of-its-kind integration between Elemental and AWS.
The Australian Open culminated Seven’s month-long Summer of Tennis showcase of broadcast and streaming live tennis across six national tournaments. Giving fans unfettered access, with up to 16 live matches at once and extensive Video on Demand. In addition to Seven’s terrestrial broadcasts, 7Tennis product provided viewers live and on-demand content at no cost, available on key platforms - Web, iOS, Android, TVOS, Telstra TV and FetchTV. Additionally, 7Tennis offered a $9.99 AUD premium option for fans to upgrade their viewing experience. With High Definition (1080P), full-match replays and faster access to streams without pre-roll advertising.
Delivering such an ambitious multi-screen video experience with maximum resiliency and consistent high quality - called for an innovative, software-based approach to live video processing and content delivery.
On-premises Elemental Live encoders, in a portable rack kit with full redundancy, streamed 16 court streams from Seven’s Melbourne Park production. Elemental Live encoders also inserted Video Advertising SCTE triggers for downstream Dynamic Advertising Insertion (DAI) with partner Yospace, as well as video slates, effectively creating 16 TV channels in addition to Broadcast.
Delivering 1080P high quality video reliably at scale, required redundant Amazon Direct Connect networks to an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) hosted on AWS. The VPC hosted a scalable origin architecture using NGINX web servers for delivery over Amazon Cloudfront CDN. In Seven’s Broadcast centre, Elemental Conductor orchestrated Broadcast simulcast 24x7 streaming encoding with the network’s existing Elemental Live headend and Akamai CDN.
The new live content delivery model was a smashing success for Seven. Moreover, the Open set a new benchmark for the network’s live streaming capabilities, proving the value of Elemental and AWS to support expanded user experiences – and help monetise premium viewership – as Seven looks ahead to a remarkable slate of live sports events including the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, thoroughbred racing’s Melbourne Cup, the 2018 Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games.