AWS Elemental Link UHD brings viewers closer to Super Bowl Halftime Show in 4K
Football fans from across the country gathered in a packed SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 to see the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals face off in the biggest game of the year. At the same time, more than 112 million people worldwide tuned into a live event broadcast and stream to catch key game highlights and a high energy halftime show headlined by hip-hop icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar, with a surprise appearance by 50 Cent. To immerse viewers outside the venue within the performance, halftime sponsor Pepsi commissioned dynamic second screen experience called Ultra Pass. Available via mobile download on iOS and Android, the app gave viewers a virtual front row seat to the halftime show via live, interactive 4K live streams captured by 360-degree cameras hidden on stage, streamed by a fleet of portable AWS Elemental Link UHD encoding devices and cloud-based AWS Media Services integral to the implementation.
App design and production company Six Degrees tapped streaming and encoding specialist iOiO to develop a live stream workflow for the project that would reach viewers in the most resilient and efficient manner. iOiO CEO Brian Lisi explained, “AWS Elemental Link UHD was a key part of this workflow and essential to delivering a unique viewing experience. We were able to push super high bandwidth content to mobile with low latency and have it look fantastic.
Traditionally, high value events relied on satellite contribution. This is a new milestone in streaming where the 3 feeds were entirely over IP, and the public internet. Live streaming is now ingrained in production vocabulary and the Link UHDs help companies cross that chasm to implement innovative workflows, simply.”
During the 15-minute halftime show, app users could switch between three 4K live streams, each powered by two Link UHD devices, with one serving as hot backup for complete resilience. The primary live stream was a produced feed comprising nine 360-degree camera angles, and viewers could also select from two static 360-camera feeds. Content fed from each camera, through a Link UHD, and into AWS Elemental MediaConnect for secure, reliable live video transport, and into AWS Elemental MediaLive, where it was then encoded in HLS using profiles developed by iOiO, and fed to the CDN for delivery to viewers. While iOiO has used AWS Elemental Link devices and AWS Media Services extensively for clients across previous projects, Ultra Pass marked the company’s first UHD implementation.
“The cloud and Links now run in our DNA– we’ve used them thousands of times, and while we’d done some 4K testing, this was the first time we’d used it in production, for one of the world’s most high-profile viewing events no less,” said Lisi. “We had about three weeks lead time and the biggest challenge was helping stakeholders feel comfortable with using the cloud, when everyone is used to an on-prem approach. Link devices are a game-changer for sports and brands; they make executing pop-up experiential campaigns and live streaming at scale easier and more accessible, opening up more room for content innovation.”
In developing the encoding profiles, the iOiO team explicitly designed them for mobile performance and 4K resolution using conventional HLS with high, optimized bitrates and a custom adaptive bit rate (ABR) stack. The team published and tested three ABR versions to determine the right combination of quality, reliability, and bandwidth. In addition to backing up the primary Link UHDs with a secondary device, a backup RTMP workflow was readied for further redundancy, although the primary workflow maintained high performance throughout the show, even as viewership surged toward a half a million concurrent streams.
Lisi concluded, “I don’t think we could have executed an undertaking this complex in just a few weeks without Link UHD. It gave us full confidence to do something we’ve never done before and kept latency down to less than two seconds for most of the show. AWS products and services allow us to elegantly address our clients’ ever-changing needs and continue innovating to facilitate immersive experiences.”
For more details about AWS Elemental Link UHD and AWS Media Services, visit: https://aws.amazon.com/media/.