Streaming 360-degree video with Wowza Streaming Engine


Video streaming from 360-degree cameras is gaining popularity. People like to watch online video streaming, in spherical video mode, which allows you to see everything around you. That is why today I am going to tell you what is needed to organize such broadcasting.

Basic elements of the system

Let’s get acquainted with the main elements of the system the knowledge of which will help to create a complete picture of the situation with 360-degree video broadcasting. So, the components of the system:

  • A 360-degree camera or set of cameras that together give a 360-degree view
  • Software or hardware for capturing and transmitting the stream to a media server or directly to a playback device
  • Wowza Streaming Engine media server or cloud service
  • Software or viewing device

1. Video cameras with 360 degree view

A camcorder can consist of individual camcorders, such as multiple GoPro camcorders connected to each other with a special holder, or be a standalone device (Giroptic iO camera, 360fly, Orah 4i).  Some camcorders are able to send the stream themselves to a media server or video streaming service such as YouTube via RTMP in H.264 format.

Some cameras can be connected to a mobile device, and the stream will be sent to the media server due to the application installed on the mobile device.

Another option is when several cameras, such as GoPro, connect via HDMI to a special hardware device (for example, Teradek Sphere HDMI 360 LS), which already streams the stream to the media server. Up to four cameras can be connected to Teradek Sphere simultaneously. Teradek Sphere can be paired with each other.

360-degree video

2. Software and hardware for video streaming

There is a software that can be installed on a computer and used to capture video from multiple cameras, to form and send the stream to a media server. As an example I would like to mention a popular software – Vahana VR.

This software supports both HDMI and SDI cameras that can be connected to your computer via different capture cards, such as Blackmagic Decklink, Magewell, Aja. Moreover, it can receive RTP/RTSP streams at the input of this program.

The output streams of Vahana VR can be as follows:

  • RTMP protocol
  • Streaming to YouTube
  • SDI (using special cards)
  • Recording to HDD
  • VR helmets: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

It turns out that with the help of Vahana VR and VR glasses or helmet you can make a high-quality demonstration of 360 degree streaming capabilities. In future articles I plan to talk more about how to organize video streaming with Vahana VR and several video cameras. For now let’s move on to media servers and streaming platforms.

3. Media servers and streaming platforms

Today Wowza Streaming Engine media server officially supports receiving and streaming video from 360-degree cameras, as I wrote about earlier. We use it in most of our projects.

YouTube service can be given as an example of online video streaming platform.

4. Watching a 360-degree video

And now for the most interesting part. Namely, ways of playing and watching 360 degrees video. The first and so far the most common is viewing in a video player, such as Bitdash player.

In this case, the viewer has the ability to rotate the video with the mouse and watch everything around. If viewing is done on a smartphone, then changing the angle is done by the touchscreen.

Another option for viewing is with VR glasses or helmet (Samsung Gear VR, Sony Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive), when the change of view will depend on the turn of the viewer’s head. The cost of such devices ranges from $60 and up.

Some devices can be used with a smartphone, which will act as a screen. Full-fledged VR helmets are connected either to a computer or to a game console.

The cheapest and easiest option is to use in conjunction with your smartphone paper VR glasses Google Cardboard. In general, we just need to choose the right option.

That’s all for now, I hope my readers now have a better understanding of how 360 degree video streaming is organized. In the future I will talk about this video streaming trend in more detail.

Industry experts predict that in the near future technology of 360-degree video streaming and VR will be actively used in sports, meetings, weddings, education, medicine, military field and others.

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