NASCAR Racing in 3D on Your PC!

On July 3rd at 7:30 pm ET, you will be able to experience for the first time a live streaming event in 3D using just Silverlight and NVIDIA 3D Vision! We have teamed up with Turner Sports, NVIDIA and iStreamPlanet to bring you the NASCAR Spring Cup Series Coke Zero 400 race from Daytona, Florida live to your computer – in 3D! The TNT RaceBuddy 3D website is available now at http://www.nascar.com/racebuddy3d.

After we showed at NAB back in April that Silverlight and Smooth Streaming could be used to deliver 3D video to anaglyph glasses and external 3D-ready TVs, I also started talking to NVIDIA about the prospect of integrating Silverlight with their 3D Vision technology which utilizes active shutter glasses. As it turned out, NVIDIA was already 2 steps ahead of me and had already made significant progress getting 3D Vision to work with Silverlight, so when the opportunity came along to do a 3D streaming project with Turner Sports we all immediately saw it as a chance to do something innovative and cool. With our trusted partner iStreamPlanet on-board to do the player development and video delivery, the stage was set for building a cutting-edge 3D video experience.

NVIDIA first integrated support for 3D Vision into the latest Silverlight Media Framework which iStreamPlanet then used as the foundation for a rich 3D video player complete with an interactive leaderboard, pre-roll ads and companion ads. But iStreamPlanet didn’t just stop there – they also built stereoscopic play controls that work in 3D mode and seamlessly blend with the 3D video, which is a non-trivial task when dealing with stereoscopic presentations.

While we won’t be able to claim the title of first 3D event streamed over the Internet, there are a few “firsts” which still make this an important milestone event in video streaming:

  • This will be the first time you’ll be able to watch true 3D video inside a browser with just a common browser plugin (Silverlight) and no need for a standalone 3D player. (By “true 3D” I mean “discrete stereo images delivered to each eye at 60 Hz”. In other words, no anaglyph or interlaced passive.)
  • If you’re familiar with 3D Vision, you’ll know that so far it’s only been possible to use it in full screen mode. Well, this will be the first time you’ll be able to watch 3D video using NVIDIA 3D Vision in windowed mode too!
  • This will be the first publicly broadcast live 3D event using HTTP-based adaptive streaming technology, namely Smooth Streaming

Turner Broadcasting will produce the 3D video in Daytona and beam it to iStreamPlanet in Las Vegas via satellite as 1080i side-by-side formatted “frame compatible” video. Using the side-by-side format will allow iStreamPlanet to leverage their existing live video workflow to deliver 3D video to Silverlight clients without requiring any changes to the workflow or the encoders. The frame-compatible 1080i video will feed into the Inlet Spinnaker HD encoders which will transcode it into the Smooth Streaming format at 6 bitrates/resolutions, with VC-1 and WMA Pro as the video and audio codecs, respectively. The transcoded steresocopic video will preserve the side-by-side formatting of the source.

Unlike with traditional Smooth Streaming broadcasts, the minimum bitrate/resolution for this 3D event will be slightly raised to provide sufficient quality even at half-resolution per eye. Therefore, the minimum resolution/bitrate will be 480×224 @ 600 kbps, while the top bitrate/resolution will remain the typical 1280×720 @ 3.45 Mbps. This means that at its highest quality you’ll be able to see a 640×720 image in each eye. While I’m well aware that’s not full 720p quality per eye, do keep in mind that we’re only just getting started with 3D Internet streaming – so this is only the beggining and it can only get better from here! Rome wasn’t built in a day. ;)

For a minimum 3D experience you will need at least 700 kbps of bandwidth (600 kbps video + 48 kbps audio + overhead) but if that’s all the bandwidth you’ve got I recommend that you watch the video in windowed mode. If you plan on enjoying the full screen 3D experience, I do recommend at least 3.5 Mbps of bandwidth or otherwise you might find yourself somewhat disappointed.

The TNT RaceBuddy 3D site is now available if you’d like to test drive the 3D player and ensure your computer meets the minimum system requirements for Saturday’s race. If you have an NVIDIA 3D Vision-enabled PC running Windows 7 or Vista, you will need the latest GeForce (or Quadro) and 3D Vision drivers installed in order to enjoy the RaceBuddy 3D experience. Needless to say, you will also need the latest version of Silverlight 4.

If you don’t have NVIDIA 3D Vision but have a nice 3D-ready TV hooked up to your PC or Mac, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll still be able to enjoy RaceBuddy 3D. Just set your desktop size to 1280×720, then fire up the RaceBuddy 3D player and tell it you have a 3DTV. When playback starts, send the player to full screen and it will show you the raw side-by-side video in 720p. All you have to do then is configure your 3DTV for a side-by-side source (left field first) and you’ll be good to go!

Note: Though NVIDIA and iStreamPlanet have successfully completed this first build of a 3D Vision-enabled Silverlight player, we are still working on figuring out how to best make that code available to all Silverlight developers, so stay tuned to my blog for more details on that in the future.

About Alex Zambelli

Alex is a Principal Product Manager at iStreamPlanet Co. in Redmond, Washington. Prior to his current job he was a Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Media Platform at Microsoft Corporation. He specializes in video streaming, adaptive HTTP streaming, VC-1 and H.264 video, and video processing best practices.
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