Superfast speeds and lower latency are two of the key benefits that will be delivered by the powerful 5G networks of the future and one of the most exciting potentials for this game-changing technology is in the area of live events and broadcasts. But the main players in this space aren’t waiting for the future; they’re putting this technology into action right now.
5G projects at the cutting edge
In February of this year, Three launched the world’s first 5G mixed reality catwalk at London Fashion Week, in association with Central St Martins (CSM) arts college. Working with creative agency Rewind and fashion designer Gerrit Jacob, the lead model on the project was Lennon Gallagher (pictured below), son of Oasis frontman Liam. And since March, Three customers have been able to experience this mixed reality catwalk in the company’s flagship Oxford Circus store, the only store in the UK which is currently 5G enabled.
How it worked
Selected members of the front row audience watched Gerrit Jacob’s catwalk show wearing Magic Leap headsets to see the designs ‘virtually’ come to life in front of them, while screens around the catwalk showed off what was happening to spectators not wearing the headsets. Designer Jacob worked closely with the team at Rewind to bring the designs and inspirations behind his collection to life in mixed reality. You can watch the show here.
Key project features and next steps
Speaking of the 5G power behind the project, one of the senior creatives at Rewind explained that it allowed them to deliver a next-generation immersive experience. “5G removes current limitations, allowing imaginations to run wild. The ultra-fast connection 5G provides enables off device rendering, synchronised experiences, and a whole host of other exciting possibilities. 5G unlocks the full potential of AR, MR and VR.”
Three currently holds the UK’s leading 5G spectrum portfolio and is set to meet the ITU 2020 standard for full 5G services. The CSM fashion project is part of Three’s long-term creative partnership with the college and the campus is officially the UK’s first live and permanent 5G installation. As part of this collaboration, the college’s 5,000 students will have access to the technology to experiment with and explore the convergence of fashion, art, design, performance and technology.
A bespoke design-focused 5G laboratory featuring Internet of Things (IOT) hardware and other connected tech on campus allows students to work creativity in new ways through AR, VR and cloud computing. This creative collaboration will also give students the ability to create 5G enabled concepts and products that may end up revolutionising the future of retail in-store experiences.
Revolutionising – and saving money in fact. Speaking to the Evening Standard after the event, Three CMO Shadi Halliwell said: “If you look at shows like Chanel, Givenchy and Dior, the settings they put in place are huge builds, which cost millions of pounds. With 5G, we can create that whole environment through virtual means which is fantastic”.
5G experiments such as this one are forming the blueprint for radical revolutions in many sectors. “The future of design and fashion is intrinsically linked with the evolution of tech and we are seeing more and more disruptive and innovative technologies shaking up the way the design and fashion industries operate,” said Jeremy Till, head of CSM. “Our students are already picking up on the latest technologies and incorporating them in their work and the collaboration with Three’s 5G will turbo-boost this engagement with technology.”
A world-first for e-sports
A forerunner for this project, which also gathered a lot of media attention when it showcased at the end of last year, was the world’s first 4K e-sports live broadcast over 5G. A livestream of the game Fortnite played by celebrity YouTuber Vikkstar123, who has over five million subscribers, was beamed all over the world from Huawei’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London.
How the technology worked
A specialised gaming capsule was created for the broadcast and the footage was captured primarily with a Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K, then transmitted with a mast and spectrum from Three. The live transmission relayed over the 5G connection was encoded directly to YouTube using a Matrox Maevex 6120 dual 4K encoder and transmitted at 30 frames per second at 30Mbps.
Freelance AV specialist Jon Pratchett, working for Mediakinetic TV Production, was the man responsible for capturing Vikkstar’s reactions at the event. “The Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K was perfect for this,” he says. “The image quality from such a small package is incredible, and easily matched up with the more expensive cameras we were using for filming wider action shots, showing the screens, Vikkstar’s movements and live gameplay. I was really impressed with the speed and ease at which we could deliver this stream.” You can watch the recording here
Where do we go from here?
Speaking after the 5G gaming event, James Rogerson, editor at 5G UK welcomed the potential 5G is opening up for “more broadcasts of more things”, commenting that 5G is likely to enable far more live broadcasts of numerous events, most notably music and sports events.
“The high speeds of 5G means that broadcast trucks and other conventional equipment – which tends to be larger and more expensive – isn’t needed, so smaller events such as this esports stream can also be captured.”
And it’s not just about the possibility of providing “more”, it’s also about the potential for creating “better”, with the 5G enablement of high-quality live streams, in this case 4K quality. And this could be just the beginning, he says.
“Don’t be surprised if down the line 5G is also used for 8K livestreams and beyond. And while this was an official demonstration, it’s likely that 5G, along with ever more affordable camera equipment, could help make livestreaming 4K and later 8K content of all kinds more possible for ordinary people and tiny events. It could in short lead to a media revolution.”
That media revolution is perhaps already under way, with EE broadcasting the 2018 EE Wembley Cup Final live over 5G to London’s ExCeL exhibition centre and BT Sport to start broadcasting National League, women’s football and FA Cup games over 5G next season.
All eyes are on what’s coming next. As Jon Pratchett says: “I’m looking forward to seeing how the 5G mobile network progresses, especially for live broadcasts. Combined with a professional system such as Blackmagic Design’s, it will open up an endless amount of opportunities.”
Meanwhile Shadi Halliwell at Three is excited about the possibilities of this next generation technology for the future as, she says, we turn up the volume on 5G and bring it to life for the first time in the UK, here in the heart of the fashion world.
By giving students access to the next generation of mobile technology, they will be able to push the boundaries of learning, innovation and sustainability to create in a way that’s never been possible. This is the first glimpse of the future.
And it’s a future that certainly looks rosy.