On Sunday we saw two European giants fight for the biggest prize in club football as Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich went head-to-head at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.
For many people, the reinitiation of live sport has been an enormous relief to the stripped back and somewhat deprived social and cultural lives we have been living recently. It is of great luxury that we can also live stream our favourite sport from the stadium to literally any device we own, wherever we are in the world. This is often taken for granted in the hyper media-consumption world we live in today.
Yes...but the internet and connectivity technologies that are needed to make this happen are far more complex and critical than you may think.
Today’s technology enabled you to have a total, immersive, and interactive experience of the Champion League Final, from anywhere, live. Whether it was the excitement of witnessing Coman’s winning goal in the 59th minute in real-time, viewing instant replays to examine the referees’ calls more precisely, or hearing expert commentary and instant statistics through a live video stream - you very likely had a rich viewing experience of the final.
How did you see Coman’s winning goal the very second he made it? And how were the streams delivered at broadcast quality, with low latency and no interruption in playback?
In this article, we provide you with an overview of the journey your video stream took to reach your device.
Multiple cameras were set up in Lisbon’s Stadium to capture the action. The footage is then aggregated and transported via fibre optic cables & satellites to various broadcast centres around the globe.
From here, a broadcaster (OTT or linear) picks the streams and transports the feeds into their production facility. They then overlay in their inimitable style and prep the steam for transmission.
The next leg of the journey is from the production facility to a data centre via dedicated low latency, high capacity connectivity.
Here, the live stream is encoded. Encoding a video is the process of compressing ‘raw’ video data into a compressed format suitable for transmission across networks. It also means the video is transformed into a digital format that a variety of devices recognise. This made the live football stream available to the device you chose to watch it on. Common video encoding standards include:
Crucially, this stage requires a Content Distribution Network (CDN). With a match as international and as popular as the Champion league, a CDN replicates the origin node to regional hubs across the globe.
CDNs can quickly distribute content around the world. They remove the bottleneck of traffic that can result from delivering live streams from a single server of origin, in this case in Lisbon. Instead, when a user demands the live stream from, say, a location in rural Thailand, the CDN selects the server closest to them to deliver it, on whichever internet-connected device they are using. This makes the delivery of video much faster, amongst many other benefits.
So, in a nutshell, the video captured at the football stadium has to go through multiple processes. Data handling, protocols, transformations and additions - don’t forget live commentary, language translations, statistics and on-screen information - and distributed across a global network all before it reaches your device. And it does this live. Well, technically speaking, it is not exactly live, but a second or two after - quite remarkable really.
Reliable, dedicated and sophisticated connectivity is the critical ingredient in live streaming. There are a multitude of solutions and products available to optimise each and every stage of the process. Such solutions and products can be as advanced and specialised as possible, but without the structural connectivity powering each of them, the live stream in the quality you were able to view the final in, would not be possible.