360 degree video storage requirements

Dave Frederick

Author: Dave Frederick

Published: 07 September 2017

360 degree video storage requirements

i Swim with bears, run with the bulls, get a pads-eye view of a rocket launch: 360 degree video production, also known as cinematic VR, makes these and many other bucket list-worthy events more accessible than ever. The format has evolved into a powerful storytelling tool, and one that changes not only the way in which visual experiences are shaped, but also the way in which media consumers perceive and interact with video content.

Putting viewers at the heart of the action, 360 degree video gives people a new way to experience new places and events. Free from the constraints of a fixed perspective or conventional frame, 360 degree video also offers advertisers a valuable device for connecting with audiences in a more engaging way.

The popular immersive format uses images that are captured by as many as 60 cameras, all simultaneously filming overlapping angles, and then stitched together into a single spherical piece of video. Footage from each camera is color graded to ensure consistency around the full 360 degree view, and visual effects (VFX) and animation sometimes are used to remove intrusive elements, such as the production team and their equipment, so that immersive scenes are more visually appealing and believable.

The resulting 360 degree piece typically is rendered at a high resolution of 4K or higher, and in some cases, the end result is the equivalent of a 6K- or 8K-resolution image. In fact, even greater resolutions are being used for some content specifically created for viewing on high-end head-mounted displays. Obviously, these colossal pixel counts translate to massive volumes of data, which in turn present new challenges to the media storage infrastructure supporting content creation.

Although a boost in capacity is a clear requirement of the storage systems enabling 360 degree video production, performance is a critical concern. Editing and grading processes demand storage arrays that are capable of ensuring continuous sequential playback of ordered frames on disk. At the same time, the VFX and animation work done to enhance images can require both sequential and random performance. The varying requirements of these distinct 360 degree video production workflow stages can call for a fresh look at storage infrastructure and how well its performance characteristics address the entire creative process.

Creative houses embracing 360 degree video production are finding that Fibre Channel storage area networks (SANs) provide the deterministic, guaranteed bandwidth needed by each connected workstation to enable the sequential playback of large frames and files during editing and grading. IP-based network attached storage (NAS) is proving a cost-effective solution for realizing the random storage performance demanded by VFX and animation work, which involves smaller file reads and writes from a larger number of connected workstations.

Whatever the combination of spinning disk and/or solid state drives (based on flash memory) used, the most effective way to employ the optimal storage systems for the overall 360 degree video production workflow is to take advantage of both Fibre Channel and IP connections via a unified SAN/NAS model. Establishing both types of connections to its shared storage infrastructure, a facility can give creatives and their applications the type of performance that best suits their work. This approach also serves to reduce or eliminate the time-consuming network-based transfer of files between workflow stages, an efficiency gain that can yield radical time savings and, in turn, enable greater creativity, productivity and profitability.

360 degree video gives content creators exciting new opportunities to tell stories in new ways - and to let media consumers take a more active role in interpreting images and in shaping the viewing experience. With storage infrastructure optimized for all stages of the production workflow, content creators can take on new 360 degree video projects and clients with confidence in their ability to deliver a compelling immersive viewing experience.

Solid state drives (SSDs) based on flash memory rather than spinning disk are also being used to meet the random performance requirements of animation work, as they have the potential to offer up to 100 times the random performance of hard disk drives (HDDs). This tremendous leap in performance comes at a cost, however. All-flash arrays can be pricey. And they don\'t offer much capacity, a must for high-resolution workflows. For this reason, a storage platform that can combine both SSDs and HDDs may be the best of both worlds, as it allows the best type of storage to be used for the most appropriate type of data.

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