All about broadcasting eSports
Author: Tino Da Silva, Audiovisual Production Manager, Movistar Riders
Electronic Sports (eSports) are professional videogames competitions, usually on multiplayer mode, that have recently become very popular. Global audience for these competitions is estimated to be around 400 million people and the final event of the World Cup of one of the most popular videogames –League of Legends- widely exceeded 200 million viewers in 2018.
In some countries, audience rates for contents based on this environment are still low; however, such a large fan base as that of the videogame industry and the big impact caused by gamers, influencers and content creators around the globe, lead to trust in a positive outlook for electronic sports.
The most popular genres within eSports are the so-called MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), in which the above-mentioned LOL and Dota2 belong, and Shooters, CSGO being at present the most popular in the latter category.
Focusing on these games, we will now review the reality of eSports productions.
Undoubtedly we have here a clear winner as the quintessential window for transmission of sports broadcasts is Twitch, a platform created in 2011 and owned by Amazon since 2014, which offering is almost entirely based on videogames.
In eSports an important issue is speed in frames per second (FSP), as average viewers in this type of content demand smooth flow and quality broadcasts for their favourite videogames.
Therefore, we could say that the standard most widely used for broadcasts is 1080 60p. This makes matters complicated when trying to promote it in TV platforms that use the typical 1080 50i standard, although it is natural to expect that with the arrival of 4K and the UHD standards this issue will be sorted out sooner than later. We could add that in Twitch, interlaced broadcasting is not recommended at all as it not only results in poor display of videogames but also a lack of definition and “saw teeth” in real picture frames.
There are alternatives such as Mixer, owned by Microsoft; and the giant YouTube, which are intent in battling with Twitch over the field, but nowadays they lag far behind in regard to users and importance in the sector.
For proper broadcast an encoder is needed, as this will enable us to convert our video signal with the various stream broadcast protocols for digital distribution of content. Even though a wide array of options exists, the use of XSPLIT is very popular. This is a multi-function application (even allowing for mixing amongst various sources) which running on an optimized PC offers default memories for broadcasting on the various platforms.
eSports are mainly sports and this is the reason why the higher audience levels lie with the broadcasting of the various competitions. In general, the league associations (NBA-style) themselves are in charge of producing the signal for the games.
An important distinction must be made between online competitions –where the various teams play against the others from the distance and where having the team in one place is not even required- and on-site events, where teams play against each other in a stage especially put up for the occasion and featuring a spectacular scene deployment
Competitions feature narrators and commentators, the so called Casters. A common feature is the use of micro-headphones, both at on-site events and in online broadcasts and therefore this technological device is most of the time an ornament that something really useful.
On-site events are better suited for better appreciation of the features of electronic sports. On the one hand, we have stage production and on the other production relating the game itself. Each game offers a Wide choice for selecting cameras and points of view. The person in charge of carrying this in-game production is called Observer.
A distinctive feature of this sector is the utilization of PCs and various software packages for the broadcasts, which lead us to face the first piece of technological evidence: Is it better to work which asynchronous signals in our workflow or; quite the opposite, should we require an indecent battery of FRS capable of operating at 60p with the relevant price increase for our equipment budget? In this regard, the Australian brand BlackMagic Design is the clear leader in the field as it offers solutions such as Atem video mixers and Decklink capture cards.
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