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Ross Video Team Jul 6, 2020 9:13:15 AM

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Living Live Podcast: Wowing Audiences with Esports Arena Production


The Esports industry has seen exponential growth essentially overnight, with the popularity of this gaming-based entertainment ballooning to nearly match that of other professional sports.

The industry has branched out beyond streaming platforms and into in-person, full-fledged leagues and events that draw throngs of dedicated fans. To capitalize on this growth, Esports arenas and productions need to provide cutting-edge, top-notch experiences.

On this episode of Living Live with Ross Video, host Tyler Kern was joined by Ross Video Esports Business Development Manager Cameron Reed to discuss exactly how to bring those experiences to life. Esports are unique, Reed said, for the limitless potential for angles and viewpoints provided by in-game observers that offer unparalleled flexibility and movement.

“There’s really nothing limiting any angle a director could possibly choose or want to see, because it’s always accessible,” he said. “When you compare that to NASCAR or football or basketball, there really only are so many angles that, physically, are even possible, let alone something you would want to do from a production standpoint.”

Esports are also set apart by a unique ability for productions to automate the tools that, in more traditional workflows, need to be manually entered, such as statistics.

“In video games, it’s all just data,” Reed said.

By combining these unique capabilities with some traditional broadcast sensibilities, leveraging a unique mix of new-school professionals with deep knowledge of the subject matter and old-school professionals with the production chops, and a focus on letting the gamers tell the story they understand best, Esports productions can wow audiences for years to come.

And Ross Video’s end-to-end workflows and custom dashboards, which allow for the condensing of key production elements into a single button push and are easy to understand and operate, make that possible.

AUTHOR: Tyler Kern
CONTRIBUTOR: Cameron Reed

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Podcast Transcript

Tyler Kern:

The esports industry has grown exponentially over the last several years and only figures to continue growing as these competitions grow in popularity. And joining me today to talk about production opportunities in the world of esports is Cameron Reed. He's the esports business development manager at Ross Video. Cameron, thank you so much for joining me today.

Cameron Reed:

Hey, thanks for having me. This is going to be fun.

Tyler Kern:

This is going to be fun. I'm excited to talk esports because this really is a booming industry and really something that is emerging and it's a lot of fun to talk about. And it seems to me anyways, and you could tell me what your perception of this is, but it feels like there are some production aspects that make esports particularly unique compared to other events that take place. What are some of those things that make esports stand out or makes them unique in the world of production?

Cameron Reed:

Yeah, the very first thing that comes to mind is the potentially limitless capability of the observers. The observer is effectively our camera in the video game itself. And because it's a completely digital tool and a completely digital space, there's really nothing limiting any angle any director could possibly choose or want to see, because it's always accessible. When you compare that to NASCAR or football or basketball, there really only are so many angles that physically are even possible, let alone something you would want to do from a production standpoint.

Cameron Reed:

So that's the very first thing that comes to mind, is the limitless possibility within the realm of the video game itself. And then secondly is the ability to really automate a lot of the production tools that in more traditional old school workflows like sports or something along those lines would have to be manually answered by people and maybe in maybe B unit tracking statistics and stuff like that for graphics.

Cameron Reed:

In video games, it's all just data, and so you don't actually need a person or a team of people like it would be in most cases trying to feverishly keep track of all the scoring that's going on. The game can do that for you, and so esports relies heavily on smart production tools that enable them to create those levels of automation.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah. One of the interesting things to me about esports is that it's still relatively young in terms of its lifespan. There's not years and years, decades of history as far as production goes. And so you're going to have people that are maybe newer to this industry that might not know the equipment quite as well when it comes to production, but that know the games and know the storylines and that sort of thing. And then on the other side, you're going to have people who might have 20 years of experience doing production and on production teams, but that might not know esports.

Tyler Kern:

So how do you provide tools that really help those people who know the games really well, but might not understand the ins and outs of production quite as well? How do you know? How do you help them find the tools and have the tools necessary to create a really unique and cool experience?

Cameron Reed:

Well, the short answer is with a proprietary tool that we have called DashBoard. DashBoard is a customizable control interface that allows you to control just about every product that we make at Ross Video and multiple products, multiple pieces of equipment at the same time from the same centralized customizable control interface.

Cameron Reed:

So for example, you bring it up, but the gamers know how to tell the stories. They're the ones actively defining these coverages. And these games are so new and they're always coming out. Nobody could have predicted Fortnite four years ago when I was directing Hearthstone and Counter-Strike, but here we are, we have Fortnite. So we're actively defining these coverages and it's gamers that are doing it. So with DashBoard, you can make as many buttons as you want, map them on a touch screen, soft panel however you want, and then assign functions to each of them that, for example, any gamer or any person could understand.

Cameron Reed:

The great example is if you bring in the entire Ross workflow, the true end-to-end solution from glass to transmission, you can get that GG moment is what we call it. It would be something similar to like your touchdown in football, but GG just means good game. You get that GG moment with your lights and your music and your LEDs and the victory graphic taking over and the reaction shot of the victorious team. You can get all of those production elements that are happening at once down to a single button push that just says GG. And a gamer can understand that and it doesn't require the old workflow of six, seven, eight, nine, 10 people all being on the exact same page and all hitting their individual button at the exact same time for it to look good. It can all just happen at once from a single button push using our workflow.

Cameron Reed:

So that, really, I think is the most powerful tool for esports right now, is creating these easy to understand, easy to operate workflows that enable gamers to tell stories with all the same tools and the same proficiency that the 20 year veterans have.

Tyler Kern:

And you can work with these production staffs to be able to help them create those workflows within DashBoard, that makes things easier, right?

Cameron Reed:

Oh, you bet. Yeah, we can create the custom DashBoard for our clients. They can also go into DashBoard, it's free with the ownership of any of our products. You can download DashBoard for free and start tinkering with it immediately. So for example, we've done a customized DashBoard for ESL. They're the biggest independent esports production company in the world, and they've been around the longest as well. And they do an annual event every year in Katowice, Poland. Last year, they partnered with us to do their augmented reality for that show and we created a DashBoard for them that was very easy to use, it controlled camera position, camera tracking, the AR positions in X, Y, Z, and then took in data from the video game to populate those AR graphics and made this entire production workflow basically just a button that said duo standings.

Cameron Reed:

So when the director calls, "Duo standings fly it in," operator on a touchscreen panel just pushes duo standings. And then there's another button that says clear. So director says, "Lose it," hit the button that says clear. Director wants single standings. Oh, well, there's a button for that too. And so we made it that easy to use.

Cameron Reed:

Another example of a client just tinkering and experimenting is at the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. They had one of my favorite success stories in esports was a guy named Riley who worked there. Riley came to HyperX Esports Arena with not much work experience, he's young, let alone production experience, which he had none. And he has created these custom DashBoard panels by going in and learning how it works that have enabled him to control the entire system, which is a state-of-the-art system with graphics, replays, LEDs, all of it, cameras, robotics. He controls the whole thing from a DashBoard he created himself.

Cameron Reed:

And in so doing within a year's time, he was operating graphics for shows on CBS Sports. He did the NHL Draft at the HyperX Esports Arena and some of the biggest esports events in the world. And he credits largely his success, I think, due to I would say his hard work and intelligence, but also to having the tools he needed that enabled him to learn and to do all that without having to put in 15 years.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah. No, that's an incredible story and a real testament to the way that you can easily get things up and running and grasp and command use of these various tools that you have at your disposal, so that's a really incredible story. And you mentioned there are just some of the various stadiums that exist when it comes to esports. And we know that as esports has been exploding over the last several years that more and more stadiums have started popping up that are esports specific, but we also know that that's not always the case for all of these events.

Tyler Kern:

So walk me through the various scales of esports events and how Ross can meet the needs of everything from small scale events, all the way up to these big stadiums that are esports specific?

Cameron Reed:

Yeah. So that's one of the fun and unique challenges that esports provides. Excuse me. And so these esports arenas that you're mentioning that are popping up all over the world. They really need to keep in mind that over the course of a seven day work week, they might do programming for as many as 10 different video games and each one of those video games is going to have a different set of requirements. All the way from as small as a one versus one game, like a fighting game or something like Street Fighter, up to Counter-Strike, which is five V five, or Overwatch League. And then all the way from there up to Fortnite or PUBG, which are as many as 150 players at once, total madness. And so they need solutions that can fit every single one of those.

Cameron Reed:

That's one of the great things about Ross is that we have solutions for every size production. All the way down from something as small as two or three cameras in a small studio, one observer computer, graphics and replay. We could put together a kit around a Carbonite Solo that could bring real production value to that sort of small market size of a show, to something more midsize like what you see in most more esports arena ... not arenas rather, but studios. Like over at NGE in Burbank, they use Carbonite Black Plus, they use XPression to do screens and broadcast inserts. They're using Mira for replays on the Rocket League Championship series. All the way up to something like the HyperX Esports Arena or the Esports Stadium in Arlington, where they're using the total solution to do all their LED screens all over the stadium, as well as being able to cut the broadcast with a single workflow.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah. That's absolutely incredible when you describe it that way, just to all of the various solutions that are available. Now, one of the things I'm curious about, Cameron, is just that as things continue to grow and evolve, how do you see them maybe changing or what excites you about the future of esports as an industry and in the area that you work in?

Cameron Reed:

So I kind of touched on it a little bit earlier. What's exciting about esports to me and what continues to draw me to it. I've been in esports professionally since of 2012, which makes me sort of an elder statesman in the industry. What really draws me to it is that it's this, we're constantly evolving, constantly pushing the boundaries. And that's due in part because we're getting constantly new video games and so we're just always actively defining the coverages of these games. And this is not to say anything about ... Look, sports live production is easily the hardest job in production.

Cameron Reed:

I'm not taking anything away from it, trust me. But they do have the benefit of the coverages are largely established for football, for example. You've got your high 50s, you got one closer to one end zone and other one closer to the other end zone and just based on where the ball is, that's your play camera. And then you got cameras all over the place, picking off your QB, picking off of your high wide receiver, et cetera. The coverages are more or less defined. What they're doing innovatively is stuff like AR and things like that, but at least camera positions.

Cameron Reed:

In esports, none of it's defined. It's the wild, wild west. We're making it up as we go and that's what's so exciting about it. And as soon as we figure one out and we're really good at it, you bet another video game is going to come out and then the other one won't maybe be quite as popular and everyone's going to be trying to figure out, "Well, what's the best way to cover this video game?" And that's never going to change, I don't think personally and so that is incredibly exciting about it.

Cameron Reed:

And then the other stuff that's exciting to me is just how it can really push technology, because it is inherently, it is technology. Esports is video games, it's tech, and so it is pushing broadcast tech into these directions that we've never thought about. Like for example, who would have ever thought about 144 frames per second as a broadcast standard? But that's what esports wants because that's what the players are playing in and so they want to recreate that sort of exact look and feel that you get when you're playing the game when you're watching somebody else play the game.

Cameron Reed:

Broadcast took forever just to figure out how to get up to 60. And again, it's not to take anything away, but at a certain point, what would that many frames do for football? But for video games, well, it's going to actually recreate the same experience you get when you're at home playing that game yourself. And things like that and the way that data can automate these things, these graphics and takeovers on your screens and these big wow moments, these GG moments, it's all incredible and really it's been esports pushing that envelope and then a lot of the rest of the industry benefiting.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah. Well, it seems like an incredible time to be part of this industry. And a final question for you, Cameron, are you any good at gaming yourself

Cameron Reed:

Once upon a time, yeah. Really, I came into esports because I, as a kid, played a game StarCraft: Brood War, and StarCraft: Brood War is effectively like the mother of all esports. It was really what got started in South Korea as long as 20 years ago, where they were having these huge tournaments, outdoor arenas, giant prize pools for the champions. I played that game and I knew that was happening in Korea. And then fast forward a long time later, and now I'm in college, I'm getting a degree, I'm studying broadcasting and a game called StarCraft II comes along and I tried to get really good at StarCraft II because it reminded me of being a kid. And in so doing, I rediscovered esports and North America was more ready for it at that point too. With things like YouTube and what would become Twitch, but at the time it was called Justin TV, enabling esports to actually get distributed on more of a mass scale. And that was the last game I was ever good at, StarCraft II.

Cameron Reed:

So as soon as I started working in esports, it was like, "What am I going to do? Get good at video games?" I love them. I still play them. You can ask my wife, but I don't think I'm any good anymore.

Tyler Kern:

Well, I'm in that boat too. I'm absolutely miserable, but I enjoy playing them. It's a nice little escape and release for me. But yeah, Cameron Reed, Esports Business Development Manager at Ross Video. Thank you so much for joining me today and talking a little bit more about esports.

Cameron Reed:

Hey, thank you for your time. This was awesome.

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