In our latest Beyond the Lens blog post, Phil Englert - Global Business Development Manager for Esports takes a look at new and innovative workflows at the 2022 World Championships of Magic the Gathering Arena
Some of you may recall that in late 2020, I longed for the return of LAN events. Fast forward almost two years, and I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2022 World Championships of Magic the Gathering Arena (MTGA), which was the cornerstone event of the 30-year celebration of the legendary tabletop card game.
Hosted by Wizards of the Coast, the developers and publishers of Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, the 30th-anniversary event consisted of both the esports championship as well as a full-blown in-person expo that was made up of physical card games, as well as a host of vendors selling rare memorabilia and merchandise.
With over 10,000 Magic fans descending upon the expo and esports arena championships, the return of in-person esports certainly lived up to my lofty expectations. Behind the scenes, however, quite a lot has changed over the last two years, including new and innovative production workflows.
With the 2022 World Championships of Magic Arena fresh in my memory and a few new connections built with members of the esports community, here are my top takeaways on the return of live esports events and how productions surrounding LAN events have improved for the better.
LAN Dreams Come True!
First, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my experience at Magic 30 suggests that LAN events are back in full force. After much speculation about whether in-person esports events would ever truly be the same after the pandemic, the MTGA Championships proved that esports fans still have a thirst for large in-person events.
When speaking with Derek Woods, the Head of Gaming at NCompass International (the lead agency tasked with bringing to life both the Magic World Championship, as well as other immersive experiences on the show floor), he summed up the feelings surrounding the return of events by explaining that “The power of gaming is the ability to build community. Coming out of the last couple of years, these types of events have been so much more meaningful because you get to see that people are attending have that face-to-face connection.”
Veronique Lou, the Coordinating Producer with the Boombox Group, who was tasked with leading the esport broadcasts production side of the competition, added to this sentiment by saying, “We are back in full force. People are tired of looking at other people in boxes in their bedrooms, and this event allowed the Magic community to re-connect in a way that they have been craving for the last couple of years.”
While in-person connection and community remain the steadfast pillars of the esports world, behind the scenes, the production side has seen several significant shifts.
New Event Workflows
The 2022 World Championships of Magic the Gathering Arena event embraced many of the innovations and efficiencies in live production that were accelerated during the pandemic. Specifically, we’re seeing these very advancements in remote production workflows.
“As we have come back to live events, a lot of the innovation from the past couple of years has helped us make a better broadcast. We’ve essentially made our shows less complicated by stripping away some of the on-site technology so that we can focus more on storytelling. Through a combination of on-premises, remote, and cloud workflows, we’ve now streamlined our production,” explains Derek Woods.
The re-imaged live production that underpinned the 2022 MTGA Championships was years in the making. With social distancing measures in place for the previous championships, the Boombox Group worked in partnership with Ross Production Services to drive the Magic the Gathering shows 100% remotely. The return of the in-person 2022 championships event saw a blend of traditional production techniques with newer remote production models.
Harbinder Singh, Production Director for the 2022 Championships, comments on the shifting workflow: “Before the pandemic, we were used to doing everything in person. Everything was live, and everything was happening in real time. What I’m most impressed with when it comes to working with the Ross team is that they have done an excellent job with their virtual portal, and when combining that with having the Ross Production Services team here at the live event with their trucks and engineers, it’s been great to be in-person and have that live event energy back.”
In summary, the championships featured a hybrid workflow that consisted of a blend of production truck staff along with crew members at home. This more efficient workflow was enabled through the Ross Production Cloud (RPC) and has led to a better show since more time and resources have been spent on items in front of the camera instead of behind it. This ultimately allows for a more impactful fan experience as well as more engaging fan activations.
Ross Production Services Provides the Technology Backbone for Magic 30
When taking a closer look at the full production solution behind the 2022 Magic Arena Championships, Tedd Harkin, one of the lead engineers with Ross Production Services (RPS), explains that “We are doing a hybrid model, with some people on-site while graphics and replay operators working remotely.”
More specifically, Veronique Lou of Boombox comments on the sophistication of the graphics solution for the MTGA event. “We’re operating four channels of XPression on this show full-time because we have a lot of hot changes. XPression also allows us to elevate the storytelling as all the game data is being pushed to the Ross Video graphics platform by the tournament API.”
Harkin continues by explaining that through the Ross Production Cloud, his mobile crew can deliver more for less with their existing mobile truck fleet.
“With the Ross Hybrid production workflow, we can let the customer decide how much of the technology and staff will be on-site and how much will be remote. We can find the point where they feel more comfortable and cater to their every need. Our trucks aren’t the biggest, but we can provide just as many operator positions based on our remote staffing. So, you can get the big truck workflow and the big truck quality without needing a 54-footer at your event.”
A Look Ahead
For me, the energy surrounding the Magic Arena Championships was absolutely invigorating, and the event can only be described as a huge success for all the parties involved in marking this remarkable milestone for the Magic community.
In addition to the re-establishment of human connection, it is truly exciting to see new and innovative workflows emerging that continue to raise the bar for esports productions. Whether it’s through the return of in-person events or through 100% remote productions, everyone working in the esports industry is here to produce exciting content that connects passionate fans and deepens their connection with the game and the community.
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