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Red Bull Media Readies Its Esports Studio for Prime Time

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Audio is also mainly delivered from the game platform itself, mostly in the form of endogenous music and sound effects; additional sound comes from the players, through their headset mic booms as they relate strategy and check on teammates’ physical and mental condition. Sound also comes, critically, from open microphones on the cameras that pick up the sound of keyboards being tapped and mice being moved, an aural representation of the APM.

NewTek’s TriCaster serves as the foundational platform for live video switching, graphics, special effects, audio mixing, recording, social media publishing, and web streaming, which after conversion to the H.264/MPEG4 codec via an Elemental Live transcoder is ported to Akamai as the network’s distributing CDN.

Internal Network

However, within that framework the Esports Studio relies heavily on Riedel Communications’ MediorNet real-time network, RockNet audio transport system, and Artist digital matrix intercom system. In an example of how all three products are integrated into the workflow, on a typical show featuring two teams of five players each, MediorNet modular frames take in a total of 20 HDMI POV video signals from the gaming consoles, convert them into HD-SDI, and carry them to the control room. These inputs are combined with the primary gameplay feeds to produce the complete Esports broadcast assets.

An additional MediorNet Compact Frame is used to bring in complementary shots from other parts of the competition. Each player in this example wears a headset that provides game audio and a link to other team members. The Artist system supports these communications, as well as the intercom and on-air audio from the commentators. The same product is also being used to create a custom downmix of game audio specific to each team, as well as the overall audio feed to the audio mixing console. A single four-core fiber cable, equipped with OpticalCON QUAD connectors, handles all signals.

Within the control room, the MediorNet system acts as a pre-switcher, dynamically feeding eight signals to the TriCaster’s video switcher, and also provides feeds to the edit bay, two SSD recording units, and to a monitor wall comprising two displays with 16-window split views. The MediorNet also serves as an audio de-embedder, in turn feeding audio to the audio mixing desk. The resulting audio and video mix is sent to two encoders for streaming via the internet.

All of this is rack-mounted in the Esports Studio, but was originally configured as a flypack to take to gaming locations, including the arena mentioned earlier, and it will still hit the road for those types of events in the future.

Earlier this year, Red Bull hosted a High Performance camp hosted with a professional Call of Duty eSports team, Optic Gaming. The 4-week long training camp helped set benchmarks for how to measure and evaluate pro gamers’ fitness levels and help them improve their game play.

However, the focus is now on beefing up the Esports Studio as the locus of streamed video game contests, creating an anchor facility as competitive videogaming’s momentum continues to build towards establishing it as a mainstream sport worthy of broadcast. Along those lines, Esports Studio will eventually make use of Lyon Video’s MU8 mobile production unit, which is already the vendor Red Bull Media House uses for its other live events, such as Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic 24-mile Red Bull Stratos skydive in October 2012.

Not Just for Gen Y Anymore

You could say the Esports Studio’s team is bullish on the potential for video games as a spectator sport, online and in person. “When you can sell out a stadium in less than an hour,” Gillies says, “I’d say it’s already well beyond a niche.” Instead, he says, with countless people from Generation Y and the Millennial generation brought up on gaming, the real challenge is in not waiting until they’re the median cohort of the future but instead focusing on Gen Xers and even the more adventurous (and ultimately most affluent) Boomers, who’ve been taking up snowboarding with a passion once reserved for LBOs and single-malt scotch. Making online competitive gaming look and sound more and more like baseball on ESPN and TNT is a good start. That’s where the Esports Studio comes in. All they need now is a Joe Buck avatar.

This article appears in the May/June 2015 issue of Streaming Media as "Red Bull Media Readies ESports Studio for Prime Time.”

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