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How COVID Has Impacted Gaming and Esports Streaming Production

COVID-19 has brought some event video markets, like pro poker tournaments, to a virtual standstill, while necessitating reconfiguration in other like esports. VENN's Jeff Jacobs, Poker Central's Tyler Champley, and OS Studios' Sam Asfahani discuss the pandemic's impact in this clip from Streaming Media West Connect.

See complete videos and other highlights from Streaming Media West Connect on Streaming Media's YouTube channel.

Read the complete transcript of this video:

Jeff Jacobs: Let's talk about remote streaming in the world of COVID. It's what everyone who is keeping their business afloat is a part of. There are a thousand different ways to slice the apple with remote production, whether it's live streaming, whether it's live entertainment shows, whether it's broadcast production via live streaming, but most of all, regarding esports and sports content in a COVIDworld. Tyler, we'll start with you. We'll go reverse alphabetical order. Everyone's been figuring out their workflow, what workflow is best for you? I've been producing since March, utilizing ... One day it's vMix. One day it's Medialooks. One day it's TriCaster with Skype. One day it's MVPCAST. Tyler, what's your workflow of preference? How have you been getting it done? How's it been working out?

Tyler Champley: It's been, it's been trying times, with most of our live tournaments that we usually broadcast live have been postponed for obvious reasons. You can't have so many people in the same room or at the same poker table for that matter. So we've been working closely with the folks at the Aria, and with the Nevada gaming control board, trying to figure out happy mediums and stuff. So, for example, we're used to doing eight-handed poker with no masks.

Obviously, that doesn't work in today's times. So we've gotten the okay to do five-handed poker, so we'll take it. Then we've been trying to figure out ways to do it without the masks, because that's also a Nevada gaming requirement. We actually came to a solution this past week where we've hired a couple of nurses and one of those fast-results testing machines, and for our next live show, we'll be bringing them onsite. We'll be doing some testing. We'll know within 30 minutes if everyone's good to go. If everyone's good to go, we'll take the masks off and we'll film as is. And pretty much we'll be back to how we were nine months ago. So we're pretty excited about that. That's going to be a game-changer for us.

We've been doing some live shows over the past month with masks on. You know, it's a mixed bag. The interesting thing about poker is, people like seeing the facial expressions and picking up on body tics and stuff. Those are hard to see when you have a mask on. So I think it'll be much more exciting to the end user once those come off. The only thing that won't be back to normal is, we'll still have to abide by the five-handed rule. But that makes for a little bit faster poker. So we'll take that as well.

Jeff Jacobs: Sam, your thoughts about producing remotely during these COVID times since March?

Sam Asfahani: I think Tyler is right. It's been trying, but I also think moments like this are what drive innovation, and innovation that I think will stick around way after we go back to any "new normal" that we get. For us, it's been a little bit fascinating because of our sports and gaming background. Some of these workflows were already in our systems--the amount of remote production you do in gaming and eSports, because there aren't really the budgets to fly everyone to central locations every single time. So a lot of the times you are having a team in one city playing a team in another city.

So some of the workflows had already been established. I think others have just been pushed, and it's been fascinating to see the sheer amount of software and hardware that's being released in 2020 to support remote production. We have a NewTek NDI-based control room we could remote in and use a lot of that. So often we're having entire productions where we maybe only have one or two, normally an EIC or a tech manager on site. The rest of it's remoted in. And a lot of what we've been using is vMix for our talent for bringing in their audio and video. We love we've really been enjoying vMix. Obviously, it's got its limitations, from a limit of how many you can use per license, and how you can string them all together. But ultimately what I've found exciting, a silver lining to an otherwise very dark situation, for not just our industry, but the country as a whole is the innovation that we're seeing.

And then you mentioned so many that didn't exist last year in your intro to this question that have been released this year. We've been fascinated, and are continuing to push the boundaries, using a lot of the systems that you mentioned.

Jeff Jacobs: It's almost like a new product that a streaming producer will be able to offer a client in the future. "Hey, I need this produced, give me a bid." "Well, I can give you the $600,000 operation on-site, or I can give you the $200,000 remote." We'll talk later about what's going to stick, but it is kind of exciting, and--as you say--innovative. So that's a big deal.

Sam Asfahani: Yeah, I agree. One big thing that's happened to us is, we were actually in the process of deciding whether we build a second control room in 2020. So we have our NewTek NDI control room. And just because of bandwidth, we were like, "Maybe it's time to build a second soundstage, a second control room." But actually instead we've been looking at cloud-based solutions to exactly your point, Jeff. The tier A go into the control room and the Tier B or the lower budget points are their cloud based solutions that mean we don't have to invest heavily on the capital side. So I completely agree with you.