eSport needs a completely fresh approach by Tobias Kronenwett, Head of Business Development, sonoVTS
There is remarkable interest in eSport, and coverage (online rather than broadcast) is growing in sophistication. But I think to really get to the heart of the business, you have to forget much of what you have learnt from broadcasting and take a completely fresh approach to the subject.
The first point is that the event itself requires a lot of coverage. The coming world final in Seoul is expected to have 100,000 people in the stadium. Remember that this mammoth crowd is there to watch experts play games. You will need multi-viewer controllers to allow you to show the players as well as see the game output on large displays.
The games themselves are no respecters of established broadcast standards. If your displays can support 4k resolution then the gaming engines can probably deliver it, with a fast screen refresh rate, again not necessarily the 50 frames that broadcasters would expect.
The same applies to high dynamic range and extended colour gamut. Gamers love anything that makes the environment more engaging and immersive. The chances are this is what the players are seeing, so it should be what the spectators see. sonoVTS has developed a colour-matching algorithm, which ensures that the displays in front of the players are perfect, but can also be caught on camera and reproduced accurately.
IP connectivity is the norm around the site. Why would you make life hard for yourself by going to SDI or HDMI to connect the displays? The top goal is to minimise latency, so the big displays are as close as possible to what the players see.
Events in the world of eSport tend to be closely managed by production companies and the leagues themselves. Their business model is to create, manage and deliver the content themselves. That tends to be streaming rather than broadcast: the target market is online, so why would you drag them away to watch a conventional television?
While there are the usual challenges around delivering streamed content to today’s huge number of devices, creatively it opens up new windows. There are no legacy formats to restrict producers. Every event can be covered in a way which is appropriate.
Even more exciting, streams can be tailored to the individual consumer. Some may be forced to watch on a low bitrate link on a small screen, but others on big pipes (and perhaps with big wallets) could rightfully demand multi-screen, high resolution, high dynamic range content.
Games use VR to be immersive. The eSport coverage could use VR to communicate the excitement. Because the delivery is online, and therefore anything can be streamed just by changing a couple of parameters in the header, producers can decide what they want for each event, based on commercial and creative decisions alone.
That is the situation today. Producers of eSport events make decisions on the way their competitions will be streamed without the restrictions of established broadcast patterns. To be honest, they do it without any real interest in the technology behind it: they just want coverage of their event.
If you want to provide facilities for eSports, then you have to adopt the role of partner with the production company. Guide them on the path between the challenging and the fanciful. Listen to what they want to do, and find solutions to deliver it. Forget your broadcast history and embrace the new!
First published in TV Tech Global eSports Special 2017