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Esports Live Production Planning

Esports and live broadcast go hand in hand. With massive audiences available on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Kick, it makes complete sense to incorporate a live broadcast with your esports tournament.


(image credit: Blackmagic Design)


Accessibility to a Global Audience

Live streaming technology has broken down the barriers that once limited esports tournaments to local venues. Now, anyone with an internet connection can tune in from virtually anywhere in the world to watch their favorite players and teams compete. This accessibility has democratized esports, allowing fans from different continents and time zones to enjoy the action in real-time. Live streaming has transformed esports into a global spectacle, fostering a sense of community among fans who can interact with each other and the players through chat and social media.


Monetization Opportunities

Live streaming has brought about numerous monetization opportunities for esports organizations, players, and content creators. Popular platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming allow streamers to generate income through ads, subscriptions, donations, and sponsorships. Esports tournaments, especially major ones like The International for Dota 2 or the League of Legends World Championship, attract millions of viewers, creating a lucrative market for advertisers and sponsors. This influx of revenue not only supports the growth of the esports industry but also provides players and teams with sustainable income sources.


Engagement and Interaction

Live streaming adds a layer of interactivity that traditional television broadcasts cannot match. Viewers can engage with the content in real-time, ask questions, share their thoughts, and even influence the gameplay through various in-stream mechanics like voting or betting. This heightened level of engagement keeps fans glued to their screens and creates a sense of participation in the tournament. It also provides an excellent platform for community building, as viewers can connect with like-minded individuals who share their passion for esports.



However, to produce a smooth broadcast takes significant planning and consideration.


There's a few questions you should be asking yourself:

  1. What should the live audience be seeing?

  2. What should the online audience be seeing?

  3. How can you streamline your production setup to account for 2 different audiences?


When planning a live broadcast, you need to consider the hardware and software that will be needed to achieve your desired outcome. There are hardware/software combinations that can provide ease of setup, or high production quality for the audience. With an easy setup, you are often sacrificing quality. While we won't be able to tell you what kind of setup is right for you, we can give you some tips to help you plan your setup.


I want to make every competitor's perspective available on a live stream.

What you'll need:

  • A hardware switcher with enough inputs for every player's feed - preferably one that can utilize audio embedded in the inputs so you can hear each player's gameplay when you switch. To make sure you only hear the audio from the feed that is on air, see if yours switcher has an "Audio follow Video" setting that will make sure only the live input can be heard.

  • Splitters or converters allowing you to take the feed from the player's console or PC and send it to a switcher while allowing the player to still have their own monitor to play on

  • If your switcher uses SDI inputs and your player's device uses HDMI, we recommend the Blackmagic BiDirectional SDI/HDMI converter. It can convert the console's HDMI output to SDI for your switcher while also providing an HDMI loop-through that can plug into the player's monitor so they can still see their own gameplay without adding input latency

  • If your switcher uses HDMI inputs, a simple HDMI splitter should suffice. We like HDMI splitters from OREI, but there are dozens of different brands out there.

(from left to right - Orei HD-102 HDMI Splitter, Blackmagic Bidirectional SDI/HDMI 3G)


  • Cameras that face the competitors (it is not strictly necessary to have a camera for every single player as that adds significant complexity and cost to a production setup)

  • Camera(s) for any live commentators


Hardware switchers have come down in price significantly over the last 10 years making it a lot easier and affordable to create a broadcast with every player's perspective. However, if you want to live graphics and overlays for each individual player, you'll likely need a software switcher like Wirecast or vMix unless you are willing to fork out thousands of dollars for a live broadcast graphics passthrough solution. If you decide to use a software switcher, you'll need a PC with enough PCI-Express slots to support several multi-input capture devices like Blackmagic Decklink Duo 2 or Decklink Duo Quad 2. You will need a workstation CPU and motherboard to have this ability as consumer-grade motherboards and CPUs don't have enough PCIE slots/lanes to support this.

(from left to right - Elgato Cam Link Pro, Blackmagic Decklink Quad 2, Blackmagic Decklink Duo 2)



You also need to consider your live audience - how will they see anything? You'll likely need to rely on projectors, so whatever setup you choose will need to support outputting your stream to some kind of display.



Live Production Switchers

Here a few options for live production switchers that you could use for your broadcast.


Blackmagic ATEM Mini Extreme - $995 USD


PROS CONS

Small and portable

Has HDMI only - if you need to do long cable runs (over 10m) you'll need to adapt to SDI or some other format

Entirely HDMI - easy to plug in consoles and PCs

Has limited support for on-screen graphics

Supports all resolutions and framerates up to 1080p @ 60FPS

Does not support 1440p or 4K inputs

Has 2 customizable HDMI outputs that can display any input, output

One HDMI input will likely always be used for multiview

Supports a multi-view letting you view all inputs

Depending on what you are broadcasting, 8 inputs may not be enough

Integrated hardware control panel

Supports live streaming and recording directly from the switcher

Can do limited picture in picture






vMix - price depends on which version you get ($60 - $1200 USD)


PROS CONS

Very powerful software switcher

Requires an expensive PC for more than a few hardware inputs

Runs on Windows 10/11

Relies on Windows and the stability of your PC

Depending on the version you need, can be affordable

Limited hardware outputs for digital projection

Can do custom scenes for each input including on-screen graphics

Requires expensive capture cards unless you only need a few USB capture devices

Powerful audio mixer

Supports USB webcams and even remote guests over the internet

Has built-in instant replay

Supports network based inputs like NDI devices







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