The BLAST Premier World Final, a global esports tournament held in Abu Dhabi in December, was produced not just for a live audience but for millions of viewers around the world. BroadcastPro ME caught up with Martin Smed Dietrichsen, BLAST Broadcast Director, for a quick chat about some unique elements of broadcasting an esports tournament.
What technology did you use for the BLAST Premier World Final for television and online audiences?
The technology used was similar to what is used for sports production. We are using EVS for replays and other tools to give the best possible experience. At the same time, there is a lot of information feeding in from computers that needed to be fit tech-wise into the broadcast system, and this required a lot of knowledge and skills from technicians to get that to work efficiently.
What are the fundamentals when it comes to broadcasting esports, compared to traditional sports such as football or cricket?
In football, you can set up the camera at different points of the pitch and that doesn’t require that much data to tell you what is happening. In esports, we require a lot of data to tell the story. For example, in Counter-Strike we get a lot of data from the game itself, and to tell the story the audience needs to know how many times a player has died or how many damages the player has had. This data is all from the game and then packaged into a graphic system which can then be part of the broadcast. The same applies to Formula One, where the audience wouldn’t know who is leading or how many laps have been completed without the data and graphics.
Did you implement any new tech for the World Final?
Innovation is key to everything that we do, and for the World Final, we installed a camera on the coach’s headset so the audience could see what he was looking at when he was analysing the players during matches. This really puts the audience in the coach’s shoes and helps them see what it’s like when they are playing on the stage.
What else allows the audience to get closer to the action?
As with any other sport, we try to focus on the emotions and expressions of the players on stage, as that is a key part of esports. The player cam gives a better view that captures these emotions, which are then played during intervals. This really adds a different dimension to the viewing experience.
What are the challenges in esports?
When you do a music show production, there is a lot more time to rehearse and practise. At the BLAST Premier World Final, we had limited time, as we only had a couple of days to set up followed by five broadcast days. Therefore, the tech crew had to be very fast and highly skilled to prepare everything before we went into the Etihad Arena.
I also had to develop a comprehensive plan that included a camera plan and the set-up of the EVS and graphics systems. Everything was brought from Denmark to Abu Dhabi, and this was a challenge – to set up and test and go live.
Do you use AR/VR in your productions?
Not currently, but there is a big place for that in esports in the future. It can feel fake, but if done well it will be more believable. Having said that, utilising AR or VR would be a good fit for the player walk-ins on the stage. It could also be used for the stage, but using these features requires a lot of testing – for example, you would need to analyse the cameras and what programmes would be sufficient to ensure you get the best result.
What about latency issues?
There is no delay at all at live arenas, whereas if they’re watching on Twitch, they could possibly signal or call someone; but when you’re in an arena, there’s no chance that can be done. When we’re doing online tournaments we delay the feed by four minutes, and we do this by having a system that the signal runs into which delays the feed when it is broadcast online.