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HSL Streams Online Gaming from PAX with ATEM Switchers

Electronic entertainment has grown to become one of the largest and fastest growing industries worldwide. The Entertainment Software Association estimates that over 59% of American households play video games actively. With such a large market, game developers are constantly looking for new ways and events to promote and announce their latest titles to the public. The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is one such event. Each year, PAX, organized by Reed Exhibitions, draws over 200,000 people to 5 cities around the globe. Excited gamers crowd the show floor looking for their favorite publishers, eager to try the latest, often unreleased, titles.

Motiga, a game development company based in Seattle, approached HSL with a plan to create a unique experience within their ballroom at PAX East, in Boston. HSL had previously produced gaming tournaments and events for companies such as MSI, Gigabyte, Acer, and Newegg.

This PAX, Motiga explained to HSL that they wanted a production that would not only capture the excitement of the gameplay, but also allow their shoutcasters to seamlessly switch between each of the 10 gaming computers with ease.

Traditionally, tournaments and streams rely on what we call "observer mode" an extra person connected to the game that had god-like vision and could be used as a spectating tool. "Gigantic," Motiga's game, was still in its development phase and did not yet have an observer mode.

"This was something that I had wanted to do for a long time," said Tomber Su, HSL Production's executive producer. "We knew we had the capability to mix and switch between all those systems, the questions was; How easy could we make it? And how portable?"

To build the equipment list for this event, Tomber met with Brodin Plett, HSL's creative director to discuss how they would be able to make this experience unique. "We see single feed events all the time" explains Brodin, "Sometimes, the audience gets bored. We wanted to make sure that the audience stayed immersed within the gameplay."

To do this, HSL turned to the Blackmagic ATEM Production Studio 4K. "The Blackmagic ATEMs provide an insane amount of switching power in a compact package which was key since we had to take it from LA to Boston" says Tomber, "The SDI inputs allows up to use longer cables runs vs HDMI and the 2M/E capability was key to the Motiga experience."

"Cross-Eye is our nickname for any production that uses two feeds," Brodin explains. "The ATEM provides up to 8 feeds of switching power, so why limit it to 1? We wanted to make sure that everyone would be able to watch what was happening on both sides of the game, regardless of which shoutcaster was in command of the controls. While it looks great, it can be tricky to stay on top of scene switches."

To do this, HSL split each gaming computer's HDMI feed into two. From there, one of the HDMI cables fed the monitor, while the other was converted with Blackmagic SDI Miniconverters. The 10 converters then fed into the ATEM via SDI, along with multiple camera feeds from around the room. Here, things got tricky. Switching video with an ATEM, although simple, can sometimes be tricky, due human error with a mouse, also, only one person could switch at once from a single PC. And even then, only one feed could be switched.

To ensure that Motiga's own shoutcasters would be able to switch scenes at will, HSL turned to their in house developer, Geert Lombarts, for a solution.

"Blackmagic included a fantastic SDK for their ATEM switchers," says Geert, "What we really needed was a way to hotkey every single scene switch so that two people, with two keyboards, could switch scene independently on separate outputs. The SDK and documentation provided made it very easy to do so."

Once the software had been written, it was a simple matter to custom program a pair of X-Keys XK-24 keyboards to coincide with the scenes changes. Each keyboard had 5 scene keys, and a 6th Supersource key, that, via the software, would instantly throw up a 4 way display on the shoutcaster's respective output. Each of the feeds then exited the ATEM via SDI into a pair of Epson PowerLite Pro Z10000UNL projectors.

Feedback from the event was very positive. "After HSL finished setting everything up, I was honestly shocked. The setup was clean and done in such a professional way that all I could do is get 100x more excited for the tournament," says Allie Murdock, community manager for Motiga, "The tournament broadcast went so smoothly with the equipment that I didn't even have to do anything! Afterwards, I spoke with our shoutcasters and they had nothing but good things to say about how smooth the software and hardware was."

Mark Candella, director of strategic partnerships at Twitch, was equally impressed. "I wanted to send you an email expressing how impressed I was with your production during PAX East. I had not known that technology has come so far and it makes me confident that technology is creating even more opportunities for high production live events. Please keep up the great work you are doing!"

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Related Keywords:BlackMagic Design, ATEM Production Studio 4K, PAX East, Gaming Tournaments

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