The global esports market is booming with revenue predicted to reach US$1.65 billion in 2020. One of the industry’s drivers in this country is Gfinity Esports Australia with their new Elite Series competition which is delivering gamers and fans a clear and structured competitive framework within Australian esports. A key requirement for the Elite Series competition was the creation of Australia’s first, dedicated Gfinity esports production studio which has been designed and built by Videocraft. The Elite Series presented by Alienware sees 6 city-based clubs competing weekly in front of a live audience at Gfinity’s state of the art esports arena within the Hoyts Cinema Complex at Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter and it is here that Videocraft built the new production studio.Clubs compete across iconic game titles: Counter Strike Global Offensive, Street Fighter V and Rocket League, for a share in the some of the largest prize pools in Australian Esports history and each event is broadcast live on Twitch.
COO of Gfinity Australia Sam Harris said, “Gfinity are setting the new benchmark for quality in esports in Australia. As such, we looked for experienced partners to help bring our vision to life. Videocraft played a pivotal role in the development of the high quality production capabilities for our first esports arena at the Hoyts Entertainment Quarter.”
Videocraft’s Nick MacLean added, “Gfinity have produced esports events very successfully in the UK for years and set a very high standard for their productions. It was clear that all of our 45 years of broadcast experience would come into play for this project as the knowledge required to build the studio transfers perfectly into esports.”As well as creating and building a studio to create content for Twitch, Videocraft also had to send content, ready for playout, to TEN’s digital channel, One. MacLean continued, “For this studio we had to produce all the content to a much higher standard than for regular SD television which is usually 1080 50i. However, as the primary delivery and viewing platforms are online and in order to keep up with refresh rates, all of the content from the studio is 1080 60p.”
Videocraft designed and built the new Gfinity esports production studio with one of their highly-acclaimed and well-proven FlyAway kits at the core. The kit also integrates Sony HDC-2400 cameras, HDC-P1 cameras, EVS XT3 video servers, a Sony vision mixer and full Yamaha audio. MacLean added, “We deliver all of the competition match content in 1080 60p live to Twitch who in turn put it out live to their viewers. For One we had to work with Channel TEN to come up with a solution that looked equally as high quality. This meant a workflow which involved sending One the content in 1080 60i – which is the same as a live feed from the USA – and then cross converting that to 1080 50i. From there it all went out via the Telstra DVN and the whole process was flawless.”
The mix of broadcast expertise and workflows combined with the new generation of esports’ requirements is an interesting one as the production crew and equipment are all from a traditional TV environment which in turn makes the esports online production values particularly high. Maclean said, “We used all of our broadcast experience and expertise to give Gfinity, Twitch and One the very best quality content possible. We also broke new ground by using the clever new Bird Dog NDI converters for supplying vision feeds to monitors throughout the new facility. This meant we could control the units, get them to accept any material we wanted in 1080 60p and put this up on the screen whenever we wanted to. The Bird Dog converters enabled us to maximise the network infrastructure we built for the new facility and made life particularly easy for operators choosing content from a single screen. There were also complexities involving the project to the cinema location that we needed to overcome. The studio floor was built in the cinema and our CAR and control room built in one of the projection bio boxes on the other side of the complex. We had an extensive fibre install completed to enable us to send signals to various parts of the cinema complex. Utilising Mediornet and a 10gig Ethernet backbone made this very simple.”
In a nutshell esports is already having a huge impact in Australia and now with dedicated arenas and high end production facilities, that impact stands only to grow further. Nick MacLean concluded, “This project was all about quality and experience. We had to use all of our experience and work closely with Twitch, TEN and One to make sure everyone got the pictures the way they required them, in a seamless fashion and looking amazing. In the world of esports gamers play at 1080 60p therefore the images we give them to watch also have to be of the same ultra-high standard. This creates the very best in engaging content which in esports, is all that’s acceptable.”
Season 1 of the Gfinity Esports Australia Elite Series started on 2 June and runs for 7 weeks of competition, featuring Melbourne Avant, Sydney Chiefs, Brisbane Deceptors, Perth Ground Zero, Melbourne Order and Sydney Roar. Each of the Clubs 3 teams compete on Saturdays, CSGO 3-8pm and Sundays, Rocket League 10-1pm and Street Fighter V 4pm-7pm in an action packed 5 week regular season and 2 week Finals.