The intensity of the gaming universe continues to reach new heights, with astonishing technical advances every year. The audiences who witnessed the early September events at Benaroya Hall in Seattle saw something truly special, as the broadcast and gaming worlds blended for a truly unique event.
The venerable 2500-seat performance hall in the downtown area was host to “The International Dota 2 Championships,” a three-day gaming event that brought 16 teams together to compete for the 2012 Championship Title — and a $1 million prize. Dota 2 is the follow-up to “Defense of the Ancients,” a multiplayer online battle arena video game with global popularity.
Dota 2 game developer Valve Corporation hired Trifilm as the event producer, which turned to Graystone Media for its experience in sports-style TV production. Graystone Media contracted Nashville-based TNDV to bring its live mobile production experience and professional broadcast equipment arsenal to the show.
Together, the various arms married a broadcast-quality sports production model to this international gaming event — while juggling the creative complexities associated with delivering both colorful, in-house HD projections and demanding live, multilingual broadcast streams for worldwide audiences. The days were also long, with live streams rolling from 8:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. for three straight days.
Setting the stage
TNDV drove its 40ft expanding side truck, Aspiration, to Seattle for the production. Aspiration is built to handle large entertainment events, with a complete HD (and 3D-ready) infrastructure ready-made for everything from live sports to major concerts and awards shows. The truck includes a large Harris Platinum routing solution (with integrated multiviewers), Ross Vision production switcher, Soundcraft Vi4 audio console and a bank of AJA Ki Pro video recorders among other technology.
The presence of several commentator desks made the sports production model especially vital. The configuration replicated a sports network environment, with several host positions at each desk. The unusual aspect was play-by-play and color commentary in different languages — English, Chinese and Russian — which set the stage for a complex and challenging audio configuration.
TNDV first evaluated the venue to strategize the most effective acquisition plan for the live shoots. Multiple cameras were required: six Hitachi HD5000 cameras for fixed positions and handheld use; two Panasonic AW-HE120 robotic cameras, positioned and balanced on pods; and two roving Sony EX3 cameras to capture backstage action. Onstage, teams of five competed against each other within custom-built player pods, each outfitted with Sony HXR-MC1 POV cameras for close-ups of player reaction.
SMPTE fiber accommodated lengthier camera runs. Straight copper-based BNC connections worked for backstage and venue-to-pod runs under 280ft. Elsewhere, 1000ft, 12-fiber bundles were used, with AJA FiDO conversion bricks to convert fiber signals back to 1080i HD-SDI at the destination.
Sony PVM-1741 OLED monitors allowed the production team to color-match the different camera models, providing a consistent look across all in-house and external broadcast signals. The Sony Ex3 cameras were specifically chosen for both outstanding image quality and the simplicity of color-matching to the Hitachi cameras. ChromaDuMonde color calibration charts from DSC Labs were employed to build custom theme files for every camera.
The various camera models and positions captured a lively and intense atmosphere for the in-house projection, while also giving external audiences more control. Viewers could choose which cameras they wanted to watch, allowing them to focus on the team or player they wanted, follow certain analysts, or check out the backstage action.
Viewers could also opt for a full-screen version of the player computers, enabling them to view the action as if they were playing the game. To accompany the video selections, viewers could choose from three audio streams covering the aforementioned languages.
Behind the scenes, Graystone Media operators followed a live Twitter feed from viewers around the world, making adjustments to sound and video based on immediate feedback. This integration of social media into the live monitoring process only served to enhance the viewer experience.