Esports live events involve many moving parts. WorldStage Inc., provider of audio, video and lighting equipment and services, answers the questions planners should be asking before they dive in.
Seemingly out of the blue, electronic gaming in the form of live sporting events has become a phenomenon, attracting fans by the thousands to halls and arenas to watch highly-skilled teams compete to win substantial fame and prizes. Utilizing event technology effectively to keep the audience “in the game,” as well as providing a high-energy ambience, is key to the success of these events. The best examples of technology integration in live esports applications are the result of solid planning, a thorough understanding of the technology fundamentals and a collaborative relationship with the technology vendors.
To help with the “thorough understanding” aspect of the conversation, consider these questions when planning an esports Live event:
How can I use event technology to immerse the audience in game play?
Visual impact is the key to this element and is going to be a balance between image size, clarity and quantity as well as budget. In terms of image size, game play feeds must be positioned and sized so that the vast majority of the audience can see not only the game play but the corresponding player name, health and other screen icons. For all but the smallest of venues, this means that projection or LED screens will be used and, in simple terms, projection technology is cheaper and LED technology is more impactful because they are brighter and less affected by ambient lighting.
Work with the technology vendor to select the best type of display, size and placement for your budget. In general, LED screens with a pixel pitch of <6mm work well for most applications and they should be sized so that the image height is one tenth of the distance to the furthest viewer. The corresponding sound system should be designed to provide even, full-range sound to the entire audience at a sound level that allows the game play to be felt as well as heard.
With effective image and sound coverage in place, attention must be paid to the content that will appear on the screens and sound system. Besides feeds of game play, event planners should consider incorporating shots of players from monitor cams as well as roving cameras, studio-type shots of the commentary team and, very importantly, shots of the audience itself. These shots can be integrated into the game play screens as picture-in-picture (PIP) windows or can alternate with the game play as a switched feed. A competent video director can set up these sequences live during the event controlling the feel and tempo of the action.
What other technologies beside sound and video can contribute to excitement in the room?
Dynamic lighting effects are as important as sound and video in creating a high-energy environment and today’s lighting technology offers a vast variety of effects that can be deployed to amp up the event. From moving-head spot fixtures that can shoot narrow columns of bright light great distances to powerful wash fixtures that can paint the room and stage with saturated color and texture, the lighting system can be designed and programmed to react to the game action and event script. However, the lighting system must also provide proper lighting for the commentators and players so they can be captured on camera with appropriate skin tones, detail and brightness.
Other effects, such as haze (a must-have), pyro (a fun addition) or lasers (very powerful and safe to use) should be seriously considered as they can provide the “flash” that will make the event standout in an increasingly crowded field of experiential activities.
What are the considerations if the event is live-streamed?
Esports events are often two events: the live event and the event that goes out to remote audiences, either elsewhere in the venue or at home to a fan’s preferred viewing device. Assuming arrangements for robust capture, streaming and distribution have been planned, the design of the show for broadcast must be considered.
Perhaps even more than for the live event, the wraparound show elements for broadcast and streaming are very important. A home viewer is watching on a small rectangular screen and is not immersed in the action, spectacle and group energy of the room. So, advanced scripting, pre-packaged elements, commentators and other narrative devices are particularly important for delivering impact.
How do I script what is essentially an unscripted event?
While the actual game play must remain unscripted, the activity away from the player’s console should be carefully planned and tightly scripted – similar to any major-league competition. Show producers and directors, in collaboration with lighting, efx, sound & video teams, should produce a show script that provides a variety of elements, such as interview cutaways, backstage action, audience reactions, that can be included in the show during downtime or other interstitial opportunities. All of these elements should be designed and rehearsed in advance of show, although leaving room for some spontaneity is a given in an event intended for younger audiences.
A scripted show flow means rehearsals, I guess?
YES, and the more the better. Nothing says amateur more starkly than an under-rehearsed event so the production must schedule and maintain an adequate amount of time and resources for rehearsing the event. While rehearsal generally occurs on site after the system set up has been completed, there are steps that can be taken to provide structure and familiarity with the show flow prior to on-site setup. These include script page-turn sessions to develop the cues that will be used by operators during the actual show.
In addition, video programming and visualization can take place off-site to make sure that video content providers and show operators are on the same page. It is not unheard of to have, parts of the show built before show days to “proof” concepts and rehearsal opportunities early in the process.
Creating a great esports experience for fans onsite and offsite doesn’t just happen. Sure, the competition is dynamic and exciting in its own right, but esports is also an entertainment event. Technology and creativity, vendors and producers, must work hand in hand from early on to ensure that every second of the show comes alive for fans wherever and whenever they’re watching.