Esports and the Future of Remote Production: Lessons from Riot Games
Esports are growing in popularity across the globe. As of 2016, there were over 100 million active users playing League of Legends, the game released by Riot Games in 2009, making it the most popular multiplayer game online. These sports are not only drawing players, but a significant number of fans. There are a number of online communities, popular players have a significant following, and millions of viewers tune in to watch championship matches.
For example, over 60 million fans worldwide watched the finals of the 2018 Paris Mid-Season Invitational (Paris MSI) League of Legends tournament. To broadcast the tournament, Riot Games partnered with Haivision to create a unique remote production workflow. The tournament, and the broadcast, were both a significant success, and there are a number of lessons that sports broadcasters can take from this tournament.
The future is IP – and the future is now
Broadcast used to be reserved for top-tier sports. Fiber and satellite connections were (and still are) quite expensive – you could not reliably transmit coverage without investing a fair amount of money upfront. Things have changed dramatically in the last few years, with important advances in video streaming technology (including the popular, open-source, SRT protocol).
Sending low latency video feeds over IP is now easier and more reliable than ever, giving broadcasters access to more content than ever before. Chris Connolly, of NBC Sports, recently mentioned in a panel that there is always content that viewers want to see that doesn’t make it to air. With contribution over IP, broadcasters can ensure that they have the content their viewers want, and then decide whether to air it on broadcast television or to have it available for online video streaming.
Another important lesson for broadcasters, is the fact that Riot Games does its own broadcast. Advances in video streaming technology are making it easier for newer sports and esports to create their own broadcasts. Broadcasters need to ensure that they are consistently producing quality content that meets the demands of their viewers, lest their viewers look elsewhere for their content.
Scaling up Stream Sync for remote production
Riot Games has an impressive broadcast production center in Los Angeles, but that is roughly 6,000 miles (10,000 km) away from Paris. As with their other tournaments held around the world, they would need a remote production solution with low latency. They would also be sending their broadcast contribution streams over IP paths, some of which can be unpredictable, in order to scale up as their tournaments continue to grow. And they are growing – for the Paris MSI 2018, Riot Games needed a remote production solution that could handle audio and visual feeds from up to 34 players.
Keeping all of these streams synchronized was critical to enable the production team to switch between views during gameplay, so that their audience could follow the action. 34 streams is a lot, but Haivision’s Stream Sync technology for remote production was up to the challenge, keeping their streams in sync within 1 frame of accuracy, even when sent over different IP paths. This technology is a big feature of Haivision’s Makito X video encoders and decoders, which Riot Games used in its Paris to Los Angeles workflow.
Lowering latency early
Low latency is a must for remote production for live sports broadcast. By keeping latency low in what’s known as “the first mile,” broadcasters can avoid having to play catch-up later in their video streaming workflows. And small differences in latency can mean a large deal to your viewers. Many have heard the stories of viewers watching the 2018 World Cup, who had goals spoiled by their neighbors cheering a few seconds before they could see the goal themselves.
This issue is even more pronounced in esports broadcast. Many esports fans connect over the internet, using a variety of voice and chat services, Discord being one of the more popular. Small differences in latency create a serious obstacle for fans who may be watching the same match on different streams, all while speaking live. As someone who has had an MMA fight spoiled by a friend who involuntary yelled over Discord, I can tell you, latency makes a huge difference to the streaming experience.
Riot Games was able to keep their latency low, even over such a large distance, by using ultra low-latency video encoders and decoders. The Makito X video encoders and decoders, used by Riot Games for their remote production workflows, were able to transmit the video streams from Paris to Los Angeles, with under 500ms of latency, all while keeping their streams synchronized.
Inspiration for your low latency video contribution workflows
Want to take a closer look at how Riot Games arranged their remote production workflow for the League of Legends Paris Mid-Season Invitational? Explore how they overcame different challenges and streamlined production with a scalable solution. Read our case study, and review their remote production workflow.
Editor’s Note: Want a chance to visit Riot Games headquarters, learn more about their workflows, while being among the first to hear about the latest developments in the Emmy®-Award winning SRT protocol? Join Haivision, and keynote speaker Riot Games, at the the SRT & Haivision 4K Summit, in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 5th.