Case Study: DreamHack Anaheim Main Stage Content and Live Streaming Driven by Blackmagic Design
For 25 years DreamHack has been one of the leading global producers of esports content, building the world’s premier gaming lifestyle festivals. What started as a LAN party in 1994 has grown into an international gaming celebration offering exhibitions, live music, cosplay, streamers, esports tournaments, and more. Now, DreamHack produces a yearly festival tour which in 2019 consisted of twelve events across eight countries and four continents, with more than 345,000 in-person attendees and millions more watching the broadcasts online.
Always looking to create new opportunities to connect with its community, in February 2020 DreamHack Anaheim took place, the first-ever DreamHack on the U.S. west coast, in Anaheim, CA. On the esports side, players competed for more than a half million dollars in prize money across seven tournaments, and the three-day festival also featured more than 120 expo booths, a Stream Studio with more than 60 streamers live streaming from the expo, six international DJs and bands for two nights of unforgettable concerts, an awards show, fashion show, cosplay championship and much more.
Maintaining the high quality of all DreamHack events and creating an exceptional experience for both in-person and online attendees were paramount. To help with this, DreamHack relied on its extensive broadcast and live streaming infrastructure powered by Blackmagic Design.
“If you look at any DreamHack festival from a high-level perspective, we have anywhere between 12 to 15 different activities occurring in a variety of zones across the festival,” said Bas Bruinekool, vice president, DreamHack. “The production elements behind the scenes must capture all the action, be professional and create a top-notch experience for attendees at the festival and at home.”
“When I started at DreamHack in 2014, we began using more and more Blackmagic Design products, and eventually we hit a point where the more we had of a single manufacturer that really worked and clicked together, the more features we were actually capable of using,” he added. “Plus, of course, the price point is good, which really comes in handy when you’re working at the large scale that we are.”
Designed to showcase what goes on behind the scenes, the Stream Studio allowed attendees to watch 30 community streamers live from the expo floor. It also included a Stream Studio Boot Camp for attendees to learn the ins-and-outs of streaming, Indie Show & Tell for Indie Playground game developers to demo their games, Speedrunning stage where featured gamers showcased their best-timed runs of various games, and Tabletop arena.
Dedicated to fostering growth in the streaming community, the Boot Camp allowed participants to get hands-on with the hardware and software it takes to affordably and easily produce a professional live stream.
In several Boot Camp stations, four cameras were fed into an ATEM Mini live production switcher with its USB output, which works like a webcam, feeding through OBS for seamless live streaming.
“Utilizing Blackmagic Design equipment has taken our content to a whole different level. It is fundamental to how we interact with streamers, players and fans alike,” said Aaron Linde, programming producer, DreamHack.
Main Stage Content
DreamHack Anaheim’s Main Stage featured seven esports tournaments across 11 stages being live streamed to 13 Twitch channels, along with general coverage of music, cosplay and more. For this, DreamHack relied on a full Blackmagic Design live production workflow, including numerous Blackmagic Studio Camera and URSA Broadcast cameras to capture the action, which were controlled by ATEM Camera Control Panels.
“The ATEM Camera Control Panels are a necessity for us doing these large-scale productions to make sure that the color grading is done well,” said Bruinekool. “Especially since the locations range from backstage to onstage to front of house; color grading becomes essential to create a cohesive look across the festival.”
At the heart of the workflow were ATEM Constellation 8K and ATEM 4 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K live production switchers, in conjunction with an ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel.
“Our typical setup consisted of three Studio Cameras and three-to-four URSA Broadcasts mixed together with one-to-two downstream fill/key sources, one-to-four in-game spectator sources, a replay source and a video server source,” said Linde. “We used the ATEMs for mixing all these sources, overlaying graphics, SuperSources, and DVEs for some simple animations.”
According to Linde, most games have a dedicated spectator mode which means that a single computer can be used to observe any number of players in the tournament. However, during one of the tournaments in Anaheim, the game didn’t have a spectator mode, so DreamHack needed to capture all eight of the players individually and observe them using cuts with the switcher.
“The ATEM Constellation 8K has some particular features that really came in handy when we couldn’t rely on spectator mode,” he noted. “Its 40 12G-SDI inputs allowed us to easily reach more than 20 sources, which was crucial when eight were already tied up with the game. Additionally, the 24 12G-SDI aux outputs were very useful for creating routable monitors for all production staff rather than splitting a program source. We used a Smart Videohub 40×40 router as well, but additional easy routes are always good.”
Linde pointed out that having standards conversion on all inputs is helpful when creating esports content because computers can be finicky in sticking to the exact frame rate. “Some graphics cards and monitors may not like 59.94 Hz but rather output 60 Hz or 50 Hz only, so having input scaling can save a lot of time messing around getting everything on the exact same frame rate,” he added.
DreamHack also found the ATEM Constellation 8K’s four media players useful in having more stingers simultaneously loaded, as well as its four independent Ultra HD multiviews when dealing with numerous sources. “We also often use HyperDeck Studio Minis as stinger sources to create faster stinger playouts, and we use 4K screens for the multiviews’ Ultra HD capabilities,” noted Linde.
Breaking Broadcast Traditions
Rounding out its live production and streaming workflow, DreamHack used Blackmagic Design’s Smart Videohub 40×40 and Universal Videohub 72×72 routers, MultiViews, Video Assist 12G HDR monitor/recorders, HyperDeck Studio and HyperDeck Studio Mini recorders, DeckLink capture and playback cards, Teranex AV, Teranex Express and Teranex Mini standards converters, Mini Converters, and more.
The Videohubs were primarily used when routing multiple IP camera feeds, which featured head shots of each player on stage. Based on complex scripting, the actual switching in the ATEM was done automatically based on what the players were doing during the game. DreamHack used the MultiViews to track the IP cameras since they need to be adjusted frequently because the players often touched the monitors, altering the IP camera angles. Video Assist 12G HDRs were also used to monitor the IP cameras, along with quick in-field monitoring and trouble shooting camera issues.
DreamHack used the HyperDeck Studios and HyperDeck Studio Minis for raw footage recording, so after the tournaments the content teams could pull specific footage for after shows or daily recaps. The DeckLink cards handled all of DreamHack’s graphics, including the video server which was fed into the ATEMs for any downstream or upstream key graphics. Teranex standards converters were used for any converting between 30fps to 59.94fps, as well as backup in case a game was not outputting what the team needed.
“Since the broadcast portion of DreamHack has always been about being smart with current technology, as opposed to stuck in older broadcast traditions, we are very nimble, agile and willing to try things that someone else might be adverse to since it doesn’t fit some of the older standards that have been developed over the years,” noted Bruinekool.
“I think our mindset really goes with what gaming, esports and the DreamHack festivals are at their core,” he concluded. “There’s a lot of demand for gaming festivals and esports, and you really need to be flexible to meet that demand. Without a doubt, having a full arsenal of Blackmagic Design products to pull from to create customized workflows has been extremely valuable.”