Bringing Esports to the masses is much more than child’s play

The inventors of the first digital computer game, SpaceWar, way back in 1962, could never have imagined that they were taking the first step towards the growing global entertainment industry of Esports that we see today. Yet, that game, where two spaceships battled each other within the gravitational pull of a giant star, is considered to be the grandfather of modern computer gaming. Its creators from MIT and Harvard University used a computer the size of a small car to create the game. As they worked in their research labs on the first multiplayer game, they could never have foreseen the future of spectators filling stadiums and studios and watching via the internet around the world to see their champion gameplayers compete in live events for glory and giant prize money.

Esports looks set to be one of the fastest-growing entertainment industries for video production and live events in the 2020s. Newzoo, the world's most trusted source for games market insights and analytics, forecast global esports revenues to reach €910 million in 2020, a year-on-year growth of +15.7%, and globally, the total esports audience to grow to 495 million people, up 11.7%.

This popularity is fueling the efforts of production companies to bring an evermore immersive and realistic gaming experience to the growing audience. Despite its success and growing popularity, making computer gaming a spectator sport has its own unique challenges.

A production challenge

Esports coverage set-ups can be very intricate as they often include many cameras, projectors and displays with screen management and all with low latency requirements, alongside possible AR and VR needs. There are both broadcast and live presentation considerations because of the audience at the venue and the remote audience watching via the internet. Producers need to capture the noise and stunning, fast-moving visuals of the gameplay and project it onto multiple large screens around the arena and broadcast them to an eager viewing audience. All this, while at the same time, capturing the emotion on the faces of the Esports athletes and the reactions of the crowd.

Technical issues can impact this viewing experience. For example, when digital gameplay is projected onto live venue viewing screens there can be juddering images and time lag if the technology struggles to handle the frame rate required. This can potentially ruin the immersive experience for the spectators and even affect the game players themselves. Even worse than the delay on a transatlantic video call, imagine how off-putting it could be for players if the crowd is shouting and cheering to action on the big screen that has already happened, just as they are about to take the next winning shot.

Fortunately, Panasonic, a global leader in the provision of AV and broadcasting equipment to the entertainment industry, has made a major breakthrough in this area, which complements its already popular integrated production solution for Esports. Panasonic’s latest High Frame Rate (HFR) upgrade kit for the Panasonic PT-RQ35K projector massively uplifts the frame rate of images projected onto screens to deliver super-smooth motion and virtually eliminate lag.

The HFR software enables the 30,500 lumen, 3-Chip DLP laser projector to accept and output 240Hz HD signals using just one cable. The improvements delivered by the upgrade are significant. As well as enhanced images, latency can be reduced to just 5ms[1] – compared to 82ms using predecessor Panasonic projectors, ensuring fans experience the thrill of the action in virtual real-time. This is just the latest development in Panasonic’s Esports production solution, which is powering industry growth with technology that brings to life and shares the excitement of the gaming experience with a wider audience.

For example, it offers an extensive portfolio of projectors that deliver exceptional visuals for fans, with brightness up to 50,000lm and industry-leading ease of use and reliability. Its wide range of displays includes interactive touchscreen capabilities and is ideal for sleek video walls.

On the ProAV side, Panasonic has a range of professional camera solutions ideal for Esports. Its 8K ROI Camera System can enhance production values by producing up to five separate HD feeds from a single camera. Panasonic PTZ cameras can be used where it is difficult to position an operator and positional camera data can be synchronised with graphical engines for virtual and augmented systems.

The Panasonic AK-UC4000 Camera System is also popular because its single sensor system utilises internal expansion optics along with Low Skew Mode to prevent any positional moiré effect when shooting onto an LED screen.

At the heart of Panasonic’s Esports 4K production solution is KAIROS, the new IT/IP-based video processing platform that takes all of the inputs from the cameras into the platform and drives it in 4K to all outputs, including displays and projectors. KAIROS is based on a unique and groundbreaking software development that combines CPU and GPU processing power. It is both resolution and format-independent meaning that it can meet almost any production requirement.

Panasonic Esports solutions are already popular with the leading production companies around the world. They are in use at Allied Esports’ global flagship arena, where the venue hosts players from around the world to compete for the chance to play in Las Vegas against the world’s top competitors across multiple titles. Panasonic’s technology is used by BBH to cover some of the major Esport tournaments around the world to deliver high-quality content, among them the BLAST Pro Series for its CS:GO tournament, the StarLadder Major tournament in Berlin, and the FIFA eSuperliga powered by Dreamhack in Copenhagen.

As Esports continues with its explosive growth, it is reassuring to know that companies like Panasonic are bringing new technology innovation to the modern gaming experience; in the same way as those inventors of the original digital computer game, SpaceWar did all those years ago.

[1] 1920x1080 at 240p