Live production service provider BlackStar Group is using the AJA Bridge Live solution to produce major eSports competitions such as Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, Halo, Counter-Strike, Apex Legends, FIFA Y Maddenamong others.
AJA Bridge Live has proven to be a key element in the BlackStar kit, providing a turnkey system of low latency and broadcast quality for live streaming as demand for virtual events has skyrocketed.
The team of 17 people of the company produces up to four competition broadcasts per monthtypically running Thursday through Sunday, and often travels to support off-site events.
Adam Flynn, Director of Business Development at BlackStar Group, comments: “At its core, esports is a vehicle for building community, and game developers partner with creatives and producers like us to build unique and inclusive experiences.”
“Esports took a big turn towards online events during the pandemic. Like many live event production companies, we ended up relying much more on coding, and it’s been a big part of what we’ve been doing ever since, with Bridge Live being an essential tool,” he adds.
A typical program for the BlackStar team involves connecting with the production team on site or with staff in the mobile unit. Working with production engineers, the team organizes all the final video feeds for delivery to their rack, which includes four Bridge Live units.
The streams are then separated, monitored and tested on the BlackStar distribution platform. From there, the team can send low-latency streams to remote producers, or high-quality private streams to almost any online platform (e.g. Twitch, YouTube, Facebook…), or package them for broadcast on major networks like ESPN, ABC and Fox. On occasion, they may also send selected clean signals to international stations.
BlackStar initially used cloud-based solutions when it started producing remote shows in 2020, before using in-house coders for remote coding. After running into problems, they opted to upgrade to Bridge Live, which made it much easier to remote commenter synchronization Y reduced latency in three seconds.
pat marcouxBlackStar Group coding engineer notes that “delayed feedback takes you out of the experience and nobody wants that. The low latency and multipoint synchronization that Bridge Live provides are fantastic, and its overall reliability is priceless. The biggest change we’ve seen is the ability to handle multi-channel audio, which was previously a pain point. Bridge Live removes this challenge and has helped us increase our ability to archive the available data. We can send our main stream to an ingest server and separate the sources, such as the main show, clean, commenters only, and analysts only. All the audio is at our disposal and we can ingest it very quickly.”
Nowadays, BlackStar has six Bridge Live devices, two of which are used in the studio and four on travel racks. The team assembles equipment for each show based on its unique needs, though Bridge Live remains a constant, as reliability and uptime are crucial for 8-12 hour esports broadcasts.
“I won’t send anything that can’t handle long-running broadcasts, and Bridge Live beats anything else I’ve tried,” Marcoux says. “Since we can use Bridge Live to send streams to multiple endpoints, we can send it to our failover distribution platforms and specify which stream it goes to based on the data center it arrives at. We are proud that we have not had any flow interruptions that were not due to the platform in the last year. Bridge Live allows us to run a series of multiple pipelines and synchronizations and go to various locations through different ISPs. This flexibility is amazing because we can ship it to multiple locations without incurring additional costs.”
“As demand for sophisticated esports broadcasting remains strong, the BlackStar team anticipates further maturation of the industry, which will, in turn, raise the bar for the experience. Along with increased attention to commercial content, we expect to see more organizations request access to clean sources in order to conduct community broadcasts and co-streams. Bridge Live makes it a lot easier because these eSports competitors don’t live in the same area. It’s going to be very important to be able to offer them fast, low-latency signals so they can make their own broadcasts,” concludes Marcoux.
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