Video: Understanding esports production

Esports is here to stay and brings a new dimension on big events which combine the usual challenges of producing and broadcasting events at scale with less usual challenges such as non-standard resolutions and frame rates. This session from the IBC 2019 conference looks at the reality of bringing such events to life.

The talk starts with a brief introduction to some Esports-only terms before heading into the discussions starting with Simon Eicher who talks about his switch toward typical broadcast tools for Esports which has helped drive better production values and story telling. Maxwell Trauss from Riot Games explains how they incubated a group of great producers and were able keep production values high by having them working on shows remotely worldwide.

Blizzard uses the technique of using a clean ‘world feed’ which is shared worldwide for regions to regionalise it with graphics and language before then broadcasting this to the world. In terms of creating better storytelling, Blizzard have their own software which interprets the game data and presents it in a more consumable way to the production staff.

Observers are people who control in-game cameras. A producer can call out to any one of the observers. The panel talks about how separating the players from the observers from the crowd allows them to change the delay between what’s happening in the game and each of these elements seeing it. At the beginning of the event, this creates the opportunity to move the crowd backwards in time so that players don’t get tipped off. Similarly they can be isolated from the observers for the same effect. However, by the end of the game, the delays have been changed to bring everyone back into present time for a tense finale.

Corey Smith from Blizzard explains the cloud setup including clean feeds where GFX is added in the cloud. This would lead to a single clean feed from the venue, in the end. ESL, on the other hand choose to create their streams locally.

Ryan Chaply from Twitch explains their engagement models some of which reward for watching. Twitch’s real-time chat banner also changes the way productions are made because the producers have direct feedback from the viewers. This leads, day by day, to tweaks to the formats where a production may stop doing a certain thing by day three if it’s not well received, conversely when something is a hit, they can capitalise on this.

Ryan also talks about what they are weighing up in terms of when they will start using UHD. Riot’s Maxwell mentions the question of whether fans really want 4K at the moment, acknowledging it’s an inevitability, he asks whether the priority is actually having more/better stats.

The panel finishes with a look to the future, the continued adoption of broadcast into Esports, timing in the cloud and dealing with end-to-end metadata and a video giving a taste of the Esports event.

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Speakers

Simon Eicher Simon Eicher
Executive Producer, Director of Broadcast, eSports Services,
ESL
Ryan Chaply Ryan Chaply
Senior Esports Program Manager,
Twitch
Corey Smith Corey Smith
Director, Live Operations Broadcast Technology Group,
Blizzard
Maxwell Trauss Maxwell Trauss
Broadcast Architect,
Riot Games
Jens Fischer Jens Fischer
Global Esport Specialist and Account Manager D.A.CH,
EVS

Video: Towards a healthy AV1 ecosystem for UGC platforms


Twitch is an ambassador for new codecs and puts its money where its mouth is; it is one of the few live streaming platforms which streams with VP9 – and not only at, with cloud FPGA acceleration thanks to Xylinx’s acquisition of NGCODEC.

As such, they have a strong position on AV1. With such a tech savvy crowd, they stream most of their videos at the highest bitrate (circa 6mbps). With millions of concurrent videos, they are highly motivated to reduce bandwidth where they can and finding new codecs is one way to do that.

Principal Research Engineer, Yueshi discusses Twitch’s stance on AV1 and the work they are doing to contribute in order to get the best product at the end of the process which will not only help them, but the worldwide community. He starts by giving an overview of Twitch which, while many of us are familiar with the site, the scale and needs of the site may be new information and drive the understanding of the rest of the talk.

Reduction in bitrate is a strong motivator, but also the fact that supporting many codecs is a burden. AV1 promises a possibility of reducing the number of supported codecs/formats. Their active contribution in AV1 is also determined by the ‘hand wave’ latency; a simple method of determining the approximate latency of a link which is naturally very important to a live streaming platform. This led to Twitch submitting a proposal for SWITCH_FRAME which is a technique, accepted in AV1, which allows more frequent changes by the player between the different quality/bitrate streams available. This results in a better experience for the user and also reduced bitrate/buffers.

YueShi then looks at the projected AV1 deployment roadmap and discusses when GPU/hardware support will be available. The legal aspect of AV1 – which promises to be a free-to-use codec is also discussed with the news that a patent pool has formed around AV1.

The talk finishes with a Q&A.

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Speakers

Yueshi Shen Yueshi Shen
Principal (Level 7) Research Engineer & Engineering Manager,
Twitch

Video: SRT – How the hot new UDP video protocol actually works under the hood

In the west, RTMP is seen as a dying protocol so the hunt is on for a replacement which can be as widely adopted but keep some of it’s best parts including relatively low latency. SRT is a protocol for Secure, Reliable Transport of streams over the internet so does this have a role to play and how does it work?

Alex Converse from Twitch picks up the gauntlet to dive deep into the workings of SRT to show how it compares to RTMP and specifically how it improves upon it.

RTMP fails in many ways, two to focus on are that the spec has stopped moving forward and it doesn’t work well over problematic networks. So Alex takes a few minutes to explain where SRT has come from, the importance of t being open source and how to get hold of the code and more information.

Now, Alex starts his dive into the detail reminding us about UDP, TS Packets and Ethernet MTUs has he goes down. We look at how SRT data packets are formed which helps explain some of the features and sets us up for a more focussed look.

SRT, as with other, similar protocols which create their resilience by retransmitting missing packets, need to use buffers in order to have chance to send the missing data before it’s needed at the decoder. Alex takes us through how the sender and receiver buffers work to understand the behaviour in different situations.

Fundamental to the whole protocol is packet the packet acknowledgement and negative acknowledgements which feature heavily before we discuss handshaking as we start our ascent from the depths of the protocol. As much as acknowledgements provide the reliability, encryption provides the ‘secure’ in Secure Reliable Transport. We look at the approach taken to encryption and how it relates to current encryption for websites.

Finally Alex answers a number of questions from the audience as he concludes this talk from the San Francisco Video Tech meet up.

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Speaker

Alex Converse Alex Converse
Streaming Video Software Engineer,
Twitch

Video: Multiple Codec Live Streaming At Twitch

Twitch is constantly searching for better and lower cost ways of streaming and its move to include VP9 was one of the most high profile ways of doing this. In this talk, a team of Twitch engineers examine the reasons for this and other moves.

Tarek Amara first takes to the stage to introduce Twitch and its scale before looking at the codecs available, the fragmentation of support but also the drivers to improve the video delivered to viewers both in terms of frame rate and resolution in addition to quality. The discussion turns to the reasons to implement of VP9 and we see that if HEVC were chosen instead, less than 3% of people would be able to receive it.

Nagendra Babu explains the basic architecture employed at Twitch before going on to explain the challenges they met in testing and developing the backend and app. He also talks about the difficulty of running multiple transcodes in the cloud. FPGAs are in important tool for Twitch, and Nagendra discusses how they deal with their programming.

The last speaker is Nikhil who talks about the format of VP9 being FMP4 delivered by transport stream and then outlines the pros and cons of Fragmented FMP4 before handing the floor to the audience.

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Speakers

Tarek Amara Tarek Amara
Principal Video Specialist,
Twitch
Nikhil Purushe Nikhil Purushe
Senior Software Engineer,
Twitch
Nagendra Babu Nagendra Babu
Senior Software Engineer,
Twitch