June 28, 2023 - As interest in esports grows worldwide, audiences are clamoring for more live coverage of the sport -- not only the tournaments and games themselves, but the strategy, reactions, and personalities of the pros competing. Taipei-based Carry Live, a planner and producer of esports tournaments and content, recently enhanced their esports production workflow with the AJA BRIDGE NDI 3G SDI/NDI gateway device to easily convert SDI and NDI sources to deliver more content for fans. We talked with Tim Liu, Program Director to learn more.
Tell us a little about Carry Live.
Carry Live is an esports live event production and marketing company founded three years ago. We've grown from a team of 10 to about 40 people today. Our main business is planning and producing esports tournaments and related events. Some of our recent productions are the League of Legends Pacific Championship Series (PFC) Tournament, Valorant Champions Tour (VCTTWHK), Asia Esports Championship, Team Fight Tactics by Riot Games, and the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Tournament. Besides these larger-scale events, we also produce our own content, like Put Up or Shut Up. It's a talent show to find new esports casters with potential, judged by the current casters of the PCS Tournament.
We're unique in that we hold close relationships with the professional esports players and casters in the League of Legends PCS Tournament. So, we're able to generate content that goes beyond the actual game. This kind of content is really popular among our audience.
Who is your audience and where do they tune into coverage?
We have different audience groups based on the content, but most of our viewers are around 15-30 years old, and watch from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and other Southeast Asian countries. We even have a Cantonese channel for the League of Legends PCS Tournament to meet the needs of our audience from Hong Kong and Macau. We stream our own projects to popular platforms like Twitch and YouTube. For client projects that we produce, we can support streaming to nearly any desired platforms.
Tell us more about your equipment setup and why you needed to extend it.
We have the NewTek TriCaster (TC1) with four physical SDI inputs, and we also purchased I/O expansion, which allowed us to reach a total of 16 input sources. However, with the advancement of broadcasting technology and the demand from viewers, the 16-input capacity has become a bit tight. In the past, only one or two machines were needed to cover the battle rooms for League of Legends PCS, for example. But now it's not enough. We may need to capture the reactions of the coaching team during breaks or the individual reactions of each player, which requires an increase in the numbers of cameras and input sources.
Delivering all that required two computers as game observers for streaming and broadcasting live esports events. That wasn't even enough, as we now need different point of views in the game, increasing the requirements of observers in-game from two to four. So, with the demand of each element increasing constantly, our initial setup with 16 inputs was no longer sufficient.
How did you address that limitation?
AJA's BRIDGE NDI 3G was the answer to the problem. The number of SDI input and NDI output channels had increased (at least 8-10 channels more), and we were also able to separate our CG system into two machines. Before purchasing AJA's BRIDGE NDI 3G, all our CG was done on one single machine, but now, we are able to do content production and real-time processing simultaneously. AJA's BRIDGE NDI 3G has a channel specifically for CG with keying and video sources, allowing us to directly output the combined result. Our two subtitle machines are connected directly to the BRIDGE NDI 3G, going through physical SDI first and then converting to NDI signals before being sent to the switcher. This enables us to incorporate both the live game and player reactions during playback, just like other live sports events.
Why did you choose NDI? Why is NDI important to your workflow?
Through NDI, we overcame many spatial limitations. When we conduct interviews in spaces where a dedicated production environment isn't available, NDI allows us to break free from these constraints. It enables us to extend our production workflow beyond a traditional broadcasting setup, providing us with flexibility to adapt to various environments.
Since the pandemic, remote work has also become more significant and prevalent. Pre-pandemic, teams only completed remote work for overseas broadcasts; however, the pandemic made it hard for both broadcasters and casters to be present at the venue. In terms of working remotely, NDI and vMix have become increasingly important. Audience wise, since the broadcast quality has been upgraded, we've gained more of an audience following compared to the previous years.
How big of a factor is video quality when you choose equipment?
Our main focus for 2023 is to enhance our CG graphics and broadcasting quality. It was almost impossible to achieve that with only 16 channels, since League of Legends is a 5v5 game and there is a video camera to capture each player's face. BRIDGE NDI 3G has helped us on that front.
The other top consideration is reliability. As we focus primarily on live broadcasting, maintaining a stable signal is most important. Sometimes we'll see a sudden signal loss, so we need a plan in place to handle such situations. Unlike pre-recorded programs where a re-do is possible, live broadcasts require us to be prepared with alternate solutions.
Quality and reliability being so important, we chose AJA BRIDGE NDI 3G, but we also use the AJA Hi5-Plus converter to convert SDI signals to HDMI. The experience has been quite nice and AJA products are incredibly stable, especially compared to other brands in the market.
About AJA BRIDGE NDI 3G
BRIDGE NDI 3G is a 1RU gateway offering high density conversion from 3G-SDI to NDI and NDI to 3G-SDI for multi-channel HD and 4K/UltraHD. Designed to drop into any existing NDI or SDI workflow as a plug-and-play appliance, it's easy to deploy and administer. BRIDGE NDI 3G brings immense conversion power and flexibility, fully controllable remotely for AV use, security and surveillance, broadcast, esports, entertainment venues, and a range of other facilities needing high quality, efficient NDI encode and decode.