Dreamtek kits out Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London
Adrian Pennington ﬁnds that production and technology ﬂexibility was key for the design and ﬁt out of this multi-purpose eSports facility.
Red Bull’s new games and esports studio in the London district of Shoreditch is packed with state of the art PC and gaming technology designed to boost the skills and show the talent of the UK’s gaming community to the world. The multi-purpose facility is designed for casual players and professional gamers alike and hosts tournaments as well as esports educational events, workshops and one-on-one activities.
This is the second Red Bull Gaming Sphere in the world, after a similar studio opened in Tokyo in February.
With 16 PS4 Pros, 16 Xbox One Xs, 4 Nintendo Switches and 4 Nintendo Wii Us, plus a host of Asus PCs and laptops, as well as VR headsets, arcade fighting sticks, Fanatec racing wheels, Sim-Lab racing chassis and noblechair luxury gaming seats, the London hub is bristling with kit to lure gamers and esports pros.
A live streaming and production facility lets Red Bull produce and stream competitions from the Sphere to sites like Amazon Twitch, YouTube, Facebook or Periscope.
Red Bull tasked integrator Dreamtek to design and commission the AV infrastructure to match the modular setup of the venue.
“Because no single day is the same in the Gaming Sphere, the infrastructure of the space had to be ﬂexible to allow for multiple conﬁgurations which differ in size and requirement.”
“Because no single day is the same in the Gaming Sphere, the infrastructure of the space had to be flexible to allow for multiple configurations which differ in size and requirement,” explains Kashaan Butt, Dreamtek’s chief engineer and systems architect. “The Sphere is designed to hold a live audience but it’s a gaming space first and foremost so the principal consideration for the broadcast component was the fl exibility to be able to record anywhere. The larger events which are live streamed, are all managed from the Sphere’s own gallery.”
Tech-focused e-retailer Newegg is in charge of producing and scheduling events including tournaments, PC-building workshops, meet- and-greets with influencers and other gaming- related events.
Dreamtek’s own expertise spans systems design and install as well as video production and its staff have also managed the live stream of events from the Sphere for Red Bull.
“Some of the events we’ve done have packed in a couple of hundred people so as you can imagine this gets really busy as they will gather around the players. The specifi cation just had to be as flexible as possible without impact on gamers themselves – that was crucial,” says Butt.
Dreamtek’s starting point was to design and wire an IP and SDI infrastructure in which feeds from any camera, PC or console source could be captured, recorded and played out.
A suite of Blackmagic Design (BMD) kit runs throughout the project including a Smart Videohub 40x40 router connected to dozens of Blackmagic Micro Convertors taking IP feeds from PCs and SDI signals from the consoles and PCs in and out of the infrastructure, as well the option of taking video over IP (NewTek NDI) feeds from the PCs too.
Multiple PTZ hothead cameras, two BMD Ursa Mini Pros and a BMD Micro Studio Camera 4K plus 12 mini-cams to capture gamers reactions worn by gamers are fed via HD-SDI into a Atem 4M/E Broadcast Studio 4K to generate the camera sub-mix. The program feed is routed to vMix and mixed with the video over IP (NewTek NDI) inputs from the gaming machines.
vMix is a software video mixer and switcher working off an Asus PC and providing live HD video mixing, a task previously only possible on expensive dedicated hardware mixers.
Dreamtek ensured that there are multiple points to re-position the PTZ cameras so that the Sphere can be arranged in bespoke configurations suited for any gaming occasion.
Each of the PCs, consoles, the PC running vMix and the machine feeding the studio’s video wall are fitted with Blackmagic Design Decklink Duo 2 cards for flexible capture and playback. These will soon be swapped for DeckLink 8K Pro enabling the facility to run even higher resolutions over 12G SDI.
“Right now we are producing at 1080p 60 but we want to futureproof the facility at 4K UHD 60p,” explains Butt. “The high frame rate is really important in gaming and frankly a necessity if we are to deliver the production values our client – and esports enthusiasts – expect.”
There are multiple methods of capture installed, including SSD recording from the Ursa Minis, multi-channel H.264 encoders feeding into a streaming server and half a dozen Hyperdeck Studio Minis to capture up to 4K.
“Blackmagic’s release of H.264 support for the Hyperdeck Studio Mini was timely for us,” says Butt. “When you have competitive games lasting up to three hours in duration we have had to transcode to reduce the data capacity requirements for our primary and nearline storage. But with H.264 we’re able to reduce that capacity requirement hugely without going the transcode step and simplifying the workflow.”
The whole fabric is low latency enough that Red Bull’s production team can cast a feed from a gamer’s console onto the Sphere’s 5.6m x 3.5m Samsung panelled videowall and the gamer will use it to play from even though they have their own monitor.
“It means everyone in the audience can follow the game live too,” says Butt. “Being able to play a game over the network like this at such low latency is some achievement and not possible a few years ago.”
The team is also able to control the zoom and focus of the Micro Studio Camera 4K via the Atem. Expert commentators (Casters) are filmed against a blue chroma background with the Atem used to pull keys and then overlay the casters picture in picture onto the gaming feed.
All the video is monitored on Blackmagic MultiView 16s which accept up to 16 different sources and combine them into a single reference display.
“Right now we are producing at 1080p 60 but we want to futureproof the facility at 4K UHD 60p.”
“When teams are competing in the two main PC gaming areas we will have gamer-cams just peeking over their monitors and all those feeds come into the Multiviewer so that we can see all gamers at once,” says Butt. “This is really useful because we can select a gamer-cam feed, add graphics and overlay onto the main feed.”
Flexibility is also built-in to the Sphere’s lighting design. The entire ceiling is fitted with a LED Cloud from Cirro Lite over which Red Bull has complete control for programming, daylight dimming and colour temperature.
All of this can be controlled from anywhere in the space by an iPad Pro running the Luminair App, which interfaces with a DMX to Network node. There are presets that have been built for regular events, but the team can also build an entirely bespoke lighting setup for one-off events.
All the consoles and PCs are wired into a Dante network with audio mixed at an Allen & Heath DLive C1500 panel, controlling a MixRack DM64. Audio is also recorded from an Audio- Technica System 10 Pro wireless digital mic set up. Wireless BP894 head-mics are worn by the gamers, and Audio-Technica ATW-T1002 wireless handheld mics are provided. The studio is wired with boundary mics - again Audio-Technica (ATND971) - to pick up ambient and audience sound. Dreamtek turned to Apart Audio, installing Mask8F loudspeakers and Sub2400 subwoofers, as well as Revamp amplifiers.
Allen & Heath DLive C1500 panel
Apart MASK8F loudspeakers, SUB2400-BL subwoofers and Revamp amplifiers
Audio-Technica System 10 Pro Wireless System, ATND971 boudary microphones, BP894 headworn mics and ATW-T1002 handheld mics
Genelec studio monitors
Video & Lighting
Blackmagic Design Smart Videohub, Micro Convertors, Ursa Mini Pros, Micro Studio Camera, Atem 4M/E Broadcast Studio 4K, Decklink Duo 2 cards, Hyperdeck Studio Minis, MultiView 16s
Cirro Lite LED cloud