As eSports continue to grow astronomically, the broadcast techniques used to tell the story of a match are still being developed. As tournaments have transitioned from amateur online events, to professional leagues, to gigantic arena worthy LAN events, more and more resources are being made available to the broadcast staff. These new resources are allowing production crews to try new approaches and quickly respond to viewer feedback. While this evolution is unfolding across the entire spectrum of eSports, PGL's coverage of DOTA2's Manila Major has been a groundbreaking broadcast that is improving as the event continues.
As the prize pool and spectator counts of DOTA 2 tournaments have gotten larger, so has the pomp and circumstance between games. The commentators and panelists are supplemented by pre-filmed team introductions and player interviews. With these aspects having achieved parity with the pregame shows of traditional sports broadcasting, more attention is being focused on the presentation of the in-game action. Utilizing a multitude of active in game cameras, powerful capabilities to display additional information, and a coherent plan to utilize these features for the benefit of the audience, PGL has set a new standard for in-game coverage of DOTA 2.
Something many spectators appreciate from broadcasters at the start of a game of DOTA is a quick run down of which player is on which hero. PGL took this to a new level by coordinating the roll call with close up shots of each hero paired with live footage of the player's face. The result was a very smooth presentation of the heroes and players that helps establish the match for the audience. While amateur online producers can easily mimic the sequence, the multiple cameras and PGL's well co-ordinated production team present it in a much cleaner fashion.
The multiple cameramen available to the production team also enabled the utilization of the “Tri-Lane Cam”, which provided a unique view of the early stages of the game as the teams split their players among the 3 lanes of the map. As the main cameraman maintains a focus on the mid-lane, two screen wipes from the side bring in perspectives watching the top and bottom lanes. With significant fights possible at any moment, being able to simultaneously watch the three lanes at once is a joy for spectators. A similar shot was used at various times during the match to showcase simultaneous action happening in two different locations. These shots are only possible thanks to the significant resources a properly prepared professional production can provide.
A more traditional Picture-in-Picture approach was also utilized in a variety of scenarios which further the storytelling capabilities of the production crew. Some of these moments were scripted while others were organic reactions to the progression of the game. The powerful “runes” that appear every two minutes in DOTA 2 provide a clear opportunity to utilize the additional cameras that PGL has available to them. Due to their importance to the game, every two minutes the production crew pulled up two small perspectives looking at each rune spot so that audience members could get a glimpse while the main camera continued their focus elsewhere.
Similarly, when the courier is fetching important items for players, a PiP window would appear showing the items and the location of the courier. The large camps of creatures the teams create for additional money through “stacking” were also highlighted. A larger PiP window was also used to supplement the view of the main camera and clue the audience into important information. With team positioning such an important concept in DOTA 2, having the main camera focused on a location while the PiP displays the opponents rushing to that locale creates a shot that clearly displays the upcoming conflict to the audience. These features enable the production crew to provide information to the audience that supplements the commentary and adds to their capability to understand what is happening in what can be a very chaotic game.
Creep-Stack Picture in Picture
The PGL production crew also are innovating new ways to display player stats mid and post game. DOTA 2 is a statistic intensive game and PGL have stretched beyond the in-game systems to provide the audience with more direct information. While their post game displays are concise and informative, their in game displays comparing two individual players help give additional focus throughout the broadcast.
Match Statistics View
PGL's final innovation of the broadcast has been a bit controversial but it represents a step in the right direction and they are trying to fine tune the feature as the tournament continues. Until they temporarily shelved the feature, PGL was using a shot they called “Battle Perspective” during late game fights. This shot removed the typical DOTA 2 hud to show more of the game, provided a bar displaying the overall amount of health for each team, and featured intricate displays for each player with a face cam and an abundance of information regarding their hero. While fans definitely appreciated the effort, concerns were voiced about the shot being overcrowded while not conveying other crucial information. It will be interesting to see what PGL settles on by the time the tournament reaches the Grand Finals, as well as how they and other organizations might further fine tune such shots. Stepping outside the in-game hud to provide a more spectator friendly presentation of the match is something we will be seeing more of as eSports progress.
The first Battle Perspective layout
The New Battle Perspective (5 days later)
With more resources on hand for production teams, we will be seeing these techniques show up more often in other eSports broadcasts. The resulting production styles will be determined in large part through feedback from the audiences. What have you enjoyed the most from the Manila Majors coverage? And how would you like to see some of these features get developed further or utilized in other eSports?
About the Author:
Jeff “eXtine” Extine has been involved in eSports since 2009, starting as a writer for CommunityFortress before launching eXtelevision to provide coverage of competitive TF2. He is most well known as the voice for the “Top 10 TF2 Plays of the Month” series and is an eXperienced commentator. Besides playing TF2, DOTA2, and Overwatch, he is ranked ~ #750 in the world in Minesweeper. His YouTube videos can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/