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Riot Games Keeps League of Legends Esports Rolling With Fully Cloud-Based Virtualized Workflow

28/03/2020

Riot Games Keeps League of Legends Esports Rolling With Fully Cloud-Based Virtualized Workflow Production model relies on vMix, AWS, NDI, Nimble, and other cloud-based tools By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Friday, March 27, 2020 - 3:14 pm

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Story Highlights

Although the traditional sports world has come to a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, many major esports properties are soldiering on, hosting competitions with players competing remotely. In the case of Riot Games, which operates multiple League of Legends regional esports leagues across the globe, this meant creating new cloud-based virtualized live-production workflows that would allow both players and production crew to be located safely at home.

Riot Games NAET lead engineer's home setup for the new cloud-based LoL production workflow. Photo: Carlos Castillo, Riot Games North America

Fortunately for LoL fans, Riot has been embracing cloud-based and remote-production workflows for years. As a result, its global technology/engineering teams were able to quickly design and build out an at-home-production model that has allowed LoL competition to continue and live streams to reach fans at home during a period when they could sorely use a distraction.

We've been leveraging cloud-based workflows heavily for several years, says Scott Adametz, lead, Esports Technology Group, Riot Games, but this unfortunate situation certainly accelerated our plans quickly. The big-iron equipment that's in our data center obviously isn't very helpful when you can't bring your people to it, and they can't sit and [operate it]. So we knew we had to come up with an alternative remote workflow.

At the Core: vMix Virtual Switchers Running in Amazon EC2

The newly launched Riot production model is built around a pair of central vMix virtual video switchers running in Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS vMix 1 serves as the primary video switcher (for recording, host cams, observer feeds, and graphics), while AWS vMix 2 handles audio, record, and playout (including master audio mix, video packages, and recording).

An overview of Riot-Games' OPL remote studio architecture

We needed to incorporate a lot of different sources from all around the world in IP that are traditionally all in the same building and connected via SDI. vMix has been an awesome solution for that, says Adametz. We have now templatized the process of spinning up an environment so that it's a matter of just a couple of clicks and some configuration variables and it's ready to go.

Riot Games was able to connect all its casters and production crew remotely for the new LoL cloud-based workflow.

In addition, Riot is running vMix virtual switchers on its casters' home computers as they are calling the action. Riot's broadcast team needs to not only incorporate the casters' video from their streamer rigs and their audio, but they also need to provide the casters with all the observer feeds (in-game cameras) so that they can call the game action.

That's not something that is very easy to do unless you have something that is templatized and set up to control everything at the center, says Adametz. That's one of the unique caveats that vMix solved for us. The [vMix virtual switcher] is unbelievably full-featured for the challenge that we're working through, and it has performed really admirably.

Not surprisingly, all Riot casters have a robust gaming setup at their homes, which provided the extensive GPU power necessary for the vMix software.

We're not just remoting people into the same equipment they would use if they were sitting there, says Adametz. We've actually changed the workflow measurably.

Keys to Success: How Nimble Streamer, NDI Enable Cloud-Based Workflows

Once all the video sources have been connected to the vMix virtual switcher, the outputs are sent to Nimble Streamer media servers running in Amazon EC2, which handle distribution. Riot had previously used Nimble to distribute clean feeds to its regional partners when it produced live events in 18 languages plus English.

Riot Games' technology team was able to bring NDI into the public cloud for its new remote-production workflow. Photo: James Wyld/Riot Games Oceania

Nimble sends SRT inputs to the AWS vMix 1 virtual switcher and receives a mix of SRT and RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) outputs back. Nimble is responsible for streaming the RTMP output to viewers on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook; the program feed to referees; and the program and multiview feeds to the production crew.

To enable this cloud-based workflow, Riot's OCE engineering team was able to crack a tough technological challenge: allowing NewTek's NDI IP video-transport protocol to function within an Amazon EC2 environment.

That was the big breakthrough that came courtesy of our Oceania team, says Adametz. They were able to get NDI working inside EC2 without multicast, so it still requires a little bit of configuration but was still a major breakthrough. That is how we're able to share these video streams between multiple instances and re-create the show that we would normally do in an SDI environment completely virtually in EC2.

Riot's LoL communications infrastructure is a mix of the gaming-centric Discord VoIP app and proprietary Riedel remote VoIP solutions. The production crew, observers, referees, casters, players, and various other personnel are all connected via Unity cloud comms.

We are truly replicating the control room - from front bench on - so that crew members at home are participating just as they did before, says Adametz. We're not trying to change the show, and we understand that this is not the time to force new workflows on [the production team]. We're just trying
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2020/03/27/riot-games-keeps-league-of-lege...
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