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AJA Bridge Live helps BlackStar Group level up esports broadcasts
Baltimore-based live production services provider BlackStar Group supports some of the biggest names and titles in esports. AJA Bridge Live has proven a key fixture in BlackStar’s kit, providing a broadcast-quality, low-latency turnkey system for live streaming as demand for virtual events has exploded.
The company’s 17-person team produces up to four competition broadcasts a month, which typically span Thursday through Sunday, and often travels to provide support for off-site events. “Esports did a major pivot to online events during the pandemic”, says Adam Flynn, BlackStar Group Director of Business Development. “Like many live event production companies, we ended up leaning on encoding a lot more, and it’s been a major part of what we’ve been doing since, with Bridge Live an essential tool.”
A typical show for the BlackStar team entails connecting with the on-site production crew or OB truck staff. Working with production engineers, the team arranges all final video feeds to be transmitted to its rack, which includes four Bridge Live units. The transmissions are then separated, monitored, and tested on the BlackStar distribution platform.
From there, the team can send low-latency feeds to remote producers, or private, high quality feeds to nearly any online platform, or package them for broadcast on major channels, including ESPN, ABC, and Fox. On occasion, they may also send select clean feeds to international broadcasters.
BlackStar initially used cloud-based solutions when they began producing remote shows in 2020, before employing in-house encoders for remote encoding. After running into issues, they opted to upgrade to Bridge Live, which made syncing up remote game casters much easier and reduced latency by three seconds.
“The biggest change we’ve seen is the ability to manage multichannel audio, which was previously a major pain point”, says BlackStar Group Encoding Engineer Pat Marcoux. “Bridge Live eliminates this challenge and has helped us step up our ability to archive the available data. We can send our main broadcast to an ingest server and separate the feeds, such as the main program, clean, casters only, and analysts only. All audio is available to us, and we can ingest it very quickly.”
Currently, BlackStar has six Bridge Live devices, with two used in-studio and four in travel racks. The team assembles gear for each show depending on its unique needs, although Bridge Live remains a constant.
(Photos: AJA Video Systems/BlackStar Group)
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