DreamHack Summer 2012: 6 ideas to further improve Dota 2 production value
Toby 'TobiWan' Dawson said in our interview from Saturday: "I hope the commentators, coming into the world of Dota 2, they try to improve themselves and try to improve the quality of what they produce." This attitude is justified, but should not stop at DreamHack or TobiWan's stream. Here are six concrete ideas for further improving the overall production value, taken from the experience of DreamHack Summer 2012.
It's not that DreamHack was a bad show, hell no! It was probably the best show Dota 2 has seen up to now, considering that DreamHack provided a dedicated Dota 2 stage and TI1 lacked the huge offline audience of the Extreme Arena. Nevertheless, Dota 2 has even higher goals, and shouldn't avoid the comparison with other eSport games and events. The show was good, but there are some options left to make it great.
DreamHack gave TobiWan a dedicated Dota 2 stage, big enough to raise attention at the event, good enough to give him all options and just far enough away, to ensure the players can't hear what he was casting during the games.
However, TobiWan didn't use the potential of offline casting to a full extend. His show at the streams was limited to the games. All interviews he did were recorded and only uploaded to YouTube later on. This way, TobiWan lost around 80% of his viewers at the stage and estimated 10 to 20 % of his viewers on the stream whenever he stopped casting and showed a standby-screen instead.
Imagine having pre-game and post-game interviews with the players live, on stream. It would have been technically possible with them simply sitting down at the caster's desk and chatting. Even better is of course the option of a camera close to the players' area, catching the players right after the games when the emotions are still alive. The latter option is more expensive, that is undisputed.
The second proposal is more directed to DreamHack hall plan. Sadly, the 20 computers which were set up for the players to play group phase and playoffs were all facing a partitioning wall. There were no extra monitors set up (as was the case in the Starcraft 2 area) and all players were facing the wall.
This way, it was absolutely impossible to see the player's faces during the games. It's hard to catch emotions this way, be it as a photographer, trying to catch emotions for the folks back home, or be it as a visitor at the event. Change the setup, let us the the players from front, and add a secondary monitor. This way we can see both the play and the emotion. Just as it has been at the DreamHack Extreme Arena for the grand final.
It's great some seats were reserved for press at the conference hall which hosted the grand finals of all games at the DreamHack. However, these really were just seats, not workplaces. It's hard giving up-to-the minute updates with recent pictures and headlines when you have your notebook on your lap.
Rendering the video for the winner's interview without external power may even proof to be impossible, as was a problem for Raistlin after the syndereN interview: He had to leave the arena in order to search for a power point. Whenever possible in any case, try to supply the press with some sort of a table and power.
Given you are not doing player interviews in the earlier stages of the tournament and given your online viewers sometimes miss the fact that a co-commentator is sitting next to TobiWan, it's quite possible the viewers do not even realize DreamHack was an offline event. What the production crew did to counteract this, was to show the audience when it was cheering.
So far so good. The only downside of this handle was people started to complain, follow-up kills have been missed because of the production showing only the audience. For future, it could be a good idea to show the casters normally in a picture-in-picture manner and switch this small part of the screen over to the audience when the people are cheering.
The fifth proposal is linked with the first one. If in fact the casting crew decides to provide pre-game and post-game interviews, or intermediate discussions in between the games, the input required by the host of the show is further raised. TobiWan already started casting on the final day of DreamHack at 9 o'clock in the morning. The final ended just before midnight. This was a 15 hours working day for the only caster of the tournament and the previews days were only marginally better.
Providing a continual top-quality show this long is impossible for a single person. Not even thinking about necessary breaks for meals. If the Dota 2 scene wants a non-stop action show, the casters will have to rotate. The Starcraft 2 event at DreamHack showed how it can work: For the grand final, there were two hosts for talking in-between the games and two casters for ingame casting. Dota 2 would already profit from raising the amount of on-site casters for a whole weekend from one to at least two.
The grand final of the DreamHack tournament is one of the rare moments when Dota 2 is presenting itself to a more Dota-uncommon audience. It's a pity the casters have to limit themself in such a luxurious moment. DreamHack decided to build sound-proof player boxes for single player tournaments on the stage of DreamArena Extreme. They decided against setting these up for the team games. A decision which is to some extend understandable, as these sound-proof boxes are for sure not cheap.
However, DreamHack could take the ESL as an example. The Cologne organisation decided years ago, not to set up those boxes for their Intel Extreme Masters and Pro Series events. In contrast, they force the players to use special headsets from Sennheiser, which effectively reduce the capability of players hearing the casting. This way, the casters do not have to take care not to spoil any game-relevant information and can present their game in the best possible way. For a further improved Dota 2 production value.
You have got some more ideas on how to further improve the production quality of Dota 2 offline events? Discuss them in the comments!