From wowing sports fans in stadiums to powering fantasy arenas for fully virtual events, real-time technology is increasingly being used to enhance broadcast and live event content. . So now is the perfect time to announce the release of a new Unreal Engine sample for broadcast and live events – The Hype Chamber.
Developed as part of a reimagining of the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS), the sample illustrates how to design, develop, and play numerous animation assets for an esports broadcast using advanced workflows from Blueprint and data tables. By diving under the hood, artists will learn how to change 3D models, textures, materials, and lighting, all through a single Blueprint controller. The sample includes several motion graphics animations designed to be streamed live or as pre-rendered content.
In 2020, Rocket League developer Psyonix announced a new format for the 10th season of RLCS, known as RLCS X. This format removed league play in favor of teams earning points through three divisions regional, all culminating in three seasonal majors.
With the tournament growing in size year after year, Psyonix had begun to face complex challenges. This prompted the team to experiment with a real-time approach to creating the new season’s shows.
“Working with Lamborghini, Ford, Verizon, Pelé, X-Games and others, we didn’t want to just stick a logo on the show and call it a day,” says Cory Lanier, Esports Product Manager at Psyonix. “We rebuilt every broadcast package for all of these shows and were experiencing workflow issues creating new assets about every two weeks.”
As well as having various sponsors and themes to work with, the league’s open format means that there are usually new teams competing every week. In traditional pipelines, this would equate to significant extra work and rendering each time a new team is added, or it would lead to additional teams receiving less special treatment than established teams.
The answer: a flexible real-time streaming graphics package, born of a collaboration between Psyonix, the Unreal Engine team, Capacity Studios, and ESL Gaming.
“Thanks to the way we’ve set up the Hype Chamber in Unreal Engine, we can quickly swap out logos and change color palettes, and instantly have new, high-quality assets ready to go live this weekend,” says Ellerey Gave, Executive Creative Director at Capacity Studios.
It made all the difference for Psyonix, allowing them to handle complexity in a way that wasn’t possible before. “Now, thanks to the way we’ve modeled everything, any member of my team, graphic designer or not, can come in, download the build, transition between 1,000+ asset combinations, and create high-end broadcasts. fidelity,” explains Lanier. “That’s huge for us, because we were constantly changing colors and assets last year. Doing all of this in real-time, as opposed to hard-baking into every graphical element we create, is super efficient.”
The Hype Chamber began as a set of motion graphics that was used to showcase RLCS teams and matches. A virtual space created within the Unreal Engine, the concept was conceived as a jumping off point to reimagine what a sports broadcast might look like for a digital-first audience.
Very quickly, the Rocket League Esports team wanted to take the concept of the Hype Chamber and build it for real, allowing teams to play their matches in the virtual environment. This led to the development of a physical studio space that uses real LED screens powered by Unreal Engine stage outputs to recreate the onstage environment. Teams are stationed on either side in front of a life-size Octane in-game, which often sports a team skin, with the hallway leading to the field in between.
With a virtual Hype Chamber created in Unreal Engine and a physical set built, the team only had to marry the two. Benji Thiem is Creative Director at Capacity Studios. “Since we developed an entire stage that exists in 360 degrees, we were able to map the parts of the space we wanted to present on a set of LED screens, creating a dynamic backdrop for the live event, which already had a lot of the functionality for built-in team customization,” he says. ‘other smaller screens in space.’
The side-by-side curved screens are decorated with their respective team colors, creating an environmental takeover of the team’s branding. This element flows right into the start of the game, with the camera rotating 180 degrees to hover over the tunnel that leads to the arena.
The Hype Chamber is also fully decorated with several team-specific elements that represent the team featured on the show, as well as text interstitials and victory captions based on LED walls, as well as a sequel various backgrounds for screen-level content. perpetuate the aesthetic everywhere.
One of the most exciting categories of deliverables created by the Hype Chamber is the opportunity for brand sponsorship moments, says Gave.
“Rather than the typical sponsor logo sitting on a generic background, which is prevalent in all sports broadcasts, we are able to flood LED walls with sponsor colors and decorate the iconic Rocket League Octane car with sponsor decals,” he explains. “Or, when it comes to an automotive sponsor, we are able to swap out the actual feature vehicles in the Hype Chamber scene, which either way creates a hugely impactful co-branded moment for all people involved, without interrupting the high-quality, immersive flow. of the show.
What does all of this mean for RLCS aficionados (and the esports audience in general)? For Jasveer Sidhu, Art Director at Capacity Studios, the new studio brings fans closer to the game they love so much. “The existing paradigm for esports broadcasts uses a back-and-forth between in-game footage and more traditional 2D screens, and the live action can feel disconnected at times,” he says. “The Hype Chamber allows viewers to feel more immersed by creating a transitional space between the real and virtual worlds, where sports and show content are meant to complement each other.”
Gave points out that the Hype Chamber virtual environment can also be leveraged for a multitude of use cases beyond broadcasting itself. “It allows us to create immersive team spaces, which act as a showroom for team car decals that fans can buy and use in Rocket League,” he says. “The setup also has a life outside of broadcast, acting as a way to promote team decals on social media and tie the whole experience together.”
A fan can watch a stream of their favorite RLCS team play with a cool car sticker, then hop on the game and play with that same asset. It’s the perfect digital handshake, indicating the kinds of multimedia experiences that will become commonplace in the age of the metaverse.
The Hype Chamber brings a number of Unreal Engine features alongside the Blueprint visual scripting system. The ability to import Cinema 4D files natively through Datasmith is key to serving visuals. Sequencer, the non-linear animation editor built into Unreal Engine, plays a key role in designing every layout and animation. Additionally, the Remote Control API allows control applications to control live content during broadcasts.
Visual features such as real-time ray tracing allow LED display screens to envelop the entire scene in indirect lighting. The team also leveraged data tables to create a systematic theme design tool, allowing designers to quickly iterate and change multiple art elements such as team color schemes and branding. , from a central location.
“We have successfully managed the look and imagery development of over 60 teams using this method, while including the ability to add more as needed,” says Warren Drones, Senior Product Specialist at Epic Games who participated in the project.
Using Unreal Engine, the team was able to go from on-air graphics, to video walls, to complex XR stages, all in one software package. “Broadcasts and live events typically use some form of software to enable live 2D graphics playback,” says Sidhu. “In our opinion, Unreal Engine is the only software solution that enables a high-fidelity 3D visual experience during real-time playback that is highly programmatic and scalable to fit into existing delivery pipelines, while remaining artist-friendly. .”
For Gave, the ability to use real-time technology to produce live shows and events was a revelation. “We’ve seen how adaptive and responsive the creative process can be using a real-time approach, which is absolutely a breath of fresh air compared to the more traditional pipelines we’ve been a part of,” says- he.
Now that the Hype Chamber sample is available for the community to experience, everyone can explore how Unreal Engine can be used as a motion graphics or streaming tool for a multitude of real-time graphics needs.
“It’s super exciting to make the setup we created for RLCS available for people to check out and take a look under the hood to see how everything works,” says Gave. “As an animation and motion graphics studio, real-time workflow has been a game-changer for our pipeline, and we believe it’s the future, so we hope seeing it in action helps to demystify the process for others.”