Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, wanted to enrich their athletics program with a foray into esports. After successfully hosting a competition off campus, they hoped to have a varsity team ready to compete in the National Association of Collegiate Esports Rocket League Fall Season and League of Legends. In addition to competitive gaming, students enrolled in the program would work with the coach and support staff to learn about the back-of-house processes and supporting technologies. These would include AV streaming, casting, event planning and execution, graphic design, and videography.
The university brought in RPC Video, Inc. to design and install the AV system for the new esports training facility. To provide the kind of system performance necessary for a seamless competitive gaming experience, the design team chose Extron XTP Systems, along with the SMP 111 streaming media processor and Pro Series control products
To start the project, Point Park University’s Physical Plant remodeled an under-utilized aerobics studio on the second floor of the Student Center. The Media Services and IT departments worked together to deploy a new high-speed data network and incorporate multimedia lines within the 1,450-square foot room. Then, they teamed with RPC Video to design an AV system capable of meeting the extreme demands of esports
Source signals originate at 16 gaming stations, each with a custom, Intel Core i7 10700K 8C/16T 5.1GHz computer and a 144Hz Asus ROG Strix XG279Q 27” HDR gaming monitor. Coaches, team members, and local spectators can observe the action taking place at any gaming station on 70” and 86” displays, which are mounted to the left, right, and center walls. Additional displays include 24” monitors at the instructor station and within the adjacent equipment room that houses the AV switching system.
Switching hardware with the highest available performance was required for the signal path. An Extron XTP II CrossPoint 3200 modular matrix switcher with a 50 Gbps digital backplane provides instantaneous switching among the gaming station feeds. It is configured as 20×20, with XTP II CP HD 4K PLUS I/O Boards supporting uncompressed HDMI video resolutions up to 4K/60 4:4:4 at data rates up to 18 Gbps. The system also complies with HDCP 2.3 for the content-protected games. A redundant power supply ensures continuous game play, which is critical during matches. The matrix switcher also fit easily into the equipment room rack, allowing maximum floor space within the game-play room.
Extron HD Pro Plenum Series hybrid fiber-copper cables carry AV signals between each gaming station and the matrix switcher, delivering HDMI signals up to 300 feet. The cable’s built-in active circuitry is powered by the connected gaming station computer. The HD Pro Plenum cables are an ideal choice for this application since they can send HDMI signals long distances with pristine quality without any compression or latency. They support a wide range of HDMI resolutions, refresh rates, and HDR. Also, the flexibility and narrow bend radius of this plenum-rated cable made it easy to install. Integration of HD Pro Plenum cabling reduced overall system complexity and cost.
To scale high frame rate, 2560×1440 signals from the gaming workstations to the 3840×2160 native resolution of the large displays, an Extron DSC HDHD 4K PLUS A is mounted to the back of each display. When no signal is present, the scaler’s screensaver is configured to show school branding content. The scaler supporting the center display also de-embeds audio coming in from the XTP II CrossPoint matrix switcher, enabling audio extraction for the external sound reinforcement system.
An Extron SMP 111 high-performance recording and streaming media processor captures and distributes the game play for selectable live streaming to Twitch, YouTube, or similar platforms.
The coach uses a TLP Pro 1025T TouchLink Pro touchpanel installed at the instructor station to control a variety of AV system operations. The touchpanel works in concert with two rack-mounted IP Link Pro control processors to manage all of the major components in the system. Three AV LAN ports on the Extron IPCP Pro 360 processor allow control of the AV equipment and safeguards them from outside intrusion or interference. The IPL Pro S3 processor enables control of the observation displays over the university network. The processors also provide application controls, such as AV system and device power, audio level adjustment, and streaming/recording controls
RPC Video and an Extron system design engineer worked together on site to commission the XTP system in time for the team’s first training session.
While not as well known or understood as most professional sports, esports is an international sensation with millions of collegiate and general population fans as well as corporate sponsorship. This industry earns an annual revenue in excess of $1 billion.
Point Park University saw the interest and potential for its students. Their new esports facility not only allows the varsity team to compete, it enables each enrolled student to explore the business side of esports and to gain valuable handson experience with the back-of-house technologies.