Here Comes The Judge!

Or… How The Dice Masters Canadian Nationals 2019 Was Streamed

A quick introduction before we get to the main event.  For those that watched the recent Canadian National Championships, you may have appreciated the spectacular streaming coverage of the event.  For those that have not seen it, check out our full coverage here.  In my opinion, the video set-up for this was second to none.  I had asked Shahin (the man behind it all) if he would consider writing up something to give people a look behind the curtain.  He kindly obliged, and this is that article.  If you want to check out some of his stuff on YouTube, you can find the link to his channel here.

Fair warning that is a longer read.  For those that want to follow the story and see how the process evolved, please proceed.  However, if you want to see how the most recent coverage of the Canadian Nationals was done, you can jump to that section here.

Enjoy some words from The Judge.

– jourdo

Hi this is Shahin, Shah, or theroyalfalcon, your Canadian Dice Masters Nationals judge of 4 years and Streamer of 2 years. First off, I do not often write articles. I have been told I should but I find it hard to make time to sit down to write. On this occasion I have decided to push myself to get this written, as a number of people have asked for details on how I setup the Canadian Dice Masters Nationals (CDMN) 2019 stream. 

Please note that the Backstory section is rather long as I go through each major event from the start of DM to now that I have been involved in. If you wish to just read about the setup I used at DMCN 2019, I would recommend scrolling down to the end of the article. Each event has a title for ease of view when scrolling.

Backstory

Let’s start back before I began streaming the DMCN. I have been playing Dice Masters (DM) since it about when it began, as in when only AVX was available. It wasn’t my first collectible card game (CCG). I played Magic the Gathering (MTG), Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh previously and likely others that I do not recall; I picked up others more recently like Star Wars Destiny and Transformers TCG.

DMCN 2015

I played in the first DMCN (run in a store Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), admittedly I didn’t win but got knocked out by Matt who came in second and was a member of my crew, who was then beat by JT. I should mention that the first DMCN was not filmed in any way and that final match was only witnessed by the judge and myself. It started at 9:30 pm or later on a Sunday night, all the other players that had been eliminated had gone home. I stayed both because I wanted to see the end of the event and, well, I was Matt’s ride (lol).

When it was over, on the one hand I was sad to see the title go to an American but on the other it was a well-deserved win and as time went on I have had more interactions with JT at other events. He is honestly a great guy so I am more than happy that he can be listed as one of Canada’s champs (or as Jimmy said on Facebook recently, JT is an honorary Canadian as far as DM goes [this is paraphrased]). Also, at the following DMCN I got to watch a 12-14 Canadian kid beat JT, which amused all in attendance (JT, sorry I keep bringing this up lol).

DMCN 2016

In lead up to, and then more so in between the first and second DMCN, I got much involved in the local community. This included teaching new players and increasing the number of Friendly Local Game Stores (FLGS) that ran events, with myself or another player acting as Tournament Organizer (TO).

When it came time for the second DMCN, either I was asked or I offered to act as TO and judge (I do not recall which). It was chosen to be run in Montreal, as the store who ran the first one also has a location in Montreal, however, it was run this time in a Hotel. Since the store intended to stream Heroclix but not DM, I took it upon myself to bring a video camera and stand to record DM so the local players could later watch re-watch the matches to look for ways to improve or even just see the some matches they were not able to watch since they were playing.

It was a simple setup, just a mini camcorder attached to a DJ light stand. This allowed the stand to be placed at the end of a banquet table and have the game being filmed setup on the same end of the table then recorded from overhead. We have all seen this kind of recording before and since. I believe I still have these recordings somewhere and could be convinced to add them to YouTube. This was an ok setup, not great but got the job done, and was my first attempt.

US and Worlds 2016

As a result of being involved in that event, I was asked to join the team from that store when they went a month later to Origins to stream US and Worlds of that year. I was included on that team because they had no one else who knew DM and the plan was to have the stream be a mix of DM and Heroclix.

For this stream setup, the store provided the following:

  • Video camera which was a camcorder with HDMI out
  • 50’ HDMI cable and a converter from HDMI to USB, to allow the video camera to be used as a webcam (this might not be exactly correct but the result of what was used is the same)
  • 2 photography lights on stands
  • Photography backdrop stand
  • 1 camera clamp mount
  • Laptop with OBS and a really nice set of screen overlays for both Heroclix and DM
    • For DM it included 2 scrolling image windows that were used to show what cards were on each team (which took a bit of effort to update each round) and a life total indicator (manually updated as the team was informed of life changes, so was not always updated correctly)
  • Laptop for stream monitoring and access to Twitch chat

I provided the following:

  • Audio mixer
  • 3 pairs of headphones
  • 2 headset microphones
  • 1 microphone on table stand
  • 1 headphone mixer
  • 1 adapter cable to go from the mixer to the laptop
  • 1 boundary microphone
  • Power cables etc

The setup was as follows:

  • Gaming table
    • Over the table the camera was clamped and hung from the photography backdrop stand
    • Converter and cable from the camera to the Laptop with OBS
    • Boundary mic placed on the table to pick up the players verbal interactions, run back to the audio mixer
  • Commentary table
    • Laptop with OBS
    • Audio mixer with main outs connected to the mic in jack of the laptop, or possibly connected through an external audio card that was plugged by USB to the laptop (I cannot recall which)
    • Monitor/aux/headphone out from audio mixer connected to the headphone mixer
    • Headphones connected to the headphone mixer
    • 2 headset mics, 1 table stand mic, and boundary mic from the gaming table connected into the first 4 channels on the audio mixer
    • Commentators
      • watch the OBS Laptop screen to see the game
      • wear the headset mics to be commentate into the stream
      • wear the headphones to hear what each other is saying, and minimize hearing the surrounding noises
      • mic on table stand was only used when a third person was included in the commentator group
    • 1 other person (in most cases) updating the parts of the OBS screen that need updating (deck pics, life)
    • 1 other person (in most cases) responding in the chat

This setup was tested in store before the trip to make sure all parts worked. This also allowed a chance to work out bugs and determine how to pack it all for the 10 hour road trip to the event. Once we got to the event we found out that the setup would be in the open, so we would need to setup at the start of each day and tear down at the end since there was no other way to secure the equipment overnight. This was simply the nature of being on the Con floor and not in a boardroom or something. Not a big deal, and honestly what I am used to from other AV work I do.

Over the course of the event and use of the setup, the crew found some positives and some negatives about.

Positives:

  • The use of the headphone mixer allowed for each commentator to be able to adjust the overall volume of what they heard
  • Headset microphones allowed the commentators to be able to speak at a lower level and still be heard in stream, this also meant they were less likely to be heard by the players at the gaming table
  • Having several members on the crew made running the as a whole easier as each person had a task and felt less over burdened by having to do to many things
  • Audio mixer allowed for adjusting the volume level of each commentator independently so each could be heard equally in the stream (note this did require someone to be monitoring the volume levels at the start of each match and occasionally throughout)
  • Boundary mic on the gaming table allowed the commentators to listen in to the table to see what the players were saying, and due to routing through the audio mixer the crew could decide if the table was heard only by the commentators or also by the stream

Negatives:

  • Due to the space layout, the commentators and the game table were closer than would be ideal. This meant the commentators had to be careful not to speak to loudly of they could be overheard by the gaming table
  • When crew would take a break or be busy in another capacity, the work of updating the OBS screen for the deck list images at the start of the round could cause the commentators to have to do it and thus not be as attentive to commentating
  • Having a manual life counter on screen that had to be updated by the crew meant it was not always accurate and the gaming table would have to be asked for life confirmation
  • The photography backdrop stand would often get bumped by on lookers of the game moving the camera as a result, often enough that it had to be adjusted between rounds back to the correct location (this happened more during the later games in top cut for both DM and Heroclix to the point that a crew member was tasked with effectively acting as a bodyguard for the stand)
  • It was a single overheard camera vantage so the stream and the commentators could not see the detail of the dice faces, yes some players did you use the group by level trick which helped but not ideal
  • The separate headphones and headset mic, mean the commentators would have to put on and take them off separately. Their cables would get tangled together as well.
  • Only having the laptop screen without a secondary monitor meant the multiple commentators had to gather close to watch it
  • I was the only person on the team that knew how to use the audio mixer and manage volume levels on it, so when I was also commentating it meant I was juggling both jobs

Overall the stream went well in my view, but it had room for improvement.

DMCN 2017

This was held in Toronto, the same store ran it. They decided to go with Toronto as they thought they could get more Heroclix players that way, just a note they got about the same number as they did in Montreal the year before. I should note this event, is where I met some brand new players from the GTA who stopped to check it out. Those players were able to subsequently get a local group going and have been playing ever since.

For DMCN itself, I was yet again the judge. I went back to the simple option of the mini camcorder attached to a DJ light stand to simply record. There was a stream of Heroclix but I was not involved in it, however, the store had picked up their own audio mixer and microphones to use at the event. Again I likely still have the DMCN 2017 footage somewhere. It was a fun event, I wish I had stayed somewhere closer to the venue, but otherwise it went well.

US and Worlds 2017

The same store that streamed 2016 was asked back to stream again for 2017, however, they were told it would only be Heroclix. As such they did not invite me along, I did ask about going. Apparently at the event there was such a demand from the DM players (on site and online) that DM should be on streamed that DM was added to the stream. This did kind of make me sad because I would have liked to be involved.

DMCN 2018

DMCN 2018 was held in Gatineau at a hotel by the same store. For this event I was the judge, as has become the norm lol. I decided to step up on the video side for this event. Since it was happening so close to home, I was able to bring more equipment, as such, I did not bother with the camera and DJ light stand; instead I went full stream. I should mention that I was the only judge and the only person running the stream. I was somewhat concerned I was taking on a lot of work but I wanted to do this for the community.

The hotel space was nice but it was also a pseudo hallway. For whatever reason the hotel had designed the meeting area the store had booked from them as a small banquet hall but also a walkthrough from one area of the hotel to another. No guests ever did walk through the area but it meant it was not possible to lock the space overnight. As such, I needed to setup and tear down any AV gear between days, just like Origins in 2016, which again was not a big deal but something I had to be aware of.

Before the big event, I spent time at home doing a mock setup. This was done over several days as I would get part way then work out I needed to buy/order additional parts to continue. I was able to leverage some equipment I had recently acquired and put together for another project that involved live commentators for a recurring sporting event, however, for that event I only provide the audio portion and another company provided the video coverage.

As part of the mock tests I was able to get a former player to come by to help, it was also a way to try to get that player interested in playing again (Side note, I was able to get him to show up for the event and he came in second overall). During testing a number of configurations were tried for the cameras. In the end it was determined that the best choice was 1 camera showing the entire play area and the other as a close up of the attack and field zones of both players (yes I know the attack zone is technically a subset of the field but I mention both for clarity). 

Equipment used for this event:

  • 2 webcams
  • 2 microphone stands with boom arms
  • 1 rubber microphone clip
  • 1 light clamp
  • 1 powered USB 2.0 4 port hub
  • 1 50′ USB 2.0 extension cable
  • 1 audio mixer
  • Case with 1 headphone mixer, 1 microphone mixer, cables and a routing box to interconnect (aka Commentator Box)
  • 1 boundary microphone
  • 1 50’ XLR cable
  • 2-4 Audio Technica commentator headsets
  • 1 adapter cable from ¼” TRS to 1/8” headphone jack
  • 1 laptop (Macbook) with OBS
  • Various other cables
  • 2 Canadian themed play-mats
  • 2 oversized D20s

The setup was as follows:

Gaming table

  • 2 play-mats were setup at the end of a banquet table
      • Note the design is courtesy of Randy, based on the design he made for JT after his 2015 DMCN win
  • Each webcam was attached to a mic stand boom. 1 using the mic clip, 1 using the light clamp. The reason for having 2 different connecting methods had to do with the bodies of the webcams
  • The mic stands were placed at the end of the table on the floor with the booms extended over the gaming space, one higher than the other
  • Webcams were connected to the power USB hub, and a 50’ USB cable was run from there to the OBS laptop 
  • Boundary mic placed on the table to pick up the players verbal interactions, run back to the Commentator Box
  • 2 oversized spin down D20s placed the mats, players were required to use these to count life so it could be seen on stream

Commentary table

  • Laptop with OBS
  • Audio mixer with main outs connected to the mic in jack of the laptop
  • Headsets connected to the Commentator Box
  • Boundary microphone from the gaming table connected to the Commentator Box
  • Commentator box connected to the audio mixer, once per audio device attached to the Box
  • Commentator(s)
      • watch the OBS Laptop screen to see the game
      • wear the headsets to be commentate into the stream as well as hear each other and the gaming table and minimize hearing the surrounding noises
      • Can use the Commentator box to adjust the volume of each commentator and the table in each other’s ears

As with 2016, here are some positive and negatives of how the 2018 DMCN went from a stream perspective.

Positives:

  • The 2 camera setup provided a better view on stream compared to the single camera, due to having the close up of the fielded characters
  • The commentator headsets worked a lot better than the headphone and headset mic of the past
    • there was less tangling of cords
    • easier to put on and take off
    • the microphones were sensitive enough that they could be used while still be rather close to the gaming table without being heard at that table
  • The Commentator Box allowed for much better control of volumes in the headset sets and general routing of audio signals
  • Boundary mic on the gaming table was again useful for the commentator(s) hearing the players interactions, it was not broadcast into the stream (that I recall)
  • Using the laptop camera for the end of event interview worked great, and using it sporadically when the commentator(s) wanted to speak to the stream while being seen
  • Having random players commentate went well, the biggest plus from this is that it took a bit of pressure off of me since I was commentating and judging
  • The 2 oversized D20s worked much better for life counting than what was done in 2016, as it was on the players to maintain and was visible on camera, making it generally accurate
  • Canadian themed play-mats were a hit with the players and gave the stream a constant reminder it was coming from Canada 
  • Setting up the commentator space using a couch and coffee table in the room, both made good use the dead space (since it couldn’t be used for gaming) and was comfy

Negatives:

  • The close up camera did not show what people rolled as that camera could not see the Prep area
  • It was a fair bit of gear to setup each day solo
  • Being the only judge and commentator (except during top cut when cut players were available to commentate) was tiring. It also meant during most matches when I had to step away; then the stream had no audio, which caused the viewers to sometimes question where the audio went
  • The microphone stands kept being bumped, since they were beside the table, which resulted in having to adjust them between rounds
  • Lighting was ok but not perfect as it was only the room lighting, this did cause some glare on the cards
  • Not having a second set of dedicated hands
  • Not having any mutes for the headsets, aside from on the main audio mixer

Overall the event and the stream went well. To my understanding the people who watched it liked the camera setup, it was just the random dead audio due to me stepping away to do judge things that caused some minor concerns. Also, of note at this event Dice Masters was the only event streamed; Heroclix did not have a stream and Attack Wing was not present at all.

DMNC 2019 (finally lol)

Finally now onto the most recent event, I’m curious as to who skipped to here and who read their way here, lol.

This event ended up being put on by different store with only 2 weeks’ notice from the announcement to the event date. I won’t get into the ramifications of this on the player base or the like, that’s a discussion from elsewhere. It did of course mean it was short notice for me to agree to, as usual, judge and decide if and how much I wanted to stream. I of course agreed to judge. As for the streaming, given I had already done what I had done in 2018 I figured it should be reason to do the same again. Also, at some point at the 2018 event I had bought a pair of c920 cameras when they were on sale with the expectation I would be doing this kind of stream again.

I should also note this was only a 1 day event, unlike other years. Also, this was the first time that there has been a Dice Masters Nationals run separate from Heroclix Nationals (which was run a couple weekends later by the normal store).

I ended up spending a day (about 10 hours) digging up gear from around my home to setup and test various options for the stream. This time I did not have another player over to work with while testing, instead I was messaging images of the setup and the stream view to a couple players to see what they thought of the various ideas I had. I was looking for a way to keep the better view of the dice while not losing other info like the team setup and dice counts on cards.

I experimented with rebuilding the team scroll that was used at Origins 2016, but it realistically needs additional people on site supporting the stream so that such things can be updated efficiently (given I tended to forget to update names of players on screen until the round would start the previous year lol). I, of course, tried to reuse the layout from last year but adjust the zoom of the cameras but couldn’t get a balance between enough of the view of the space and the dice. I also tried having 1 camera for each play-mat but that didn’t layout well on the screen.

I eventually dug out more cameras to try a 3 camera setup. This ended up being the setup I went with. Although the third camera I was using wasn’t very good quality so I had to go out and get a better one. By chance Best Buy had the C922 on sale, so I picked that up, would have preferred another c920 but they were out of stock and due to the short window between event announcement and date I did not have time to wait for an online order at that stage. I had previous to my testing day ordered a few new items.

Some of the new parts I preordered for my test day were to fix up how the cameras were mounted. I ordered a couple microphone stand to camera adapters since the C920 (and c922) have camera mount holes. Also, I ordered a couple short microphone booms. Those booms were so that I could try using the table microphone stands I already have instead of the floor microphone stands I was previously using. The idea being that if the stands are on the table instead of the ground, then they are less likely to be bumped by passerbys or onlookers. (Note: I did not consider the players drumming or hitting the table, but in a mobile setup you cannot stop everything, you can only minimize what you can.) During the test setup I determined that these booms did work but that it was still enough weight that it caused the table stands to be tippy, as a result I made sand bags to put on the stands out of Ziplock bags and sand stolen from my kid’s sandbox, which worked perfectly.

Equipment used for this event:

  • 2 Logitech c920
  • 1 Logitech c922
  • 1 Neewer camera light with wall plug
  • 4 onstage camera microphone stand mounts (attached to each boom)
  • 2 full length microphone stand booms
  • 2 short microphone stand booms
  • 4 onstage table microphone stands
  • 4 sandbags (medium Ziplock bag filled with sandbox sand)
  • 1 powered USB 2.0 4 port hub
  • 1 50′ USB 2.0 extension cable
  • 1 10′ extension power cord
  • 1 power cord splitter
  • 1 50′ extension power cord
  • 1 power bar
  • 1 25′ extension power cord
  • 1 audio mixer
  • Commentator Box, which contained
    • Outer case
    • 1 headphone mixer
    • 1 microphone mixer
    • routing box to interconnect
    • cables
    • 3 mute boxes
  • 1 boundary microphone
  • 1 50’ XLR cable
  • 3 Audio Technica commentator headsets
  • 1 adapter cable from ¼” TRS to 1/8” headphone jack
  • 1 laptop (Windows 10) with OBS
  • Various other cables
  • 2 oversized D20s
  • 2 Canadian themed play-mats (same a before)

The setup was as follows:

Gaming table

  • 2 play-mats were setup at the end of a banquet table
  • Each webcam was attached to a microphone stand boom.
      • the two c920 cameras on short booms, each centered over 1 play-mat with the cameras set to only show the centre of their play-mat
      • the c922 camera on a full length boom so it could be set much higher as it was set at the centre of the table to see the full view of the play space
  • The 3 microphone table stands with cameras were placed on the table to the one side of the play space
      • A forth microphone table stand with a full length boom was placed on the opposite of the play space with the Neewer light attached, it was set at almost the same height at the upper c922
      • A sandbag was placed on the back side of each table microphone stand base to stop them from tipping over due to the weight of the booms
  • Cameras were connected to the power USB hub, and a 50’ USB cable was run from there to the OBS laptop 
  • Boundary microphone placed on the table to pick up the players verbal interactions, run back to the audio mixer using a 50’ XLR cable
  • 2 oversized spin down D20s placed the mats, players were required to use these to count life so it could be seen on stream

Commentary table

 

 

 

 

    • Laptop with OBS
    • Audio mixer with main outs connected to the microphone in jack of the laptop
    • Headsets connected to the Commentator Box
    • Boundary microphone from the gaming table connected to the Commentator Box
    • Commentator box connected to the audio mixer, once per audio device attached to the Box
    • Commentator(s)
      • watch the OBS Laptop screen to see the game
      • wear the headsets to be commentate into the stream as well as hear each other and the gaming table and minimize hearing the surrounding noises
      • Can use the Commentator box to adjust the volume of each commentator and the table in each other’s ears, also now use the added mute boxes to mute their microphones when needed

Comparing the 2019 to the 2018 setup, here are the new positives and negatives.

Positives:

  • The 3 camera setup provided a much better view of the game. It still had the overview to see the teams and where dice were (on cards, Used Pile, Prep, Reserve, Field, etc). Then the 2 close up cameras gave a good view of the all the dice in the player area, when compared to the previous year when it was only dice in the field that were visible
  • Mute boxes being added to the Commentator Box allowed for easier muting of a given microphone, as it would mute them in ear and to the stream instead of only the stream (when using the mixer mute, which was still an option when needed)
  • Included the table boundary microphone in the stream audio, so that when I had to step away for judge work there would still be audio in the stream (although quiet)
  • Adding the light to the play area helped, it only created minor glare in one area
  • Moving to microphone table stands did reduce/move the foot print of the setup so that it was less accidentally bumped by players. Although players at the table did sometimes hit the table causing the image to shake but at least the stands did not move.

Negatives

  • Not having a second set of dedicated hands
  • Store had music playing in the background that was picked up on occasion on the table microphone since the stream table was setup near the radio, if another event is run there I will likely move where the stream table is or ask the store not to play the radio

Based on how this event went, I expect I will continue with roughly this setup for future events. The only change I had made is that I returned the c922 then ordered a c920 from Amazon during Prime Days as it was silly cheap and I now have all 3 cameras as the same.

Thank you for reading all, I hope you have found it useful.

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