Formed back in 2002, Gamesys is an online gaming operator and games developer that runs some of the world’s biggest gaming sites and apps including Virgin Games and Jackpotjoy.
Gamesys contacted Spectrecom to explore the feasibility of putting a comprehensive studio solution in a large unused part of one of their office buildings in Newcastle Under Lyme, UK.
Until recently the company’s in-house production capability was limited to a single room of the main office floor, containing both talent and operators and limited kit, while contracting out the live casino broadcast to a studio in Latvia.
“The new studio set-up had to be flexible and have the capacity to grow and alter the spaces. The system had to be robust enough for 24/7 broadcasting, and simple to operate on a low headcount, by staff without a broadcast background.” explains Ged Cleugh, Spectrecom’s Director of Film & TV.
As an end to end studio solution specialist, Spectrecom teamed up with systems integrator and equipment supplier ES Broadcast and acoustic specialists Audio Schemes to design an easy-to-operate and easily expandable three-studio space.
“It was clear they had outgrown their existing studio,” explains ES Broadcast’s Projects Director, Chris Williams. “It was about 15ft x 15ft, with everything and everyone in it – the TriCaster vision mixer, green screen, cameras, talent and crew. It was definitely ripe for an upgrade.”
With a solid design for expansion on the table, Gamesys decided to greenlight the massive upgrade to these UK studio facilities, allowing the company to run all their games and streaming in-house while at the same time significantly boosting production value.
BIGGER AND BETTER
Gamesys had a 6000 sq. ft. garage space as the framework for the building, the challenge was to convert and upgrade the building into a modern, flexible three-studio set-up.
The build was to require all the combined skills and experience of the project team. First of all, Gamesys’ expertise is in gaming, not broadcast, so guidance from the beginning to the end of the project was essential. They required a solid jump-in with both feet that they wouldn’t grow out of too quickly, but they also needed a set-up where the financial outlay wasn’t hugely daunting.
The project involved guiding Gamesys at each stage to make sure we ultimately delivered the solution that best suited their needs and that meant a system that was big enough for growth while not being overkill in terms of tech.
For optimum production value, and to ensure the preservation of height, Spectrecom designed the available space into one 480sq.m main studio that could accommodate a number of casino games, and two smaller green screen studios of 100sq.m and 85sq.m respectively.
Following in-depth planning between all parties, construction, headed by Nick Langley met the first challenge of making the space acoustically sound. The building itself was an old car workshop complete with pits and a corrugated tin roof: “when it rained you could not even hold a conversation because of the noise caused by rainfall on the metal roof,” explains Nick. There was also traffic noise from two busy roads and “worst of all, the air ambulance based at the nearby Royal Stafford Hospital would fly over at under 500ft altitude almost every day!” A regular visit from a Cornish pasty van complete with an ice cream jingle also proved a headache.
We fitted a rain- resistant rubber lining on the roof with a floating ceiling below. 85 tonnes of soundproofing was added into the roof spaces. The ceiling was strengthened with new steel joists, then compressed down onto the steel with an isolating neoprene pad in between. A new concrete floor sat on an isolating pad called Jabber-lite to cure noise vibration issues and a large air-lock with two sets of two-tonne steel acoustic doors was also fitted.
From this base, we designed a floor-plan for three separate studios, each with their own gallery, powered from a single CAR (Central Apparatus Room). Scalability and flexibility were key so new game sets could be added in the future with minimal disruption. Studios 2 and 3 were built with chroma-key cyclorama walls for flexible studio productions to cater to Gamesys’ on-going slate of daily production. All of the studios were finished in soft black fabric walls, with drapes fitted to tracks and a hard black rubber studio floor tile.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
The main studio had to run with as low a head count as possible and the system had to accommodate operators with limited technical knowledge. The tech needed to be broadcast standard without the barrier of a steep learning curve. The resulting solution was one where all three studios could be combined simply with a configuration change.
For ease of use, we provided Gamesys with a touch screen system for operators that hid a lot of complexity under the hood. The final solution was based on Ross products, which are highly integrated and very flexible.
They’re very complex underneath but they also have a wonderful ability to deliver really simple touch screen systems. The future operators are from the casino world, so streamlining complex processes down to one or two buttons was a large part of it. The main studio doesn’t even have a traditional control panel; just touchscreens controlling a Ross Carbonite switcher, an XPression graphics engine and Ross PIVOTCam PTZ cameras. It’s one single GUI with a touch screen that means Gamesys can staff the main studio with just one operator.
As Spectrecom’s Ged Cleugh explains: “You can have a seven or eight-shot camera sequence you can set off just by pushing a button, that makes it super easy. A single operator can be running the game with four cameras, which is about as stripped back as you can get. There are lighting pre-sets we have on the DMX as well. Or they can manually drive it if they wish.”
Prioritising and designing the system for the operator, even if this means not presenting 100% of the system’s capability at first is an important consideration. The system ultimately has to be appropriate to the skill-set of the staff and easily usable, while also being robust, flexible and future-proof.
SETTING THE STAGE
With Barbara Giordano leading the project as set designer, we worked closely with Gamesys’ design team to produce around fifty drawings that were used to bring the first two main sets to life. This comprised a Live Dealer Roulette game, where an industry compliant gaming table had to be isolated from the main set and installed directly into the concrete floor.
The set itself was custom made and installed to the exact colour and scale specifications of the client. The set is situated on a curved metal work powder coated in matt silver, with the floor itself finished with a wooden laminate. Three-piece curved sofa envelopes the wheel and a back fabric wall steelwork fabricated support frames make up the backdrop allowing the central bar set behind to be partially visible and helping give the viewer the overall ambience of being in a real casino environment.
At the centre of the game set is a 70inch monitor surrounded by a wall of 40 encapsulated LED tubes. These are DMX controlled and offer the controller the ability to change the pattern, colour and intensity either manually or by using chase presets.
However, Spectrecom’s involvement didn’t end there. We also helped them to recruit a studio engineer because even though the system is as stripped back on the operator level as possible, the underlying tech does still require on-site expertise, especially with a 24/7 broadcast operation. Channel Management and Planning is one of our USP’s – we not only build a studio for you, but we’ll help you run it too.
If you’d like to speak to us regarding a studio build project – please get in touch by phone, email or in person. We’d love to speak to you, and help bring your studio solution to life.