Blackmagic Design recently announced that Anhui Orange Media completed live grading for Douyu Carnival 2019, a pan entertainment cultural festival hosted by China’s streaming giant Douyu, with DaVinci Resolve Studio and DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel. Streaming for the three day event, which had more than 310 million views, was done using DeckLink 8K Pro, ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K, ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel and HyperDeck Studio Pro.
Douyu Carnival is a three day multi genre entertainment extravaganza in China’s streaming sector, which includes a wide range of elements such as live shows, gaming, film, animation, food and many more, with an highest attendance of more than 410 thousand and 310 million online views.
At Douyu Carnival 2019, there were four major stages. These included the main Douyu Stage where Internet personalities perform live music or dance for the audience, the Link Stage where fan meetings were held, the Young Stage where more genres of live shows were presented and the Gaming stage for live game shows and streaming.
Tasked with live streaming all the shows was Anhui Organge Media, which was founded in 2014 and is known for their work for TV shows including ‘Mad for Music’, ‘Race Forward, Boys and Girls!’, ‘Anhui TV Spring Festival Evening Gala’, ‘Law of the Jungle’ and ‘China TV Drama Awards’.
“Where this project was distinguished from regular streaming tasks was we needed to live grade the shows that were being performed on Douyu Stage,” revealed Zhu Jing, founder of Orange Media. “All performers here were Internet celebrities with millions of fans and their fans are more used to how they look in streaming APPs, the intelligent beautification feature of which can give these celebrities a milky white skin tone that their fans love. So Douyu asked us to do the same real time ‘beautification’ work.”
“We tried many live grading solutions, most of which only supported basic primary grading and couldn’t adjust a specific region of the image, such as skin. Fortunately, DaVinci Resolve could do both primary and secondary grading when used for live grading, just like for post production. We were allowed to add nodes, qualifiers and even OpenFX for accurate secondary grading. Douyu had attached great importance to the project and they particularly came to Hefei from Wuhan to inspect our Resolve Live grading solution. After a few demonstrations, they immediately confirmed that this was what they asked for.”
Resolve colourist Liu Kang from Chengdu based Kang Studio was asked by Orange Media to help do the skin beautification job. “Before adjusting the skin tone, we had to make sure every camera used at the show could reproduce the real skin color correctly. From there, we would be able to make a selection of skin. However, the seven cameras of mixed types, including studio cameras, a handheld camera and a drone, were equipped with different lenses and image sensors and the aged studio cameras gave us different looks, though they were the same model and had same settings,” said Liu.
In a bid to match the looks of all the cameras, the crew generated a LUT for each camera and each camera feed went to a Teranex Mini loaded with the LUT for colour calibration before going into the ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K. The program feed went into DaVinci Resolve via a DeckLink 8K Pro capture card and was live graded by the colourist with a DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel. The graded program video was then sent to the streaming solution, where it was live broadcast across the Internet.
Making selections of skin was the most critical process. But the lighting kept changing, which posed a challenge for live grading. Every show day of this event started at noon and ended at night. In daylight, there was only natural light but at night, complex artificial light and even smoke or haze for atmospheric effects came up, which would change the skin tone in the video, causing annoying noise when grades were applied. This could not be tolerated in live streaming. However, Liu Kang found a way. “I made the selection of skin using Resolve’s HSL tools but didn’t make the selection too hard edged. Instead, I used feather and soften tools to soften the edges, so we could get the selection under control,” he said.
Liu also noted that this was another reason that live grading solutions that only support primary grading didn’t suit this project. “The LUT could become useless when the lighting changed, but there was no time for you to create a new LUT and you gotta grade in real time. Also, your client was sitting next to you, issuing commands like ‘smooth her skin’ or ‘lighten her skin’ every now and then, which couldn’t have been done with just applying a LUT. “
Apart from skin tone, live grading was also used to improve the image quality and enhance the lighting effects.
”All the live grading work was done with the DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel, because it allowed me to get a function at once and to grade the video so subtly that the audience wouldn’t notice. With a mouse, a sudden dramatic change in the live image might happen if the colourist didn’t use it properly when pulling curves, which would be a disaster,” said Liu.
A HyperDeck Studio Pro was used to record the graded video for post production and archival. A good number of Mini Converter UpDownCross were used at the Gaming stage of the event for signal conversion and distribution.
“I started using Blackmagic converters and capture cards in 2014. Their cost effectiveness and reliability gave me confidence in other Blackmagic products, so I have been incorporating more and more Blackmagic production switchers, recorders and software tools into our workflow. The Douyu Carnival project brought us many challenges we had never faced before but with these Blackmagic products, especially DaVinci Resolve, we combined real time beautification with professional live production, creating a new workflow for live streaming with professional tools,” Zhujing concluded.