Meet NewTek, the company powering Twitch’s content streams

Twitch uses NewTek’s technology for its own content streams. (Twitch)
Twitch uses NewTek’s technology for its own content streams. (Twitch)

Streaming site Twitch is immensely popular, but getting a stream up and running and be surprisingly difficult for the layperson, and running a stream for a globally watched esports event even more so. Technology company NewTek is hoping to change that.

NewTek is developing software-driven live broadcast tools that are powering some of the biggest live streams in the gaming industry, including Twitch’s own content streams.

The Texas-based company is working on software that helps to simplify the streaming process and remove the need for multiple cables using a special interface. It sounds technical and complex, so we spoke to NewTek director of PR Scott Carroll and director of product marketing Will Waters in order to break down how the technology works, and what it means for streaming in the games industry.

“When we think about having video, or some video we see on our screens, whether it’s a computer or television, there’s some type of method or technology obviously that goes into putting that all together,” Waters explained. “Traditionally, television predates computers, and as a result there’s a lot of legacy or historical reasons for how video is transported from one device to another.”

“Because gaming starts with computers, it doesn’t have to worry about that. It’s native software. A game console runs on a computer platform of some sort, maybe connects to a server, but it’s in a modern, networking, IP computer world. The challenge comes when you have a body like Twitch working an esports event, trying to basically marry things that were done way back when because it was video… and there is literally an entire industry built around making that translation happen.”

Large-scale esports events could benefit a lot from the technology, given the multitude of factors that must be considered to ensure a stream runs smoothly. With feeds from multiple computers and cameras coming into one stream, the use of NewTek’s technology seems like a perfect fit.

“What NewTek has done, because we make video creation products and we innovate in software, is that we natively can talk in this new computer world,” Waters said. “We’re basically in the same environment as this video system, the actual engine that it was developed on. The new technology that we call Network Device Interface (NDI) allows for straight connection from the gaming computer directly into our switching software without the need for trying to figure out things like HDMI or DVI cables… it removes a lot of headaches that really are in place because of historical reasons… it can all happen on the network now, instead of requiring a dedicated cable from one machine to the other.”

Twitch is one of NewTek’s clients. (Twitch)
Twitch is one of NewTek’s clients. (Twitch)

Yahoo Esports also spoke to producer and technical director at Twitch, Josh Shaw, about how NDI has changed the streaming process for its own shows.

“NDI lets us send signals between hardware without things like capture cards and cables,” Shaw explained. “You can even do this at home with Xsplit. If you had two computers where one was gaming and one was for streaming, now they can be on the same network and you don’t need to have an output, run a cable, have a capture card, and stream it with Xsplit. You just send out the signal and Xsplit streams it.”

Shaw also spoke about the potential future uses for the technology.

“It’s free and open,” he said. “One of the cool things now that they’ve released it is you don’t even need to use a TriCaster or NewTek hardware at all. This is being integrated into a lot of other gear, and eventually they want it to be integrated into cameras or phones. So one idea is [when covering] an event, like a concert, if you had an app and gave permission, the switcher would be able to pull everyone’s camera feeds and then they could cut between that for the main show. The idea is that anything on that network, we would be able to pull the camera feed and use as a source and a production.”

According to Carroll, the technology was actually first developed so that the company could use it for its own products. However, as broadcasting video in esports has grown over the years, NewTek found new uses for the software.

“[In] the gaming world, the esports world, you’re getting bigger and bigger events,” Caroll said. “They’re sometimes televised now on traditional media, or streamed out onto platforms such as Twitch. Well, you have to do a multi-camera or multi-game system.. and mix that all together and create content in that was. Even though it was originally developed for software-to-software video, was it for gaming specifically, no, but video gaming engines fall within that category…This type of capability was not available a year ago, you’re moving lots of high-bandwidth video around in a network in a way that was never possible before.”

Twitch has been updating its platform on a regular basis, recently announcing plans to add a feature to sell games through its site. The organization streams its own content on regular basis, including the Twitch Weekly shows.