Note: This guest post first appeared on LinkedIn, and did not receive any consideration from Dolby prior to its original publication. This article has been reposted to the Dolby.io blog with permission from its author, Ben Garney, CTO at Sparkze.
Part of Sparkze is our live content creation platform. The experience is built around players and hosts interacting over live video. Our CEO, Greg Nimer, has been talking about vision and product in his posts. As CTO, I thought I’d do a quick dive into an important part of our technical journey.
For background, Sparkze’s games are a video conference with our gameplay rules layered on top to create the play experience. We are mostly concerned with changing the position/size of the video views and displaying some text/images to communicate game state. A key foundation for our experience, therefore, is good video conferencing. Fortunately, there are plenty of off the shelf solutions for this.
We started with another video conferencing offering from a well-known company that I’d been using for my personal VoIP. Their offering was enough to get us to version 1. But it never had great quality and the feature set was limited. It felt like a “check the box” product from a big cloud provider. We shipped a barebones integration with several ugly workarounds.
The overwhelming feedback from our users was that the app was engaging and fun, but that video quality was super important to them, and we weren’t meeting their expectations. We also found that it was very limited in producing final content that could be recorded or streamed. You could only use a limited set of layouts with fixed visual elements – not sufficient for even the straightforward needs of our games.
Faced with the need to invest a significant amount of effort building our own infrastructure to take the video/audio feeds from participants, and composite it based on the game state, we started looking for other options. I’ve built systems like that before and they are super cool – but massively time consuming to get right. As a small startup, we couldn’t spend the time, money, or mindshare needed to build what we needed.
Fortunately, we found Dolby’s cloud (Dolby.io) which has a huge focus on video conferencing. Dolby.io has decades of awesome audio and video tech which they have integrated into it. It has great features for allowing us to composite video/audio recordings to match our in-app experience. And it has an excellent story for broadcast in-app to large audiences.
The first time we played a game with the app using their video cloud, and with Dolby Voice turned on, was a massive jump forward. Now we’re building out integration with their Mixer API to record and stream games to many platforms. There are a couple of growing pains to address, but their team has been super responsive and I’m excited to move ahead. Shoutouts to my Dolby.io people: Aaron Vinnik, Fabien Lavocat, Richard Galvan. They have been extremely helpful throughout our implementation.