Player of games. Writer of words. Reviewer of things. Like most kids growing up in the 90’s, I have a soft spot for small pixelated characters dancing around screens. Games first entered my life through my brother’s computer.
We’ve all been there. You load up a stream and the outline of the streamers chair melds seamlessly into the game they’re playing. No messy backdrop, or large unwieldy webcam rectangles anywhere in sight. Instant stream envy (looking at you Naysy). Later, you open your streaming software and recoil at the mundane, cluttered backdrop of your webcam. Yikes.
As a content creator, you likely want to get the aesthetics of your video just right. While a select few will have a beautiful gaming lair to show off on camera, full of ambient RGB lighting and nerdy paraphernalia (PhizziTV), most don’t. Enter the green screen.
I didn’t really get bitten by the green screen bug until I saw one in action at the Melbourne Esports Open last year, where Bethesda used one for a live stream of a Quake competition. More specifically, an Elgato one, and it instantly became clear how quick and easy it was to use this thing. Minutes after carrying one over from the Elgato stand, they had a great looking stream set up, complete with a Quake graphic, rather than a mundane cream wall.
I was already pretty set on the Elgato Screen, as I’ve already had fantastic experiences with both my Stream Deck and Cam Link. That said, I decided it was at least worth looking at what else was out there before I made it rain in Elgato’s direction. There seemed to be 4 types of green screen to consider:
Back of the chair style. Cheap and compact, but it’s connected to your chair. Given how much I move on my chair when streaming, that’s not ideal.
Roll up style. Compact, sturdy and mobile. The only downside is that these are more expensive. Easy to see why Elgato chose this design.
As I’m reviewing the Elgato green screen, it should be pretty obvious what my choice was but let’s chat through why I chose the Elgato. Given the layout of my gaming lair, I needed something portable, which ruled out the cheapest, and largest framed option.
The chair mounted option looked a bit more like a meme than a real solution, especially as I move my chair a fair bit. One would need to stay stationary permanently to make the chair screen work, so I hit the pass button. This left the small framed screen and the Neewer alternative to the Elgato. The former looked much too flimsy and my cat Loki is huge. He would destroy it.
The final decision came down to the Neewer and the Elgato. Neewer products generally are ok, albeit flimsy. I’ve had one of their mic arms break on me, which didn’t give me much confidence in the epic cat vs screen battle. This made it a pretty easy win for the Elgato that I’d seen in action at MEO.
When my screen arrived, the first thing I realised was how heavy this thing is. At a little over 9kg, Elgato are not messing around. This thing feels like it’s built like a tank. As you’ll see in the pictures below, packaging is simple, but effective. It’s literally the box, some foam and a plastic wrapping. Unboxing it is a painless minute of your life, as there’s literally no setup required. Simply twist the feet, put this hefty boi on the floor, and you’re good to go.
The screen measures up at 1.8m high by 1.5m wide and below you can see how that translates into my gaming environment. While I’d like it to be a bit wider (I’m a giant, with the arm spread of an eagle), it would probably prove a bit too big for most people’s streaming environments. Elgato have likely got things just right here.
Quality wise, the hard shell case is made of aluminium and the screen itself is made of Dacron polyester. Dacron polyester is made by DuPont (One of the leaders in scientific textiles) and it’s known for its durability, consistency, and quality. Dacron, unlike natural fibers, is hypoallergenic, non-absorbent, and mildew-resistant.
While there’s definitely a fair bit of marketing jargon in there, the result is a tough, fairly stiff material that feels like it’s going to last a long time. The fact that it’s not going to wrinkle is important, because shadows are the nemesis of green screens.
Using the screen is as easy as unboxing it. It’s a simple lifting of the lid, grabbing the handle and pulling the screen up. The mechanism is smooth and is very stable, and despite my initial concerns that it may come tumbling down, or falling over, it proved to be rock solid. The complete opposite of any other type of roll up banner I’ve ever used, which is why I was nervous in the first place.
When you’re done, simply do the reverse, and the screen is out of the way, leaving you so much room for activities. Not to mention, keeping it safe from curious kitty claws. In practise I could very easily put the screen behind my door when I’m not using it, but its equally as easy to leave it where it is in my room.
When it comes to performance, the green screen works incredibly well, provided you have your environment set up for a one. Those that have used one before will know that you need a lot of light, on both the screen and on yourself. This often means separate lights for the screen and for you, to ensure that there aren’t any shadows.
Lack of light and shadows wreak havoc with green screens and you’ve definitely seen what that looks like. Pixelated areas on the screen and visible borders of the webcam box break immersion and make it look worse than it did without the green screen.
So, the Elgato Screen is well made and easy to use, but at USD 160, it’s a fairly hefty investment. That’s USD 110 more than the cheapest option I listed. So, is it worth it? Well, that depends on your budget and what you want to do with it. If you’re a student living on Indomie noodles, then you may want to prioritise food over a green screen. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and you’re looking for the best green screen you can get, then you’d be hard pressed to find anything better than the Elgato.
Somewhere in the middle? I think the portability of the green screen is where it really shines. This is true both within and outside of your home. If you’re streaming from your parents lounge, but don’t want your moms doilies and ceramic cats ruining your Fortnite aesthetic, it’s perfect. Pop up the green screen, win at life, and then pack it away before your mom rants at you about the giant green contraption in the living room.
The same is true of shared houses, your room, or pretty much anywhere else. For me, a large framed green screen would block access to half of my room, my guitar and my cupboard, so that wouldn’t work. The portability of this screen is exactly what I needed.
Out of your home, it’s perfect for content creators and brands that attend events like PAX, where streaming or video conditions in your booth may not be perfect… just remember to bring some lighting.
When I thought about summarising my experience with the Elgato Green Screen, all that came to mind was that you pop it up, and it works. Which I think is the biggest compliment I can give it. There’s no hassle at all. It just works… and it looks and feels like it’s built to work for a very long time.
If you’re a looking for a green screen, I think the Elgato is a great choice, provided you can afford it… and if there’s even the slightest chance that you’re going to have to move your green screen at any point, getting the Elgato should be a no brainer.
The only thing I can critique is that there are times when I want the screen to be a tiny bit wider, but that’s more nitpicking than anything else.
I spent a sleepy weekend in Queenstown and my favourite part of the trip was stumbling across AJ Hickling and has reclaimed piano. While his music was no doubt the highlight, I did manage to snap a few portraits while I was listening. 10/10 would listen again. Go check him out.
It may be because I was afraid of the dark as a child, but I love good lighting. Not horrible fluorescent white, but twinkling city lights.. neon signs.. warm mood lighting.. it makes me very, very happy. Now imagine my joy when I discovered Nanoleaf. I was happier than a 90’s kid that had just discovered lava lamps. I’ve used the Nanoleaf panels for 3 months now and can’t wait to tell you about how they light up my life.
Before diving head first into the luminous Nanoleaf joy, it’s worth taking a look at who Nanoleaf are. They’re from Canada, and have been making lighting products for the last 6 years. The also have offices in both Paris and then Shenzhen for production. When they first launched, they tried and succeeded in disrupting the tired old light bulb industry. They then went on to launch their highly successful light panels and have gone on to win many design awards for both products. They now in the midst of launching their next big product, the Nanoleaf Canvas.
I first came across Nanoleaf on my Twitter feed and was instantly hooked. I had been casually looking for some good lighting options for a few months and unbeknownst to me, the Nanoleaf light panels were exactly what I was looking for. I picked up a 9 piece starter kit and I had the option to get the Rhythm kit (more on that later), but chose to go with the standard panels. I lugged the fairly hefty box home and eagerly liberated my new Nanoleaf panels from their cardboard confines.
Right after opening the box, I was happy to see the minimalist packaging and focus on recycling. Not surprising for a company that created the worlds most efficient light bulb! Despite the rugged looking packaging, everything was snug in it’s designated spot, with very little wiggle room.
As for what’s in the box, there are 4 key components. First up is your lovely new Nanoleaf light panels and the small power connectors that you use to connect them together. Next up is the adhesive tabs that you use to stick your panels to the wall. You then have the power adaptor, brick and cable. Last but not least you have the instruction manual, should you be humble enough to acknowledge that you should read it!
I didn’t take many photos during the installation process, mostly because my hands were full of Nanoleaf panels, but it was a fairly simple process. Simple, but not necessarily quick, as there’s a lot of peeling and sticking to be done! Before jumping in and sticking things to walls, some people prefer to use a thin piece of plastic or wood as a backing board. They stick their panels to the board and stick the board to the wall. That way if they want to move their lights, or move to a new house, it makes that much much easier. I threw caution to the wind and stuck them directly on my wall. Rock and roll lyf, that’s me.
I’d take my time with this and set aside about 2 hours from start to finish. I started the process by sticking the adhesive tabs to all my panels. One side is made for the panel and the other for the wall, and while I’m not sure it’s absolutely critical that one gets it right, I made sure not to stick them the wrong way round. 27 tabs later and I decided I didn’t want little dog ears sticking out so I cut off all the ends.
I then decided to stick the base, which has the power and control buttons to the wall and got it connected to the power. The app allows you to map how you want to design your layout, but I decided to wing it. I started assembling my panels by simply slotting them into each other before sticking them down. This allowed me to build a design I liked, and I then just pulled off all the tabs and stuck the panels to the wall. A word of caution is that depending on your design, you want to make sure your first panel is straight, or you may realise very far into your design that it’s skew and these 3m tabs don’t come off easily. That could really ruin your day. As for the result of my lighting adventure? Et voila…
A press of the power button, a simple pairing with my phone and I was lost in technicolour magic. You can set up your own custom schemes, but there are many preset and community options, and they look so good that I haven’t even bothered to set up my own. The app is simple and effective. I’ve already mentioned how I got lost in the Discovery section of the app and you really could spend hours scrolling through all the different presets. You can preview a new theme and then hit the save button, to have it easily accessible from your shortlist. You can also change the brightness of a theme you like.
Once you’ve got a few different go to colour schemes, there are two things I love about the Nanoleaf’s. The first is that you’re able to schedule your lights to run when you want them to. For example, my lights are set to turn on every weekday at 5.30pm and turn off at 12:30am. Not that turning your lights on is a major chore, but it’s a nice not to have to think about it. You can also link your lights to Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant, which means that if you have something like a Google home, you can use voice commands to turn your Nanoleaf’s on, off, dimmer, brighter or even change colour schemes. Speaking of apps, you can even sync your lights with certain games through Razer Chroma… Naisu.
Continuing the theme of syncing your lights, I mentioned that we’d come back to the Nanoleaf Rhythm module! If you’re old enough, you’d remember that back in the Winamp days, you were only as cool as your Winamp skin and oscilloscope. The rhythm module turns back time by converting your Nanoleaf panels into a visualisation for your music. It’s a cool feature that uses a microphone to detect what you’re playing and will make your Nanoleaf’s pulse in time with your music. It’s worth noting that if you’re like me and use headphones 99% of the time, that you’ll need to get an aux splitter and run a cable to your rhythm module if you want your rhythm module to work while you’re not using speakers.
When it comes to using my lights, I’ve been really happy. They were easy to set up, have tons of choice when it comes to schemes and have made my man cave a lot more ambient. +10 to happiness. I was so happy with them that I went out and got another starter kit to up my total panel count to 18. If that’s not a vote of confidence I don’t know what is!
I now use my Nanoleaf’s as my primary source of light, and it’s worth bearing in mind that I use my room to take product pictures and video footage, whether that’s for YouTube or Twitch. When set to coloured schemes, the amount of light these give off really depends on the intensity/brightness of the colours. Set these lights to white and they make a great low profile and attractive source of lighting for streamers. As they’re LED based, they also use fairly little power. Begone those big bulky photographic lighting kits from Amazon! Couple it with an Elgato green screen, (tried, tested and works really well) and you have an extremely aesthetic and minimalist streaming setup that produces great results, provided you have the budget.
Speaking of budget, it’s worth taking a look at how these lights square up to the competition. There’s actually tons of LED lighting options out there, but few are as simple, or as good as the Nanoleaf setup. You get everything from coloured light bulbs to LED light strips, but they’re all a bit ad-hoc and don’t offer the same connectivity / ease of use.
The closest direct competitors would probably be the Philips Hue range and the LIFX Tile. Pricing wise, the Nanoleaf starter kit, including the rhythm module, controller and 9 panels is $230. If you’re keen on some ambitious designs, you can also get 15 panel and 30 panel versions from the Nanoleaf website for $315 and $552. The LIFX Tile on the other hand is $250 and comes with the controller and 5 panels. You can also look into the Philips Hue E27 Starter Kit, that comes with a controller and 3 light bulbs for around $200, but be aware that you’d need physical lamps for the bulbs in addition to the cost of the kit itself.
Given the need for the additional hardware, I think it’s likely that most people will hard pass on the Hues. The real battle then is LIFX Tile vs Nanoleaf. They’re similarly priced, but physically, you get more for your money with the Nanoleaf’s, with 9 panels vs 5 with the LIFX. When it comes to brightness, the LIFX tiles are brighter on paper than the Nanoleaf’s, but I’ve yet to test them myself. Given the my Nanoleaf setup is capable of lighting my green screen, I’d say they’re bright enough.
Looks wise, I think the LIFX tiles are capable of some really pretty patterns, but you have less panels to craft a creative design, which lets be honest, is half of the fun of getting these lights in the first place. Add to this that the LIFX panels are notoriously difficult to set up and pair. You can see that from the bad reviews on LIFX’s own website, whereas the Nanoleaf panels are really easy to set up. I get really frustrated when technology doesn’t work easily, so for me, that makes this almost a no brainer, it’s the Nanolife for me.
Now that I’ve lived the Nanolife for a few months, I can confirm that the future’s looking bright, and neon coloured. Next stop, the Nanoleaf Canvas. I’ll leave you with a bunch of photos of the Nanoleaf’s in action.
If you’re playing competitive League of Legends or Overwatch in Australia; chances are that things are looking pretty dire if you’re not a wolf… or at least one of Australia’s legendary drop bears.
That’s right. The LG Dire Wolves and the Sydney Drop Bears are running rampant. The Dire Wolves were already a force to be reckoned with in the Oceanic Pro League in 2017, but domestically, they’ve been unstoppable this year. They finished the first split undefeated for what I believe is a first in the team’s history. Despite a more difficult time at the Mid Season Invitational, they bounced right back, found themselves a new recruit in the shape of BioPanther and have yet to lose a series in split 2.
The Drop Bears are no slouch either. They finished in pole position of the first season of Overwatch Contenders this year, dismantling their nemesis, MasterMinds in the final. They may not have gone undefeated in the first season (they lost one match), but they’ve turned up the heat and are currently undefeated in season 2…
The Dire Wolves. Credit:Nathan Mott
The Drop Bears. Credit:GameReactor
With both these teams looking likely to claim their respective league titles yet again, they’re set to do so at the highly anticipated Melbourne Esports Open, in front of thousands of fans at the start of September.
What do these two have in common? They both fall under Guinevere Capital, run by Dave Harris and are reaping the rewards of the Guinevere home base. Dave set up the esports high performance centre at the Sydney Cricket Ground, using his traditional sport know how and introducing it into esports. All this winning piqued my curiosity, so I had to find out more about how this all came to be. I went to visit Dave at the esports high performance centre to see some of the magic first hand.
Despite the rather quiet looking picture, the actual first impression of the space is very much that of a busy startup. A fairly open plan space, with a kitchen, a ping pong table and in this case, lot’s of gaming computers. Best described as an energetic, bustling, work in progress.
Tucked away in the corner was a relaxed looking Dire Wolves team, playing a collection of games in some down time. Apart from the Corner Wolves, it’s an environment I’m very used to and one that is leaps and bounds ahead of what most esports teams have had access to.
Gawking at the Dire Wolves wasn’t my primary reason for stopping by though; chatting to Dave was. I wanted to learn a bit about about him, his move to esports and his thoughts on the Australian esports landscape, so I sat down on the HPC couches and had a chat.
GFTW: How/when did you make the decision to get into esports?
Dave: I was working in traditional sports and saw esports as a threat, so decided to make the move into esports.
GFTW: You’ve expanded to the Drop Bears and also now the Sydney Saints. What’s the vision for what you’re doing here?
Dave: Our strategy is to have fewer teams, so that we can focus on them a lot. Beyond that, we’re more involved in games with a lot of publisher support, like Overwatch and League of Legends.
GFTW: Beyond the Dire Wolves, you’ve done some great work with the HPC. What effect do you think this will have on the teams and what’s the lead time to see those effects?
Dave: I think we’ve already seen some of the effects. The first and most important thing is separating the work and living environments. In the house (across the road from the SCG) there are no computers so it’s forced downtime with no computers. Once they’re in the HPC, we try to create different spaces, so there are different rooms for solo queue and scrims. We also have a gym, swimming pool and kitchen, and encourage a healthy balanced lifestyle. On the mental side of things, we have access to sports psychologists and our director of sport has a background in military and sport science, so that does mental coaching.
GFTW: I feel like esports is largely misunderstood in Australia. The natural response to an event like IEM would be look at the nerds! What do you think needs to be done to change that perception?
Dave: I think it’s just exposure. I think that as we have bigger events and people get to touch and feel what esports is about, these perceptions will change.
GFTW: Similarly, what do you think needs to happen for esports to grow in Australia.
Dave: It’s just a matter of time and as people get older the industry will grow. With traditional sponsors like Maccas and Burger King getting involved this legitimizes the esports industry. This is what you see in the US and Europe already, and that will hopefully pick up pace in Australia.
GFTW: What is your view on getting more women in to esports?
Dave: It can only be a good thing getting 50% of the population interested in esports. It’s also about representation, that’s very important. Going forward, I believe that teams should be mixed gender at the highest level rather than having dedicated women’s teams. This is something that happened with Supastellar.
Outside of Dave, I was keen to get the thoughts of one of their players. I was fortunate enough to get to ask the Dire Wolves newest addition, BioPanther a few questions. BioPanther rose up the ranks through the Dire Wolves academy team, and he’s very quickly proven his salt with some top notch performances. He’s fast becoming a fan favourite in the OPL.
GFTW: The HPC setup is one of the best team training camps available in OCE esports. What do you think you’ve gained from being a part of it.
BioPanther: The HPC’s atmosphere allows me to perform at my best, as I am given everything I need to perform the best that I can! It also separates work from home allowing me to have a clear headspace.
GFTW: Which area of your play do you think has improved the most and why?
BioPanther: Playing aggressively/confidently, and playing at my champions limits have been my biggest improvement. Outside of that, understanding the game state more, champion spikes and opportunities have seen big gains too! Moving from the OCS to the OPL, the gameplay between the two is a whole different experience and adapting quickly to the new environment was vital. That helped a lot in my personal growth.
GFTW: You had some pretty big shoes to fill stepping into the top lane for the Dire Wolves, yet you seem to have nerves of steel. Mentally, how did you prepare for that?
BioPanther: I personally wasn’t too affected by the role that I was stepping into for the top lane. I was prepared for the challenges ahead and I was always looking for improvement in every aspect. I wanted to be my own player and show the potential, and reasoning as to why I was chosen to play for the Dire Wolves.
GFTW: I’ve loved your Mundo play across the split, but what has been a specific highlight for you since you stepped up into the Dire Wolves team.
BioPanther: Probably at my first international event, Rift Rivals. On Day 1 against Kuala Lumpur Hunters playing Ornn, where we four man wombo combo’d them near the dragon pit. Practically acing the enemy team was pretty much my personal highlight since stepping up into the Dire Wolves.
After spending time at the esports high performance centre, and hearing from both Dave and BioPanther, it’s not surprising that both the Dire Wolves and the Drop Bears are performing so well.
Too often, esports teams have been, and in many cases still are running in unhealthy environments. Between crammed gaming houses and lack of proper management, players often have some tough trade offs in chasing their esports dreams.
In creating the HPC, Guinevere has shifted the model a lot closer to that of a traditional sports team, with good accommodation, proper facilities and balanced training. He’s also raised the bar for what is expected of a top Australian esports team and I for one can’t wait to see all the top teams follow suit.
If and when they do, they may just be able to challenge the Dire Wolves.