When it comes to producing an eye-catching spectacle, esports companies have come a long way since the early days of small-scale tournaments and low production values. Today, a regular production for a high-tier tournament has dozens of people taking part, and using some of the most high-tech products available.

To understand more about the progressive trends that shape up esports production, we spoke to Fabian Leimbach, the Senior Director of Broadcast Engineering at the ESL FACEIT Group, competitive games and esports company, and Leon Herche, Head of Creative Production at bright! Studios, a visual design and AR studio.

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ESL Pro League Season 19

Source: Igor Bezborodov, ESL FACEIT Group

Humble beginnings to mass distribution

“The esports production sector has changed significantly in the last couple of years,” said Leimbach, with the biggest changes apparent in the levels of professionalism shown. Whereas before, an esports broadcast was a humble setup of perhaps several cameras and kit that organisers could get their hands on, today hundreds of people work to produce a single event, and their tasks are much more detailed and focused than before.

“Previously, individuals wore multiple hats, being the Swiss army knives in our production, whereas today, the roles are more defined and structured,” Leimbach added. This is shown with the large number of specialised roles on offer in production, ranging from camera operators and sound engineers to broadcast engineers and directors - all being an integral part of an esports broadcast.

Leimbach said that the shift also brings more business opportunities for projects and events, due to partners and sponsors having bigger demands than before, so more comprehensive solutions are required.

“Incorporating these diverse elements and crafting a unique workflow is particularly effective in esports. It can result in a hybrid approach blending classic baseband methods with innovative techniques such as REMI, Cloud Production, and now even elements of AI.” - Fabian Leimbach, Senior Director of Broadcast Engineering, ESL FACEIT Group

“We now capitalise more effectively on broadcast and show elements, incorporating localised sponsor elements during live broadcasts and leveraging technology to enhance licensing and advertising prospects. In other words, nowadays we have better answers to our partners’ questions,” Leimbach explained.

What sets ESL and other esports tournament organisers apart from linear TV is the distribution. Leimbach noted that ESL’s global streaming team, led by his colleague Steven Jalicy, is to thank for providing streams of ESL’s content to a global audience.

Defining trends

When speaking of the key trends in the esports production space, Leimbach points out the main trends that are, in his opinion, shaping the industry today.


Intel Extreme Masters Sydney 2023

Source: Helena Kristiansson, ESL FACEIT Group

The predominant trend he asserts is data, more specifically the way that data is presented, and the types of data showcased. Today, an esports broadcast can offer extremely high amounts of data and information, and making sense of all that while using it to provide additional content to viewers is a major trend in broadcasting.

Another key trend is innovation, which esports has become a testing ground for. For EFG, this means exploring components such as Cloud Production and REMI and integrating them into the existing workflow.

Leimbach explained: “Additionally, from an infrastructure standpoint, we’re adopting new concepts beyond traditional Baseband infrastructure, transitioning towards technologies like SMPTE-2110 for edge cases. Incorporating these diverse elements and crafting a unique workflow is particularly effective in esports. It can result in a hybrid approach blending classic baseband methods with innovative techniques such as REMI, Cloud Production, and now even elements of AI.“

Game engines as broadcast tools

Fans of ESL broadcasts remember the interesting desk setups that often included unusual settings, such as outer space. This is, of course, done in production, and often as a result of using Unreal Engine. Herche added that his company mostly uses AR and green screen technology with tracked cameras, with AR objects used to display data and other elements in real-time.


Herche explained the workings of the digital overlays: “The most significant difference is that we must consider camera moves and the stage as 3D space from the first minute. With that in mind, we can generate different objects or worlds to incorporate the stage design and game that’s played at the moment. In my opinion, elements closely linked to the game, like in-game characters used in the drafts and analysis, or iconic objects like the flying plane in PUBG, are the most enjoyable moments. When we have the chance to combine these game elements with practical show moments, the viewer’s experience becomes more engaging and visually appealing.”


Intel Extreme Masters Sydney 2023

Source: Sarah Cooper, ESL FACEIT Group

“Investing more into the talent pool is imperative and should take priority before investing in more expensive equipment.”

Although the shift towards modern technology is apparent for EFG, Leimbach does note that he is personally skeptical about finding new ways to integrate advertisements into broadcast-related content that haven’t been explored before. He added that esports can utilise insights from the realm of linear TV, particularly sports broadcasts, about licensing strategies and advertising.

However, ESL does incorporate a fair share of advertising into its broadcasts, often using automation and game data to link the two together. Leimbach explained that using tools such as GhostFrame allowed the company to have “multiple realities in regionalised production”, due to GhostFrame’s ability to display multiple content pieces on screens.

“This technique is comparable to what has been done in sports broadcasts, but using it on scenic elements and on an esports stage was a first, even for the company behind the GhostFrame technology.”

Balancing act

ESL FACEIT Group aims to streamline its content, production, and design elements as much as possible, which can prove to be a challenge in today’s technology landscape. Leimbach explained that today there are dozens of options for each segment of broadcast, whereas before there was usually only one piece of equipment available. Now, the offerings are wide and companies can tailor their setups in any way they can.


ESL Pro League Season 19

Source: Adam-Lakomy, ESL FACEIT Group

The decision to adopt new technology is a challenging one, so striking a balance between operational continuity and innovation is a significant challenge for the company.

Of course, if you are a smaller organiser, these problems do not really apply to you. For organisers of smaller tournaments, using top-of-the-line equipment might not be as useful as focusing on organic growth or optimising the processes.

Leimbach commented: “The distinction between investing in high-end equipment, such as a quarter-million-dollar replay server, and utilising a more cost-effective software solution is becoming increasingly blurred. It’s essential to manage resources diligently and prioritise the core of esports: the game titles and their data. By focusing on these foundational elements, organisers can create productions and events that resonate with fans. As they progress, they can gradually scale up to larger setups and events.”

In addition, investing more into the talent pool is imperative and should take priority before investing in more expensive equipment. Leimbach’s advice is to simply invest in your staff from the outset because that can yield significant long-term benefits for any company, not just a production one.

Still a long way to go

Although esports is a fast-growing industry, especially on the production front, Laimbach still feels like there is much to learn from traditional broadcasts, especially sports broadcasting. This includes hardware configurations of broadcast setups and expands to licensing models and revenue opportunities. Esports has carved itself a successful niche but still has a long way to go to become as streamlined and high-quality as a sports broadcast that had decades to polish its craft.


Intel Extreme Masters Sydney 2023

Source: Sarah Cooper, ESL FACEIT Group

Herche added that, with more companies using larger and high-quality virtual productions, there are going to be more cases of using AR to enhance broadcasts, which will lead to “merging the 3D worlds of games with physical stages for broadcasting.” How this translates to upcoming ESL events is something that remains to be seen.

The ESL Pro League, the company’s well-known Counter-Strike tournament, is currently taking place in Malta, with 32 of the world’s best teams participating.