• Live production plays a rival role for the esports industry and technology providers 
  • Esports experts discuss challenges and opportunities in live productions 
  • Traditional kit favoured as new esports-centric technology has not been introduced by vendors

Delivering live esports production at scale requires seamless technology integration and tight workflows to optimise the operation and produce esports for massive international audiences.

An IBC365 webinar on Delivering live esports production at scale went behind the scenes to understand the technology and workflow behind producing live esports events with industry experts offering insight on methods to engage audiences and techniques to optimise live productions.

Esports showcase at IBC2019

Esports showcase at IBC2019

The global popularity of esports, the attention from the broadcast and media industry and the overall phenomenon has risen rapidly in the last few years with more eyeballs and revenue growing at an unprecedented rate.

The live production business plays an increasingly important role for technology and service providers, building on their traditional sports experience to deliver some of the biggest transmissions of live events which prove to be complex and technically challenging.

The challenge is turning multidimension live game play into engaging content for millions of viewers across the globe.

Ayesha Frederick, freelance broadcast production specialist has been working in esports production for around a year and a half, mainly as a vision mixer, technical director and in game replay operator for a variety of companies and games.

As a vision mixer, Frederick said: “I try to split it up in my mind,” she explained the challenges of the game play elements, players and the post-production element, “it helps if you know the game and have a good relationship with the in-game observers and in-game team.”

Most recently she has worked as a vision mixer and technical director for ESL Pro League, ESL One New York and Cologne B Stream’s, the PES League World and EU finals, the FACEIT ECS Finals, the ESL UK Premiership finals and at Insomnia Gaming Festival.

Frederick has previously worked as a replay operator on a variety of games, including CS:GO, DOTA 2, Fifa 19, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Rainbow Six Siege and World of Warcraft at events including the FACEIT CSGO Major and ECS Finals, Playstation’s Showcase at Paris Games Week, ESL Pro League, BLAST Pro Series Madrid and Los Angeles and the HP Omen Challenge.

Esports tournaments usually consist of two teams made up of around five players but could be less, from a production point of view the technical challenges lie with the multiple screens, player cameras from difference angles and depending on the game the main screen could host the characters the players are playing on a LED screen as well as commentators.

Jake Hukin, production and technical manager has worked exclusively in esports and gaming content since graduating. He started out as studio manager for Game and Belong he has worked on content ranging from grassroots, community esports tournaments to managing tech and production for major esports events on the world stage.

He currently freelances in a variety of production roles and has helped deliver projects for companies such as Nintendo UK, Red Bull and Microsoft. He continues to be a regular face at Game as well working as technical manager for esports content at the Insomnia Gaming Festival events and is currently working with them on the ninth season of the Belong Arena Clash.

On the challenges for making esports work for television, Hukin said: “Certain games the players will finish playing before we see the end of the game.

“We will record their reactions and cut to that at the end of the broadcast.”

IBC365’s Alana Foster spoke with industry experts on overcoming the pitfalls of production in broadcasting esports, asking is measurement is the key to success?

Creating a niche narrative
Frederick and Hukin agreed the narrative, visual elements and replays are critical in curating a rich narrative for audiences to ensure engagement is at the forefront of their viewing experience.

Frederick explained how it can be “tricky but worthwhile” to capture the key moments in a game because there is “a lot to deal with and every game has a different element.”

The physical set up of esports is consistent but the visual elements are complex and different from traditional sports.

Asked if game publishers support the production team, Hukin said: “It varies a lot from game to game.,” noting some games are more challenging to see the statistics and location of the players than others, it’s clear the role is challenging and fast paced.

Frederick said: “People who are not familiar with esports could mistake the games as being very similar,” however she clears up the differences, “between the games there is a lot to deal with.”

World of Warcraft, Fifa and Rainbow Six are among the tournaments she has worked on all with “different elements.”

Same same but different
Producing a live esports event differs drastically from traditional sports.

Hukin said: “I have never had an event rained off before.

“We have other hazards, network issues, IT issues are a major problem.”

He explained once filming a tournament in Barcelona, the game received an update and they had to stop production and update the game on 100 computers.

He added: “For live events, scheduling is very difficult compared to most traditional sports games.”

Speakers agree that every technical team requires someone in their crew who has played a lot of games, particularly when it comes to framerates.

Hukin said: “Almost exclusively we are producing in 1080p and 59-94 Hz because most of the time people play it at home that way and audiences are used to watching the game in that quality and most of the time if you broadcast at a lower rate they will call you out in the chat because they can see the difference.”

Frederick added its likely people are playing and watching across different platforms and as such “we have a lot of converters… there isn’t really a way to capture it otherwise.”

Both Hukin and Frederic agreed the kit they use is mostly traditional as there has not been new esports-centric technology introduced by vendors.

The business of esports is attracting record-breaking audiences as quickly as it is gaining interest from advertisers, however, the measurement of ad success and audience engagement is as complicated as it is dense with competition.