Every good esports event will have a team of backstage whizzes pulling the strings. We asked experienced esports broadcast director and producer to help explain what you need to know about them…
What do production crew do?
Putting on a live esports broadcast production requires a massively vast selection of different skills and people to bring a live show to air. There are creative elements, technical challenges, project coordination tasks, and the most crucial part about live broadcast – you only get once chance to get it right!
Live production work can take place either from an esports studio’s own dedicated facilities, or remote stages and stadiums across the world that require the team and equipment to travel to that location. An esport studio’s dedicated facility might feature various permanent stages or studio sets, as well as custom-built ‘broadcast galleries’, where the production crew work to create the live broadcast.
The end goal for a production crew is to fully manage the process of broadcast planning (pre-production) all the way through to executing the live broadcast for viewers at home to watch live. By incorporating all the elements of a live broadcast like on-air talent, gameplay feeds, live graphics, music, lighting, staging, camera mixes, and streaming – you end up with an esports broadcast.
What are the different roles?
It’s important to understand that while some roles are often employed full time by esports production companies, many productions also make use of professional freelancers to undertake certain roles for a particular esports broadcast.
Roles often employed full-time by esports production companies include:
- Executive producer
- Graphic designers/operators
- Technical managers
- Multi-skilled studio operators
- Content writers
Roles often given to professional freelancers include:
- Camera operators
- Sound operators
- Floor managers
- Technical directors/camera directors
- AV / lighting technicians
- Replay operators
- In-game observers
- Makeup artists
While there are many different skills that span across the different roles within broadcast, having strong technical skills is an absolute must for any role. Let’s look at some of the key roles within esports broadcast, and some key skills for each role:
- In-game observer: Excellent knowledge of the chosen game. An awareness of the technicalities of live broadcast in order to understand how gameplay elements fit into a wider broadcast flow.
- Live broadcast director/producer: Excellent leadership skills are recommended – they must be able to clearly communicate with large teams and deliver concise introductions, often during incredibly high-pressure situations. Must also have a clear vision of the live broadcast and able to take the lead on important decisions, taking into account all stakeholders on the project. A strong creative vision required in order to plan all elements of the broadcast.
- Technical director/camera director: A creative eye is needed for providing an interesting mix of camera angles to cover on-stage events. Clear communication skills are recommended to provide instructions to the camera operators, plus a technical ability to setup, program and operate complex vision mixing desks (panels with lots of buttons, used to choose the correct camera, gameplay or video feed).
- Instant replay operator: Good knowledge of specific games are a must in order to provide the best replay clips, plus technical understanding of the replay hardware in use. Usually, Vmix Replay or EVS systems are used within esports productions.
- Floor manager: They will have creative ideas for assisting the director/producer in deciding how parts of the show are staged – for example, how will player interviews take place, where will the presenters be standing, how will the winning team raise their trophy at the end of the show and so on. Good leadership skills are helpful, to take responsibility for managing the stage areas of a broadcast environment.
- Technical manager: Once a production crew has created a live broadcast, it’s often up to the technical manager to ensure a good stream is transmitted to the internet for viewers to watch in the highest quality. It goes without saying a technical manager needs to understand a magnitude of different technical systems – with a strong emphasis on networking and live video encoding.
- Sound Engineer: A strong passion and technical understanding for live sound is a must. Usually, the role of providing an audio mix for broadcast, and a separate audio mix for the speakers in an auditorium are split into two different roles. It is normally also the sound engineers’ responsibility to manage the communication systems that allow a production crew to all talk to each other on complex digital headset systems, known as talkback systems.
How to get into broadcasting
You may be able to volunteer as a backstage crew member for an esports tournament and pick up some skills as you go. Get in touch with an esports production company if you’re local!
Use the experience to find out what it’s like and to establish key contacts, which may be able to give you more work in the future.
There are many big TV broadcasters out there that offer good work experience placements, apprenticeship and graduate schemes, which can set you on your way.
If you’re more interested in trying to get hands-on as quickly as possible, some of the technical systems in use by esports companies have software trials you could download and try yourself at home – even learning the key technicalities of streaming from home will provide a good foundation for technical esports production.
Video Case Studies: Live Esports Broadcasts
- ESL UK: Vainglory behind the scenes talkback recording with ShoFlo.tv run of show https://youtu.be/iXjJfRw6Pbw
- ESL UK: FIFA 19 Continental Cup behind the scenes talkback recording https://youtu.be/9sERc5rL-fY
- FACEIT: Typical Analysis Desk breakdown segment talkback recording https://youtu.be/npBF3iOK7D4
- FACEIT: PubG Opening Ceremony Producer and Camera Director talkback recording https://youtu.be/z9d4WfQQj34
- FACEIT: Interview with Game Director for PubG – a behind the scenes look at in-game observers and game directing https://youtu.be/OV-l3ro0GTU
Hours and salary
Pay and hours vary. Some tournament providers will have an in-house broadcast crew with a set salary, while others will hire freelance staff or third party production companies, usually on a contractual basis per day.
According to the National Skills Service, starters can receive £15,000 to £18,000, while experienced crew members can earn £20,000 to £25,000 and above. Bear in mind these figures are for production crew roles as a whole, not within esports specifically.
Working hours depend on the event, but typically include regular long days; there will be many early starts, evening work and weekend shifts. Unfortunately, esports production teams are usually the first ones in and last ones out! With so many esports events taking place in different parts of the world nowadays, you may be regularly on the road traveling from venue to venue.
About the author
Esports Broadcast Producer & Director