How ESL Manages Scripts for Live Esports Events


Sam Deans

Director, Executive Producer at ESL UK 




“The budget decision makers definitely see the value in it. It’s in the ‘required to run the show’ budget as opposed to ‘sorry, we cannot afford that this time.”

Esports is a booming industry where competitive gaming is transformed into online entertainment for millions of fans. Game coverage is streamed as online broadcast productions. These can range from qualifiers, where players compete in their bedrooms and the footage is relayed to a studio, to grand finals played out live in front of a studio audience.

Esports producers face a unique set of challenges - budgets are small and there is little in the way of specialist broadcast equipment available. Production values mimic fast-paced TV broadcasts but without the use of expensive kit or software. Production crews have to be technically savvy, able to think on their feet and have boundless energy to cope with the demands of tournaments which can run over many hours.

Sam Deans is Executive Producer at UK-based esports service provider ESL UK. With a background in offline video production and digital marketing and a passion for video gaming, he is responsible for all of ESL UK’s broadcast content output.

“Esports is taking video gaming, putting it on a competitive stage and putting it online in a high-quality broadcast for people to tune in and watch at home.”

Pair of producers at ESL UK

Just like a live sports match, esports broadcasts contain a number of elements including live commentary, segment replays, graphics and expert analysis of the game once it reaches its conclusion. There are also post-game interviews with players.

Previously, the ESL UK team would create their show rundowns using Google Sheets, but they found rundown creation was slow due to frequent timing formula mistakes. For Sam, one of the biggest wins from switching to Shoflo was that it took less time to create his rundowns:

“Shoflo is built for the purpose of writing rundowns and Google Sheets isn’t. It felt tremendously fast, whereas writing rundowns on Google Sheets was arduous and long.”

Using Shoflo's event production software means Sam can write his rundowns in less time and no longer has the headache of unraveling Google Sheet formula errors. Shoflo also ensures ESL UK’s teams are always in sync - whether they are producing an event held in a single location, to more complex broadcasts with crews working across different European cities.

Shoflo helps simplify the process of writing rundowns

Sam has an in-house event production team of just five people, plus a roster of trusted freelancers and contractors. ESL UK’s events range from small-scale productions requiring just two production staff to a tournament requiring a team of 22.  Sam says Shoflo has helped ESL UK to streamline its rundown creation and approval process not only for himself but also for his team and clients.

“Until I’ve written it down in Shoflo, it doesn’t exist. It’s a massively useful tool for three people. Firstly, it’s useful for me, because I take the process of writing the show and it goes hand in hand with designing the show at the same time. As I am writing it, things make sense and things start coming to life as I fill out Shoflo down the line. The more cues I build out, the more I get an understanding of how my show’s looking.”

The third group of people who find it really useful are the clients. Using Shoflo to present to his clients using the Guest Pass feature was very effective!

"It looks way more professional than anything that’s come out of Google Sheets before, the way that it carries over all the colors and the formatting means it just gives a really professional look to our client.”

Sam adds that having multiple members controlling and editing a Google Sheets rundown means there’s too much potential for mistakes to occur. There was always the risk that a crew member could go in and change something that he was currently working on

“I was able just to absolutely blitz that first V1 of the rundown cue by cue without having to constantly look backward in Google Sheets and make sure that I haven’t lost my formatting or that the timing was still correct.”

The ESL UK Vainglory production team

Shoflo helps ESL UK to manage multiple teams in remote locations

One of the most complex broadcasts the team has handled was an offsite event which required management of eight simultaneous foreign language broadcasts. Remote teams, made up of a presenter and a camera operator, were based in Paris, France; Rotterdam in The Netherlands and Manchester, UK. ESL UK used Shoflo to ensure all of the teams were on the same page when it came to the rundown.

“We used Shoflo to communicate between all these locations so we had rundown and tracking down live. Everyone, no matter where they were in the world, knew exactly where the show was and who was up next.”

ESL UK managed all of the event’s production elements, from set design and build to broadcast design and live stream operations. On-site elements were managed through a communication panel talkback matrix and Shoflo. Esports productions do not benefit from lengthy rehearsal sessions and the production and presenter teams are reliant on in-ear cues or the Shoflo cue software.

“As a producer, I make sure everyone’s on time. I use the space bar to tap down line by line. I can often see something on the rundown two or three lines down, tap a quick note in there as we are live and reminds me or someone else that, at that point, we’re calling for something new to happen.”

In addition to the production crew, who use Shoflo on their laptops and iPads, the cue software was also adopted by Vainglory’s onscreen talent team. “I suggested it to the presenters and they wanted it,” says Sam. “Our main host used it on his casting desk. They’re either waiting for a cue to happen in their ear or they get the heads up from Shoflo. Our host found it great to know what was coming up two or three cues ahead. I’ve never seen any talent use a printed rundown before - there’s too much information to digest!”

“Google Sheets can live update but they can’t track like Shoflo does. This is where Shoflo absolutely takes it by tracking live in show and staying in sync.”

Behind the scenes at ESL UK Vainglory