Behind the Camera with Alexander Holtz Shedden

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If you’ve ever watched an ESL eSports event, you’ve seen his work. We all know the faces in front of the camera, but who’s the man behind it? We sat down with ESL TV executive editor Alexander “Carni” Holtz Shedden to find out more about the work that goes into making the feature videos we’ve seen online or live at events.

ESL: Tell us how it is that you came to ESL…

Alex: It’s not really anything to write home about… The world of eSports was a lot smaller in 2009. Someone from the scene found out about me and my previous work commentating games. Because I was already in Cologne when the job offer came from Turtle Entertainment, it kind of just fit...

ESL: You made the jump from commentator to video editor quite early on - was this something you always planned to do?

Alex: Not at all! The real reason I’m able to produce videos etc. for ESL TV today has more to do with my curiousity than anything else - I wanted to know how it all works. At some point in 2010, we were behind on a project, so I - without asking - just kind of starting trying to cut together the video. Today I’d call the resulting video terrible (relatively speaking) but at the time is was labelled ‘usable’!

ESL: From the sounds of it, you learnt on the job - what’s been the hardest thing to learn?

Alex: I had to learn to leave things out of videos. Often there is so much that you could put into one little feature video, but if you did it would just be too much. Better to keep it short and interesting than long and drawn out, even if it’s more comprehensive that way.

ESL: Are there still things you struggle with?

Alex: Oh you mean because of the constant pressure from my colleagues to always do everything perfectly? I kid. No, I think for me the biggest challenge is to think of new ideas on what to create and how to go about making that happen. My team helps me out a lot in that respect, though.

ESL: Is video editing your dream job, then?

Alex: No, I wouldn’t say it quite like that. I’m lucky because editing is only one small part of my job - I get to produce videos and sometimes just help by giving my opinion on a project, etc. I’d see the bigger picture as my dream job: when you consider everything I do here at ESL TV.

ESL: How many people typically work on a project? Do you have a big team?

Alex: It depends on the project. I’m lucky to be part of a bigger team for events like Katowice and Blizzcon - there’s about six to seven people involved then, led by our camera-shy team leader Marco. The number of people that work on a project always depends on the complexity of the video, reach and changes from project to project. Generally it’s just one person, maybe with a second person to help move the project along more quickly.

ESL: Tell us a bit about the work that goes into making a video. Do you go to events with a list of interviews and videos you want to make or is it more of a spontaneous decision?

Alex: Videos for our live show are planned in advance, everything down to who’s in charge, when and where they’ll be filmed, etc. I’d say that one of my specialities are the features we film with the pros on Intel Extreme Masters stops. These are very different in the sense that they are often very spontaneous - it all depends on whether or not the protagonist has enough time, or even if he wants to do it in the first place, which of course is always a question in itself. But I kind of like that - I’d say I’m better at the spontaneous videos. I don’t know, there’s just something about them...

ESL: Is the material hard to get? We suppose getting hold of players at major events can be quite tricky…

Alex: It’s not really that big of a problem for me. Most of the players know me, my team and our work. If they don’t, then there’s usually a mutual acquaintance who can make an introduction and assure them that it’s not going to be your standard “Who are you? Where are you from?” video. It might sound stupid, but I think that at the end of the day one of the most important things in this business is your network of contacts and your reputation.

ESL: How much time do you put aside to make the feature videos? Or, better yet, how long does it take you to put one together?

Alex: That always depends on the video. Sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s two weeks. If I’m putting together a feature video where the player has given me his answers in a 30 minute cut and I’ve already prepared all the game footage etc. to cut in with it, it takes just one day...

… but if, like my colleague Michael, you’re working on the Katowice 2014 Aftermovie, then it’s a completely different story. In that case, you’ve got over 15 hours of pure DSLR material to sift through for just a couple of key moments. Not only that, but you’ve got to find the fitting Voiceovers out of over 100 hours of live broadcast. Ironically, at the end of the day, both videos are about the same length.

ESL: Are there any role models from within eSports or outside you look up to?

Alex: I wouldn’t say that I have any eSports role models, but I do have a host of people from ESL that always help motivate, inspire and push me forwards. I’m thankful that those I work closely with always give me free reign over my projects and let me try out new things. There are loads of people I should probably mention here, but primarily I’d like to give shoutouts to Marco and Michael, who taught me how to cut videos and are still teaching me today. Also to my boss, Tobi, and Carmac - I always tell him “that’s not going to work” but somehow it always turns out alright.

ESL: If there was one thing eSports broadcasts could learn from traditional television, what would it be?

Alex: Ignoring the technical knowledge and experience that traditional television broadcasters have, I’m not sure that eSports can learn much from ‘television’. As an industry, we’re lucky to be able to say that eSports started out in the days of LAN and the internet. Sooner or later (I think), this is a medium that will replace the TV we know today. So, maybe that’s a question you should ask traditional television broadcasters instead!

Want to follow the work Alex and ESL TV do? Head over to their YouTube Channel to see the latest in ESL eSport. For the latest from Alex, you can follow him on Twitter.