ESL veteran Michael Weicker is instrumental in creating many of our iconic videos, but how did he go from making frag videos at friends’ LAN parties to aftermovies of massive esports events and music videos for some of Germany’s top rappers? We sat and down and chatted with him to find out.
ESL: Hi, Michael! First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?
Michael Weicker: Hey, I’m 27 years old, I was born near Frankfurt/Main and I’m a director and editor. I’ve been working on the on-air promotion of ESL TV for seven years now as well as running a production company called The Factory with my twin brother and working as a freelancer in several creative networks.
ESL: You’ve produced a lot of the aftermovies for ESL events as well as the Intel: Unleash Greatness ad. How difficult is it to cram the essence of events as massive as Intel Extreme Masters or ESL One Frankfurt into one video and how do you approach this task?
Michael Weicker: Above all, we’re aiming to capture the event’s atmosphere. You can easily find a lot of summaries of the sporting highlights, but we’d like the people to feel the event’s atmosphere for themselves even if they’re not onsite. We therefore have a large team that is always on tour to catch scenes which are not usually seen on stream. Afterwards there’s a large amount of post production where a couple of terabytes’ worth of data have to be examined and brought into some kind of structure.
The challenge with TV commercials is to satisfy the gaming thread, to edit it maybe more authentically than other agencies would, who are not as much into the scene as we are. With our experience and being close to the team, we tend to have completely different possibilities.
ESL: How did you first get into video production?
Michael Weicker: It all began back in Counter-Strike Beta times when we met up for LAN parties. One day, the Geek Boys’ video Frag or Die fell into our hands, and we just wanted to do our own frag video with our demos. With the editing software included with my graphics card, we edited Restock I at one of these long LAN party nights. With it being one of the first German CS videos, it got popular pretty quickly. Neo the One, Restock II and III and Mousesports 2003 followed.
The ability to get a camera to track in a virtual space was a pretty cool thing - you didn’t need any budget or great experience with cameras and their techniques. I noticed my affinity for moving pictures pretty fast, but the jump to reality came a little later. I started working on proper productions in 2010.
ESL: You’re also a DJ and music producer - can you tell us a little about this side of your career?
Michael Weicker: That’s a few years ago now. I did this DJing thing for a while with my friend Christian Kellner as YKEL - the sound was somewhere between rave, fidget and modern techno. Our gigs even led us to Kuala Lumpur, where we had the honor of playing with a few of big names such as Fukkk Offf, Zombie Nation and Bart B More. That was quite a thrilling time, but very time-consuming as well.
ESL: In many of your movies, such as Mousesports: Ready, Willing & Able, the music seems to mesh perfectly with the action on the screen. It is also generally instrumental in building the hype and flow of the video. How do you go about picking the right music and what role does music play in your videos?
Michael Weicker: Music has an important role in moving pictures, especially in CS movies where the whole drive comes from the beat. The cut also adjusts itself to the flow and rate of the audio. In Ready, Willing & Able, it was all about uniting modern music, such as Justice, with the old style of typical gaming movies like The Prodigy.
Coming from the gaming movie scene, matching the music perfectly to the events in game was like a discipline of its own to us. I got a lot of this knowledge from Marco "moswanted" Steinert, who also has his origins in the scene and I still work together with frequently.
ESL: You have a twin brother who’s also a music-producer and a video artist - is this just a massive coincidence or did you influence each other in your respective careers?
Michael Weicker: It’s definitely not a coincidence. We are both very creative individuals and even though I tried myself out in the video scene first, it was clear that he had the same talent as I do. It therefore stands to reason that we work together, especially in communication and the way we look at things - everything goes hand in hand. It happens quite a lot that we provide each other with input and work on ideas. As Gibmafuffi he produces sample beats with nineties aesthetics quite successfully, and will soon be featured with his productions on a couple of albums. He is taking his master’s degree in a completely different field, but directing and producing will be our focus for the next few years.
ESL: Something some of the fans of your esports work might not know is that you also actively make music videos, and have worked with a number of prominent German rappers such as Kollegah. What is it about making music videos that you enjoy?
Michael Weicker: With The Factory, my brother and I created a platform which we use for working on music and commercials. In 2014, we had the honor of being nominated at the Cannes Lions for a Samsung commercial. For three years we’ve had a deal with Universal Music and Selfmade Records for music videos. I think it’s a great way to get your productions to a large audience.
A decent music video is distinguished by being able to interpret the track’s mood perfectly in pictures. I’m not a fan of linear stories - I prefer to try and convey the track’s atmosphere with an abstract montage.
ESL: Which music videos were the most challenging and fun to create and how did you get into creating them?
Michael Weicker: There are a few. Alpha by Kollegah definitely sticks out. We wanted to make an action movie as well as simultaneously pay homage to my hometown Frankfurt. We had six days of shooting which were all at night and therefore pretty exhausting for the production crew and the team. Besides crazy locations such as the abandoned Opel hall, the Next Tower in Frankfurt and the Kempinski Hotel in the Taunus, there were scenes with three Ducatis shot on the street - the camera cars were stopped by the police several times just to check if we were all strapped in correctly. The album itself was very successful and achieved platinum status with more than 300,000 copies sold - I hope our videos contributed a lot to that.
Another good example is the video for the single Aftersoon by the band Newmen. We had the idea of shooting a video with seventies-style sci-fi aesthetics. I personally like it a lot because it captures the longing topic in kind of a gloomy way and it has a couple of allusions, for example to Panos Cosmatos. The shoot was very thrilling because we used a lot of VFX and had a real DeLorean onsite.
ESL: Despite your success outside esports, you still stay true to your esports roots. What is it about esports videos that appeals to you?
Michael Weicker: What generally fascinates me about esports is the same feeling I had as a 16 year old when we were following the American CPL matches on TeamSpeak until the early hours of the morning: that esports is just as - or even more - demanding than real sports and that’s why they should be treated that way. I’m firmly convinced that esports will be self-evident for future generations and we’ll be able to tell our kids that we were pioneers. And of course videos that portray esports highlights will continue to have a place, just as in any other mainstream sport.
ESL: Thanks for your time, Michael. Do you have any last words or shoutouts you’d like to make?
Michael Weicker: It’s not meant to sound pathetic or anything, but it’s simply the truth: I owe the bliss of finding my talent and doing all this great stuff to Counter-Strike. That’s why I’m quite happy that CS is back on the big stage in the esports world.
You can follow Michael Weicker on Instagram, and stay tuned for more of his upcoming work with ESL!