Esports job spotlight: Observer
Unlike traditional sports, where camera people work for a third party broadcaster, esports events will usually have their own observer who controls what is seen by viewers. Caster/observer Tom "Tridd" Underwood tells us more...
What is an observer?
An observer is someone who controls the in-game camera for esports broadcasts.
They will need to identify key plays, make sure the camera is highlighting the most interesting aspects of the match, and highlight replays for highlight reels.
Observers work within the production team behind the scenes, liaising closely with the casters and broadcast crew.
Observers may be required to edit footage and be active on social media to stay updated with developments and in the know.
Caster and observer Tom "Tridd" Underwood tells the British Esports Association : "The job's great because you can get opportunities to go to events and you sit in a quasi-role between talent and production, so depending on your employer you tend to get the best of both worlds.
"Challenges are that you need to stay engaged for a long time - for example the Summer 2016 ESL UK Premiership finals at MCM London had a broadcast time of 10 hours and 43 minutes."
What skills are required?
Tridd explains: "To do the role, you need to have an understanding of the game you are observing to the point where you're able to have an idea of what's going to happen next. You need to have a steady hand in games like League of Legends that require you to track global action."
As an example of the particular skills the big companies are looking for, a Riot Games job posting for an observer stated that the role requires someone 'keen-eyed, experienced [with the particular game you are observing], focused, dependable, punctual and a team player'.
Some casters will take on the role of observer while they are casting the game at the same time. But some companies prefer to employ separate observers.
Tridd states: "Some casters like to control the camera and cast at the same time, I'm not one of those people. I'm never had to do both at the same time. I know of some casters who learnt the skill out of necessity, but I think it's fine to have the skills independent of each other.
"I do think being a caster does help, because you can get a rough idea of what your casters want to talk about or notice patterns on where the conversation is going so you can work out what you need to display.
"I think if you able to understand the game enough to know what's going to happen next, you've probably got the hardest part down. Back it up with some steady mouse control and that's pretty much all you need.
"In terms of finding opportunity, it's tough. Online events require you to host the stream, so you need a powerful PC and solid upload connection. Offline events are even rarer, the biggest thing like all broadcast roles is networking."
Observers might also want to create a sample deck or presentation for employers to show what they can do.
How to become a great observer: Tridd's top 3 tips:
- Layer your learning. Learn the key bindings and the mouse control. Then add new features as and when you're comfortable with the previous.
- Listen to your casters, if they're talking about something, make sure it's on display.
- Only once you have the fundamentals, begin to have fun with it. You'll be surprised what some zooms or some tracking can do for entertainment.
Hours and salary
Tridd says: "Observing doesn't require as much preparation as an on-camera role, so your working hours are as long as the games last, including about an hour to an hour and a half to set up for online and offline events."
Observers will usually be called upon around specific events so may work on a part-time or freelance basis, but there full-time positions too.
Salary varies - you could receive a small amount per match or around £250 to £400 or so for a series.