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Observer, a job in the heart of the Summoner's Rift

We asked Daniel Fontos, Lead Observer at Riot Games, to explain his job.

Have you ever wondered who directs the camera during the games of the LCS and LEC? To shed some light on the matter, we met with Daniel Fontos, Lead Observer at Riot Games. He explained his job to us, and you’ll see that without him, the casters would probably have a hard time.

To have a great time watching a game of League of Legends, you’ll need a Teemo hat, two good teams, and two sharp casters – but also a team of devoted Observers. Why? Because if there’s no one to show the action and prepare the replays, it would be difficult to fully enjoy the game.

To learn a bit more about the work of these unsung heroes, we asked Daniel Fontos some questions. Daniel works every day in our Berlin offices to help the fans live the EU LCS (now LEC). He explains that “if we want to show a game as it is, only one Observer is needed. But if we want to show recordings, multiple spots on the map simultaneously, or other cool stuff, we need at least two.” For the EU LCS (now LEC) and the NA LCS, Daniel says that there are three Observers, plus one backup.


Missing nothing

“During the first 20 minutes of a game, we use a 5 second delay between Observer 1 and Observer 2”, explains Daniel. “Using this method, Observer 2 can alert us of incoming plays and make sure we won’t miss them, and that our framing is correct. After the 20 minute mark, we ‘kill’ that delay because it would be weird for the viewers to see the players celebrate on stage while both of the nexus’s are still on the screen.”

You can check this technique for yourself in the linked video above. The Observer on the right is describing to his colleague what he sees so that she can adapt. It’s way easier to show an unexpected skirmish with that system in place!

Understanding the game correctly

If you want to show what’s interesting and relevant, or the unusual and unique things during a game, you need to know your subject. “I would say that you need to understand the game. You don’t need to have a high rank, but you need to know the path that the junglers will take, the importance of the wards placed on certain spots, or which matchup should be the most interesting to watch at any given moment. Those are only a few examples, but I’m sure you get the idea. Once you have that global knowledge of the game, everything else is in your hands.”


A cohesive team

Several different professions are involved during the broadcast of a competition. The Observers are part of a larger whole, but when it comes to the game itself, they are the ones in charge: “As soon as the game starts, the Observers take over from the Show Director. While we still depend on the Technical Manager and the Director to activate specific macro switches, like replays or picture-in-picture, etc., at this stage, the show is almost entirely directed by the Observers,” says Daniel. “From time to time, the producers contact us when they have a special request regarding a replay we judged not important enough, but aside from those special cases, we are in charge.”

Like in the movies

There’s no need for special tools to track efficiently as everything is done with in-game functions. That being said, there’s an exception to this – in order to create 3D views and enter the heart of the Rift, the Observers use a free and open source third party software named Skin Spotlight Creator Suite.

Daniel explains to us that “for the beginning of the game, we use key frames, as the opening sequence is almost always the same, except in some rare cases when a team has decided on a level 1 assault. For the rest of what happens in the game, we create key frames live and we move the camera as needed. I would say that it’s one of the most unique attributes an Observer can have. Mastering this tool will transform you from a good Observer to an extraordinary one!”


A fun job

Finally, the Observer is a spectator with a specific purpose: to allow the others to live the game fully. The Observer is living the game with intensity, and in an extremely proactive way, and it’s something that Daniel likes a lot: “To see all those epic actions, it’s my favorite part of the job. It’s really cool to see all the crazy stuff happening, knowing that we’re framing them for thousands of players worldwide. Add to that the incredible atmosphere inside our Observers Room, and you’ll get the perfect recipe for a fun and unique job!”


Regardless if it’s a LAN party or an event at your College, you should try out observing! So, are you tempted?