Interview with Valorant VCT observer, Melanie "mel" Hoi-san
Yoann: Hello everyone. Today I'm with Mel, Valorant Observer!
Mel: Hey, I’m Mel and I'm a Valorant observer working on VCT EMEA, and I show alternate camera angles of the players. Everything that you're seeing in the in-game broadcast, It's done by Xilv and me.
Yoann: Nice! When and how did you get into esports?
Mel: I got into esports because I was playing Rainbow Six Siege, and the more I played it, the more friends I made and they were into esports, so they kind of brought me in. That's also how I knew what observing was, and I have friends that were doing observing and casting.
Yoann: What's the job of a Valorant observer?
Mel: So the job of the Valorant observer is to make sure that you get all the kills and to provide different angles to show for the audience to watch on Twitch.
The goal is to create a storyline in-game to be able to follow the game easier.
Yoann: How did you learn these skills?
Mel: I learned by trial and error. I grinded a lot of tournaments, smaller tournaments, and I didn't know anything about observing and I wasn't really good at it at first, but I just did a lot of tournaments and I just got better at it.
Yoann: That’s great! What was your first observing job?
Mel: My first observing job was probably a very long charity tournament. It was organized by people that I already knew from Rainbow six Siege. And they did a Valorant charity tournament, so I helped out, I did it for free. I observed maybe for almost 12 hours, it was a very long day.
There were a lot of people working on it, which helped me boost my connections in Valorant.
That's how I started knowing people. And that's also how I got more of these smaller tournament gigs to work on.
Yoann: Awesome! How did you end up observing the EMEA broadcast?
Mel: One of these charity tournaments that I did. I worked with Yinsu, the host of Valorant EMEA, and at one point, I somehow was asked to do the Game Changers in North America, because I was one of the only female observers around at that time.
After that, I was offered more opportunities by VCT NA. I was doing open qualifiers for VCT North America. And then,VCT EMEA started open qualifiers with casters and that's how I met Pansy and Hypoc, because they asked me to observe for them.
And that was my entry into the VCT EMEA broadcast.
Yoann: That’s great! Are you in direct communication with the director, as it would be for real-life broadcasts?
Mel: We are in direct communication with the director, but we don’t work with the director. Technically, in-game I am my own director. I am the one that switches between Xilv, the POV observer, and myself. I decide when I put myself on stream and I decide when he gets on stream.
I have my hands on the controller the whole time, so I use I foot pedals, if I press the left button, it switches to Xilv, if I press the right pedal, it switches to me.
But we also have call outs, which mean a certain set of rules. If we call Pikachu, it basically means that I show a full screen of the spike plant, he goes on the defenders side, and then I show the positions once more whenever the defenders are close by.
We also need to make decisions for each other, and with each other. But we can't always talk about it because it's so fast. Valorant is super fast!
Yoann: Can you hear the players’ comms when you are observing?
Mel: Yes, we have everything. We have team comms, we have casters audio as well. Sometimes I listen to team comms, but some teams are less helpful because the comms are too specific and complex.
Yoann: Yeah, and some have very weird callouts. Fnatic for example have “vision strikers” for certain strats, or say “DRX” when they need to play safe.
Mel: The first time I heard the call DRX, I was like, What does that mean?
Yoann: What are the main differences between observing online, on smaller production, and for the EMEA broadcast?
Mel: With smaller productions, you don't have the budget to actually have two observers, it’s mostly just one observer, which means they only go through players’ POV.
But some people who are really good can do first person cameras and they fly through at the same time, which is a lot harder because you are doing two jobs at the same time. It can get really tricky to work that.
And then also, for the EMEA broadcast, I can work with the actual director, if they want to do a cool venue shot in the studio and they want to transition into the game, we work like that closely. But in smaller productions, you won't have that.
Yoann: That’s interesting! I do feel like having some knowledge about photography or filmmaking can help.
It helps a lot, because there are some rules like the 180° rule you have to know. I see observing as video editing. You have to prevent doing jump cuts, make sure someone walks off the screen to make it more watchable.
Framing for me is super important. That's the first thing that I'm worried about, and then also make sure that I don't steal kills from Xilv when I'm on broadcast, for example.
Yoann: All right, let's now move on to the quick questions. I'll ask you ten quick questions. You you'll have to answer as fast as possible.
Phantom or Vandal?
Yoann: What's your favorite agent?
Mel: Killjoy 100%!
Yoann: Nice. What's your favorite map?
Yoann: Do you prefer getting an insane clutch or an insane ace?
Mel: A clutch! That definitely gets your heart beating!
Yoann: What's your favorite skin collection?
Mel: I have so many right now, the Arcade bundle is really nice.
Yoann: Can you name the seven teams that won an international event?
Mel: I got made fun of because I don't watch VCT. I know that it's like Gambit Sentinels, Fnatic, Loud, Optic…
Yoann: The last two are from EMEA.
Mel: Oh, FPX…
Yoann: And the last one is Acend!
Mel: Oh right. Of course, it is.
Yoann: What's your favorite Valorant team?
Mel: I don't have a favorite team because I don't watch VCT often, but I enjoy watching Fnatic!
Yoann: What gear do you use to observe Valorant matches?
Mel: I just use an Xbox controller, that's all I need!
Yoann: Can you quote a voice line from your favorite agent, Killjoy?
Mel: "They look like us, but are they us? I have so many questions."
Yoann: What's your best memory with the Valorant crew?
Mel: It's the start of the EMEA season, it has been so incredible because I had such a bad experience last year, I kind of already gave up on observing. I didn't want to do observing anymore because I felt so bad. But then this year started and I met the crew, and they were all so welcoming and they all felt like we're family and we all take care of each other.
As soon as I got into the studio, they made me feel at home. So I would say that was my best memory so far.
Yoann: Awesome! Let's get back to the standard questions. What's the best clutch or play you ever witnessed in a tournament?
Mel: It’s not exactly a clutch, because he didn’t win, but it was Nukkye on Fracture. Everyone was chasing him, and he was still getting kills after kills. It looked so cool, that blew my mind!
Yoann: How often are you playing Valorant in your free time?
Mel: I play as much as I can because I travel so much. I can't really play a lot. But even when I'm in the venue, I play valorant. If I could, I would play daily.
Yoann: Are you playing with the people you are working with?
Mel: 100%, Yeah, but mainly the casters because they have been friends for a long time.
Yoann: Who’s the best Valorant caster in-game?
Mel: I would say Hypoc is really good!
Yoann: What are your hobbies or passions aside from gaming?
Mel: I have a really addictive personality, so anything that I can collect, I want to collect. I have had my phase with Funko pop, I really like Pokemon, and right now I'm collecting cars, Disney movie Cars.
Yoann: That’s so cool! If you were a developer, what would you change to Valorant right now?
Mel: I’m frustrated with the way that you can't sort or filter skins and, sprays and stuff. I would change that.
Yoann: The spray filter will come out this week!
Mel: See, I should become a developer!
Yoann: And what about a replay system? Could it be interesting for observers?
Mel: It could be good to practice yeah. Personally, I don't have that need to have a replay system in the game. But that would be really good because I feel like there are not enough good observers in Valorant, but that's mainly because there are no opportunities to learn.
Yoann: What advice would you give to someone trying to become a professional observer?
Mel: Trying to become a professional observer by grinding a lot of tournaments, but also to watch your own VODs back. You have to watch as if you're an audience. And if you get frustrated at any point by yourself because you didn't get a kill or anything like that, write it down and have that in for the next time that you're going to observe.
When I watch other tournaments for VCT that I am not observing, I would just think in my mind, What would I have done differently that they're not doing right now?
That's not a criticism of that observer, but it's a reflection on you. Observing is so creative, just like writing, it's totally your style, and you can do whatever you want.
Yoann: Awesome! What are your short and long-term ambitions on Valorant?
Mel: So I would love to observe Valorant full-time, but I also feel like this industry is very stressful. There are not a lot of tournaments and I feel like if I stay in this position, that it won't be suitable for the long term. So I am looking to maybe grow more into the production role behind the scenes!
Yoann: That would be great for sure! Is there anything else you would like to say?
Mel: I'm glad I got to do this interview!
Yoann: Thank you for your time, I wish you the best in the future!
Mel: Thank you!
Mel’s Twitter: @melanie_mhs
Mel’s socials: https://linktr.ee/melanie_mhs