Sunday, April 1, 2007

Fox Sports: Pre-Race Struggles In The Hollywood Hotel

Several weeks ago, the NASCAR on Fox gang unveiled the new 2007 version of "The Hollywood Hotel." Fox updated this infield production and studio unit to be completely enclosed, eliminating the window views and direct connection to the NASCAR pit road and garage area. In the first week, things were awkward. Now, things are just bad. Let's face it, just like the COT, the new "Hollywood Hotel" needs some tweaking.

In the old model, the "background" was real. Whatever was happening in reality at the track was happening in reality at the "Hotel." Rain, sun, wind, and even snow has been featured over the years. It allowed the fans to "connect" with the location of the "Hotel," and feel that Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond were watching the race...just like them. So to turn a phrase, it "kept things real."

Now, it quickly becomes apparent to viewers that the "Hollywood Hotel" actually could be located in Hollywood. Other than a brief visit by Darrell Waltrip in the opening segments, Myers and Hammond could be on the Fox Lot on West Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. The rear screen projection image on the set during the pre-race just "sits there." It does not change, give a panorama, or play a role in any part of the actual show itself. The problem is that the image used as the background confirms for the viewers that the "Hotel" is "really not right there." It is video from a camera not mounted on the "Hotel" itself, but selected from the array of NASCAR on Fox cameras around the track.

In TV land, a multi-person set has to have "ease of flow." This means whatever the announcers need to do on the set can be done without any problems. Unfortunately, the biggest flaw in "Hotel-land" are the live shots. A small box on the far "stage right" of the set shows the guest, and the on-set gang has to look over ninety degrees to the right to even see the box. Poor DW was actually leaning over both the desk and Jeff Hammond to "see" Kyle Busch during an interview. This needs to change, and there are plenty of easy solutions.

During the race, it now appears that Chris Myers truly is in the Fox Studios in LA. There is no noise, no crowds in the background, and absolutely no "reality" involved. The air conditioner hums and the lights are bright and the host has great hair and all is perfect. What a big mistake. The entire appeal of the "Hollywood Hotel" was that Fox Sports made a commitment to be live in the garage and pit area throughout the entire race. It clicked with fans, it made Hammond a star, and it gave Fox a location to use new toys like cut-a-way cars and explain what just happened on the track...because they were there.

Now, Fox could save some money by just parking the "Hotel" on the Fox lot, and letting Myers and Hammond stay in-town. Scatter some car parts outside, pump in some at-track video, and the "Hollywood Hotel" would have truly come home. The sad part is, no one would be the wiser.