Sunday, April 22, 2007
Sunday morning I began to channel-surf for NASCAR shows. I was looking for highlights and interviews after the Phoenix racing weekend. ESPN2 did not re-air NASCAR Now, but they did have the 2006 Jump Rope Championship on at noon.
SPEED Channel did not have any NASCAR programming on-air until The SPEED Report that night at 7PM. This situation was not making me happy. Like many NASCAR fans, I am having a problem with my TV. That problem is called the Internet.
Well, I found my race report. I found my interviews. I found my video highlights. Even better, I found my future home for NASCAR TV and news. This slick and user-friendly environment delivered exactly what was missing from the TV networks. The edited NASCAR features used lots of footage from ESPN2, SPEED, and Fox Sports. They were better produced than most of the NASCAR Now highlights, and showed a deep understanding of NASCAR. The best thing is, I found it in two minutes.
His name is "bumpstop3," and his home is YouTube.com. As The Daly Planet has mentioned on several occasions, YouTube.com is the real home of NASCAR TV. There seems to be no restriction on footage use, no problems with content, and absolutely no issues with TV rights or copyright infringement. Wow, is this heaven?
"Bumpstop3" offered me a professionally edited video highights and interview package from the Phoenix NEXTEL Cup race complete with logos, sound effects, and footage I had not seen before. The video package on the NEXTEL race alone ran six minutes and forty-nine seconds. This is longer than one entire program segment of NASCAR Now. Old "bumpstop3" even added his own music to the package.
Beginning with the race set-up taken directly from the Hollywood Hotel, "bumpstop3" laid-out the kind of race highlights that NASCAR fans love. It captured the story of the race itself, complete with pit stop action, passes, and strategy. When it was displayed full-screen on my computer, it was better than watching cable TV. Wait, what did I just say?
Let's face it, the Internet is offering better and easier access to copyrighted NASCAR footage and highlights than the NASCAR TV partners. After seeing great footage from the Busch race, SPEED interviews, and other NASCAR events, I really wanted more from "bumpstop3." So, I dug deeper to find our friend Marty Smith taking some grief over the Pacific Northwest track, and even stumbled across the great finish on SPEED of the 12 Hours of Sebring. When I looked-up, I had been on this one page of YouTube.com for over an hour. That's when TV reality set-in.
The same question kept echoing in my mind over-and-over again. It was only one thought, but so profound and deep I really had to be quiet for a while and think very hard. This simple experience on a Sunday morning from my computer with old "bumpstop3" had led me to the key question that is still un-answered at this moment. Perhaps, you can take a minute and think about it as well. Here it is:
Other than the racing, why do I need my TV?
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After several weeks of very interesting production choices among the NASCAR on Fox gang, this week's NEXTEL Cup race provided some very positive changes.
First among them was the understanding by the entire NASCAR on Fox group of the magnitude of the Virginia Tech tragedy, and its impact on NASCAR. Both in the pre-race show, and in the race itself, this topic was treated with the respect and dignity it deserved. Hopefully the folks at TNT and ESPN will continue this understanding when they take over the coverage down the road.
Fox Sports has been working the "flying boxes," as The Daly Planet readers call them, into the coverage of NASCAR this season. On the whole, this video effect has been positive in allowing for more information and pictures to be displayed on the screen. The only downside is that often it is still confusing. It often pops-up before the announcers have time to explain it.
The "four flying boxes" coverage of pit stops has been great. This works really well, and contains customized graphic information for each car contained in this "quad-split" effect. This season, the pit information, coverage, and follow-up has been outstanding. This pit road team has been solid for several years now.
The Daly Planet will get more information on the audio troubles that plagued a portion of the telecast, and bring those details to readers when they become available. Every technical crew is eventually going to have some problems, with power outages and equipment failure the leading cause.
With the Va. Tech situation keeping this a couple of notches lower in intensity, Mike Joy and the gang did a solid job from a boring track with a new car being used. Everyone could see from the outset that passing was at a premium, and that makes the TV crew work even harder to keep viewers watching when there is still one hundred and fifty laps to go.
Several "flying boxes" were used to update topical stories within the field. They included cars that were the "biggest movers" being placed alongside the leader and the best battle on the track at that time. This is a great idea that needs some additional coordination with the announce team. Perhaps, Fox will commit to following the story of a single car or team throughout an entire race, and use this effect to keep checking-in. This could be a very positive thing as the season rolls-on.
Finally, after several weeks of complaining, some changes occurred at the finish line. No "flying boxes" for the crew chiefs, girlfriends, or pit crews this week as NASCAR on Fox let the top five finishers cross the line with an electronic graphic displaying their order. This was a great move, but everyone on the lead lap deserves the right to be seen finishing on TV after three hours of racing. As with this event, the race for fifteenth might involve five cars beating-and-banging all the way to the line. Meanwhile, the top five cars might have crossed the line all alone.
The race is not over when the winner crosses the line. The winning pit crew does not matter after the winner crosses the line. His crew chief does not matter. Same with his car owner, wife or girlfriend, and relatives. What matters is the other full-time dedicated NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams still on the track. They are racing hard for every position and point in a shortened season because of the "Chase for the Cup." With this format, every lead lap position counts more than ever before.
The entire NASCAR on Fox team puts on a fantastic show that has been a selling point for this sport nationwide for sponsors and teams. Another selling point should be that if you finish the race on the lead lap, your fans and sponsors get to see you finish. When Fox makes a commitment to this concept, they will have finally embraced the "new NASCAR" and all the changes that the "Chase for the Cup" entails. Fundamentally, not showing all the point scoring cars at the finish is still pretty tough to take.
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