Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bristol TV Flashback: NASCAR on FOX

In 2010 we started to offer a platform for fans to voice their comments immediately after TV coverage of a Sprint Cup Series race.

Last March, over one hundred fans stopped by after the NASCAR on FOX coverage of the spring race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. The topics they raised were diverse, but several threads ran through the posts.

Presented without comment, here are excerpts from some of the comments as they appeared that day. Click here to read the entire post and fan comments.

On the topic of announcers:

"No one is CALLING the race!! All they do is chit-chat like teenagers at a high school dance. 16 years of watching NASCAR shot to hell!" (from John P.)

"I would love it dearly if Mike Joy would have told Darrell Waltrip about lap 178 to shut up & let him call this race. It never happened. Replay is not the same as seeing it happen live. We saw lots of replays. Even when Fox was "showing the race" reporters Tweeting from the track got word out about cautions & who was involved before TV bothered to tell us." (from JoJaye)

"I have no idea why Fox has 3 guys in the booth and reporters on pit road. It certainly isn't to keep viewers informed about what is happening on the track! Has someone at Fox lost the memo about going 'through the field'? Very few explanations about cars that went forward or back during the race, so I had no clue what happened." (from Sally)

"The disconnect between the camera shots and the TV booth was startling. Cars would be shown on the screen but the announcers were talking about something completely different. At first, I tried to make a connection but soon realized there wasn't any to be made. The TV truck was calling for shots & the booth was talking about something unrelated. One or both sets of individuals was failing the TV viewer each time that happened." (from Red)

On the topic of producing and directing the race coverage:

"I'm a NASCAR viewer from the days of 'Wide World Of Sports'. There is too much dependence on special cameras. I don't see that the ground-cam gives us any additional knowledge. The bumper cams can be useful, but too often we just see that one car is close to another. A medium shot of both cars could have established that. If there's an incident, look at all of the possible replays and pick the best one. ONE in-car, ONE wide-shot. I don't need to see the accident from every in-car camera in the field. Show me the shot that adds information." (from Don)

"Is it against the rules to show fans in the stands in order to get a wider shot of the action? What's the point of HD if you're focusing in on one or two cars at a time? I'd think with HD technology today they could probably show at least 10 cars at a time to allow us to see all the racing - and we'd still be able to read the ads on the cars. Instead they "zoom" us back to 4:3 days by zooming-in on two cars at a time. It just doesn't make sense. During the pre-race show they had this really cool live shot of the entire race track from the top of the stadium - stands, track, and all - that would have been even more cool with the race going on. Show us some racing from the blimp. Allow the "crank it up" cam to see the entire field go by. Mix it up a bit. Watching one car go around the track and talking about the driver in it doesn't equate to going through the field. Going through the field is telling us when a position is being fought for. What's going on with the drivers fighting for 35th in points? We never heard any of that." (from James)

"The coverage has gone from bad to worse. Locking in on the same dozen cars, in-car shots that are uncalled for, roof cam shots that are unnecessary, and managing to miss action on the track because someone is asleep at the wheel in the production truck is unforgivable. But by golly they'll make sure the plugs for the gopher are correct." (from TheMadMan)

Fox showed the winner and the next three cars finish the race on the TV coverage. Here are some comments on that topic:

"I love how those TEN SECONDS it would have taken to show the whole field finish were far too valuable for the Fox director. TEN SECONDS!" (from Anon fan)

"I want to see the cars cross the start finish line at the end of the race, it's why I bothered to watch all day, to see them cross the finish line and what order they did it in. Instead I'm seeing the inside of the 48 car or the crew celebrating. I'm no longer "hooked" on NASCAR TV and if I was a new fan, this would not make me come back next week." (from Gina 24)

"I understand the race ran over, but for crying out loud, would it kill you to show the cars crossing the line. I don't give a rat's behind about the joyful crew of the winner. I want to see where my favorites finished. And why did you post the graphics before the race ended? Did you NOT know what lap it was? I did." (from TexasRaceLady)

"The final 3 laps were poorly produced. The finishing order was posted before the race was completed and only the first five cars were shown finishing before there was a cut to the winner's in-car camera while the top five's faces remained across the top of the screen. I had to go to a website to get the actual finishing order." (from Red)

"I was livid when Fox failed to have the courtesy to show all of the cars finish the race. This is especially maddening at Bristol where a lap only takes about 16 seconds. Why they did not take that small amount of time to show the field coming across the line when that would miss only moments of JJ's celebration is beyond my comprehension." (from KoHoSo)

Those three topics dominated the live chat during the race and the post-race comments. Bristol is a completely different track that requires a completely different type of TV coverage.

Fans wanted more focused commentary and less story-telling from the announcers in the booth. More information from the pit reporters was also a concern. In the race, using wideshots instead of in-car cameras and shots of single race cars that forced FOX to replay most of the important moments was a hot topic. Finally, the lack of showing all the lead lap cars racing to the finish was a very popular issue.

Sunday's race coverage starts on FOX at 12:30PM ET. The same broadcast team, including producer and director, returns for this telecast. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1:13PM.

This post is simply meant as a reminder of the challenges TV viewers faced last season on this event. Each new year brings a fresh start and it should be very interesting, with the above fan comments in mind, to see how the NASCAR on FOX team handles the race telecast.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


longtimeracefan said...

Have to say that two weeks between races after only the third race of the year is a bit of a stretch. Too much time in between . . . losing focus, not good.

AncientRacer said...

JD wrote:

"Sunday's race coverage starts on FOX at 12:30PM ET. The same broadcast team, including producer and director, returns for this telecast."

Boy Howdy, makes you want to tune in doesn't it? Not.

The coverage issues at Bristol have nonplussed me for some time. The place is so easy. The racing surface is tiny. In the stands you can see everything without even moving your head so it seems to me that it should be no particular problem, given multiple cameras, to cover the whole thing. But perhaps that is a problem in itself: an embarrassment of riches. So much is going on at once the producer and director cannot decide what to do.

However, I ask, "why decide?" why not just show the event as you would see it if you were there? For my part I think it is the single greatest place to watch a race in person in the world. The "stories" tell themselves by themselves. TV needs to get out of the way.

As for the finishes, how long -- in real time -- does it take for rapidly mkoving automobiles to cover a half mile oval even the very last car? Seconds. Period.

It might be a radical notion, but I remember when, I believe, Fred Silverman decided to broadcat a football game with NO BOOTH MONKEYS. It was not regarded as a particularly successful experiment, but I think it contains a principle of use. Broadcast the race as a fan would see it. Use commentary, and PxP but let this perfect little venue work its own magic. If they let it, it will deliver.

Now, to the job of provisioning the bus. I've got second shift: B'ham-Chattanooga. Wish you all a great race weekend!

In fact I think the tiny high banked track is, though he did not build it, the most complete realization of the idea Bill, Sr. had of taking car races and presenting them like the bicycle races he saw as a kid. You know someone who is not a race fan? Take them to Bristol

KoHoSo said...

Dadgummit, JD! By posting all of our comments from last year's race and facing the fact that we will surely get nothing but the same this time around, now we all have to come up with new material! :-D

Don said...

[quote]challenges TV viewers faced last season on this event[/quote]

Last season, last month, last race.

We want to see more off the filed and fewer special camera angles. We want to hear the race being called, not about the time DW called for pizza. We want to see the end of the race, we deserve it after spending three hours to get there.

The more things don't change, the more they stay the same.

Spencer said...

I was watching the 06 Bristol race on speed and back then, it was a lot better (for me at least), you could actually tell Larry was there, they called the race better, DW was quiter, the old paving and no rodent running across the screen, and with speed airing the 07 race, i'm expecting a much worse race because of the banking, digger was introduced, and most likely DW talking while Larry thinks

Anonymous said...

If Fox does not change the way they use the camera and the announcers, people will continue to tune out or tape/dvr and just watch bits and pieces later. They only show us that the most important things in any race broadcast are the sponsors, Toyota,JJ, JG, Ky B and CE and whatever else the announcers seem to think is funny or important (to them). Fans don't matter at all. They think we are a dime a dozen and can be replaced by the newer ones.


Unknown said...

I think people on this blog have a tendency to give Larry Mac too much credit. He's always had a habit of trying to call the race over Mike Joy, which encourages DW to join in. The absolute worst example of this was Martinsville last year, where he literally yelled over Mike Joy as Hamlin made the winning pass:

Larry Mac has been much quieter this season, which of course only solves half the commentary problem as DW is unmuzzled. In my opinion, though, DW has been a tad calmer this year than in years past, and certainly more observant and analytical. And and Youtube comments suggest that many fans like DW's style, so he's not going anywhere.

That Larry Mac is quieter should nonetheless help the Bristol broadcast: he and DW will not be able to converse endlessly rather than call the race.

TexasRaceLady said...

The off weekend really took the enthusiasm away. I was cranked up ready to go, and no race. *sigh*

Bristol is one of my favorite races, but I'm afraid we'll get NO racing this weekend --- just the same yapping, ad nauseum.

Good thing my TV has a mute button.

PammH said...

I just finished watching NN & they did Way Back Wed. Guess who was featured??? Yep, Mr. Bristol, DW. Which reminds me that I will be listening to the radio this wk-end, because DW will not be able to SHUT UP about hisself (!) at Bristol...ugh...:(

Charlie said...

I have a feeling we will see a race like we did two weeks ago. Tight shots, in-car cams, etc. You have to remember their ratings in the last race were up by 30% or something like that from last year. Why would they want to change. I guess last year there was another sport on Tv that took away some Nascar viewers but Nascar is on a roll this year. Just ask Nascar. Things are Ok and the Tv viewers are happy.

Adam said...

This makes me miss TNT more. At least they follow the race...somewhat.

Anonymous said...

The "show the end of the race so I can see my guy finish eighth (or thereabouts!)" is the most tired comment on this site.

Is the shot of the excited winning crew tired and cliche? Yeah, probably. But that's emotion. Showing your guy cross the finish line two seconds after the winner -- which doesn't look that much different from when he crossed the line 50 laps earlier, save for a guy waving a different flag above him -- is lame. Yes, networks should cover the race, but their goal is still to entertain.

GinaV24 said...

Ancient, I'm with you -- TV should get "out of the way" and just show the race, not play with all of its toys.

I don't tune in to see the latest whiz bag gimmick that technology has added. I tune in to see the race and hear a decent PXP.

Unfortunately, I don't really expect to get that based on "Fox is bringing the same team for the production". Ugh.