Saturday, November 19, 2011

ESPN's Homestead Battle Plan

Sunday is a big day for the Worldwide Leader. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have delivered the kind of fan-friendly Chase for the Championship that the sport has needed.

Both drivers will be at a Thursday afternoon press conference for a final Chase update. SPEED will break into a re-air of last Saturday's Nationwide Series race at 1PM ET and carry the press conference live. No word if ESPNEWS will also have coverage.

What ESPN does these days is big things. Lots of big things. The network announced this week that a total of 72 cameras will be deployed at Homestead on Sunday. The usual compliment of equipment will be supplemented with some special bells and whistles.

An "iso cam" is a camera that is used full time for only one purpose. When producing an NFL game, the producer has a couple of designated "iso cams." As the offensive team breaks the huddle, the producer will say "Iso-1 number 88, Iso-2 number 44." He is telling the "iso-cam" camera operators the jersey numbers of the players he wants "isolated" on that play.

That is how TV gets those cool replays of just one player at a time. After you see the wide receiver make a great catch live, you suddenly find yourself seeing a replay of just him running his route from start to finish. You may wonder just how TV did that. Well, he had an "iso cam" on him for that play.

Sunday in Homestead ESPN will have two high camera platforms above the speedway. One "iso cam" will stay with Stewart and another will stay with Edwards from start to finish. That will give ESPN the opportunity to show the race while also keeping a full time eye on the championship contenders.

Meanwhile, back in the garage there is also something going on. Both Edwards and Stewart are going to get additional "iso cams" in their garage stalls. Operated robotically (like the in-car cameras) viewers will be able to get an overhead shot of the teams at work during live practice coverage as well as any crisis repairs that happen as a result of an incident or equipment failure during the championship race.

I don't know if they flipped a coin to decide, but ESPN reporters Shannon Spake and Marty Smith drew the assignment of shadowing the two points leaders from the time they hit the ground on Thursday up through the green flag. Not surprisingly, Shannon will be with Edwards while Smith will spend the weekend with Stewart.

Edwards turned down the opportunity to be an in-race reporter, although his car will have an in-car camera unit with many different angles. It will be Stewart speaking with Dale Jarrett before and during the race in that capacity. Stewart will also be carrying an in-car camera set-up.

This year Allen Bestwick will be in the TV booth for ESPN. That means he cannot be down on the finish line stage to conduct the championship interview and be the TV host for the Sprint Cup trophy presentation. Instead, it will be Dr. Jerry Punch handling those duties. His college football sideline reporting skills may come in handy for this assignment.

Finally, for the first time there is some real innovation in the TV coverage of the sport that is about to pay-off. The RaceBuddy application over at that is free to any Internet or smart phone user will be on during the race. Six in-car cameras with team radio audio will be combined with a backstretch and pit road cam.

ESPN will also once again be using the ESPN Nonstop commercial format for the second half of the race. This is the first step toward integrating commercial content without interrupting the action. The race continues to be seen on a video box while the commercial airs in another on the same screen.

There have been a lot of changes since ESPN last came to Homestead. This is a perfect opportunity to end the season on a high note with a solid race telecast. The equipment, manpower and storyline is in place. As usual in sports TV, it's just a matter of putting the pieces together in a way that keeps the fans watching.

We welcome your comment on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks as usual for taking the time to stop by.


Buschseries61 said...

Newspapers and websites that forgot about NASCAR since the Daytona 500 are all hyping the finale of this championship battle. This has the potential for a very big ratings day.

Bill said...

Just hope that it's a race worth covering. Neither driver is prone to an attack of the nerves as Denny was last year. And since NASCAR is going to "urge" the other teams to lay back and watch the two contenders race, it gives ESPN the perfect opportunity to hyper tight these cars so much, we'll be able to see Tony's beard and Carl's teeth grow right before our eyes.

Bobby O said...

So much for the hype....

I really like TS.

But I will be watching Football.

Even if it is the Colts.
Because the ESPN coverage

Anonymous said...

"iso cams".The script has been written.Why watch? With all the video and audio drop outs that the last race had it will be unwatchable,and when the telecast is clear,we'll get an update every 4 laps as the points stand now.

SD80MAC said...

I absolutely hate the ESPN "Story Telling" style or rce coverage much more than the way the other TV providers cover the race. I want to hear what is happening on the track, in the pits, about problems drivers are having, and nothing else. It sure sounds like we are going to be stuck with hours upon hours of "Story Telling" this weekend.

I wish just once the TV providers would can the scripted story telling that ESPN so loves, and call the races the way MRN and PRN does with turn announcers.

I think most of you know that on most weekends, after the TV and radio post race coverage is over, I listen to the late night re-broadcast of the race on Sirius/XM. MRN and PRN (who provides the race coverage for Sirius/XM) provides a lot of information that we never hear about on TV, and frequently explains those "mysterious" things we sometimes see on TV that never gets talked about (ESPN if by far the worst with this problem).

One other thing I really love about Sirius/XM is that most of the driver appearances in the Media Center, including the Q&As, are recorded and played back during the post race coverage after Sirius/XM splits off from MRN or PRN.

(For people that have never listened to a race on the radio, DON'T try listening to radio and watching TV with the sound muted. That could send you into prolonged residency at the local funny farm!)

Jonathan said...

I hope ESPN goes out with a solid broadcast! Going to Hollywood Casino for a party hosted by Chicagoland Speedway so its going to be fun for me no matter what! Go Carl Edwards and I think its nice ESPN is trying some new things with the last race gives it somewhat a Super Bowl feel!

Anonymous said...

With all cameras and new stuff, do you think we will get to see a race? MC

BToS JD said...

What's the ESPN backup plan should either Tony or Carl suffer a blown engine early in the race?

GinaV24 said...

"That will give ESPN the opportunity to show the race while also keeping a full time eye on the championship contenders".

I am not counting on them actually showing the race. ESPN hasn't done a good job of that since they started their piece and I don't expect Homestead to be any difference.

You also said it was an opportunity for ESPN to end things on a high note. Sorry, I am expecting pigs to fly before that actually happens.

Bobby O said it much more succinctly than I did and I agree.

Anonymous said...

They add iso cams for the champion contenders every year. This is nothing new or special. The robotic cameras in the garages are a nice touch, but that means we'll never see any of the other drivers practice.

I hope the story plays out just like they want and they cover it well and they get it right. It still doesn't make up for the lack of ability of the producer and director in the production truck. I'm sure there are people at ESPN that care about NASCAR, I'm just not sure they have a voice in the matter.

Mr. Bestwick: Please describe the action.
Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Petrie: Please speak about the action on the track and not what you think might be going to happen or what the driver might be thinking. The race is in front of you, not in your crystal ball.
Mr. and Ms. Pit Reporters: Get facts from your interviews. No speculation. No false drama.

Mr. Daly: Thank you for the medium to express our views. Have a quiet and safe offseason.

Steve L. said...

Unless it's an accident involving the Tony #14 or Carl #99 cars, I bet even with all those cameras, they won't be able to catch the accident live! It will have to be shown as a re-play. Not many wrecks have been caught live on TV the last few years.

They just as well put the two cars of Tony and Carl on the track by themselves and let them race. That's all we'll see.

And yes, thanks JD. I've been here since the beginning when you started this site but YOU are the one who does all the work! Folks, a lot of time is spent by JD to keep this thing up and running, stories researched and written. And this 'little site that could' is starting to get noticed by a lot of important people. Thanks again for all you do JD!

Anonymous said...

Based on the acts they've lined up for the pre-race ceremonies ... I think I might pass on the Cup race ...

I'll watch the Trucks and Nwide as some of my favorites are in it ... and I want to see ThorSport go down in flames in the Trucks (Guess they don't realize they're outmatched 4 to 8 going up against RCR/KHI) ... Nwide because of Sammy & Brad & Nickers ...

I like Stewie ... but cannot stand Cousin Ted the Sociopath ... And I'd like to think there's 43 cars total out there, but Disney will try to make people believe there's only two ...

BLING! said...

I am with SD80MAC. The story telling style is not what this race fan enjoys, and neither is the hyper tight focus on just two cars. There are other racers who have given their all this season, just not the outcome they expected. They, however, still have fans! Thanks JD for a great place for us to express our views! Enjoy the off season everyone.

Anonymous said...

Well no need to watch if you are not a fan of Tony or Carl. Seems like all others will be forgotten.

No wonder sponsors are leaving. No coverage if not in the top few. No money. No NASCAR. Somebody better wake up before too late.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR might as well send the other 41 teams home and turn Homestead into a two car match race, winner take all. That's how ESPN will cover it anyway. NASCAR could throw phantom debris cautions every 10 laps to keep one driver from getting too far ahead.

James said...

I'm gonna tune in for tight shots and bad infield studio work and commercials.

Maybe somewhere in there I'll find a race.

I agree with Steve L.
All those cameras to capture Jack's reaction, the crew chiefs, pit crew work and in car camera of the drivers.

Whew thats a big production.
I dont know if anyone can handle the strain and strees that ESPN has to go through.

It must be the most difficult sport to follow. Things move to fast and story lines change every lap and their script just dont allow for reality.

Tell me I'm dreaming.

Tim S. said...

I can't be the only one who gagged at the prospect of an "orchestral salute to Jimmie Johnson." He's not retiring, he's certainly not dead, and he'll still be an ESPN favorite next year.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Tim.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Directv Hotpass Ch 797. I don't have to watch the hype, I can watch my driver race.

Anonymous said...

I expect that because it's the final race and there are two drivers head-to-head, ESPN is going to get a significant ratings bump from generic sports fans who will tune in for the finals of anything.

During the World Series and Super Bowl, the networks know they're getting fans who aren't serious and sophisticated, so they may do more explaining than normal.

glenc1 said...

Tim S, you are not the only one. Good grief, last night's Racehub was severe overkill; I flipped over a few times and immediately flipped back. Do they not get that the vast majority of us who are *not* JJ fans are glad for once (well...we were hoping) that we don't have to hear about him? And they do it *anyways*....

And no, I'm not a 'hater', I'm just tired of it.

longtimeracefan said...

It's on.

Two teams stepped up, and as JD stated: "delivered the kind of fan-friendly Chase for the Championship that the sport has needed."

Well said.

After watching the live stream of the presser this afternoon, it appears we are going to be highly entertained for the next few days. One driver was zinging hot one-liners that had the other bobbing and weaving to deflect. Everybody laughed and had a good time. Who wouldn't have a good time, the event was held in a tent on South Beach. Crazy.

The race on Sunday has the potential to be a classic.

Being an optimist, here's hoping that ESPN duplicates their ramped-up, 70+ camera coverage of this year's Indy race, (which garnered a rare majority of TDP post race comments as good), and can bring this season home on a positive note.

With Thanksgiving a week from today, a hearty thanks goes out to all involved in the somewhat odd traveling show called NASCAR, for giving fans another year of fast cars racing for the win.

Regardless of any subjective views of the various coverage styles and personalities involved, this year's NASCAR season has been one of the best.

Now if they would just show . . .

Anonymous said...

The AP is reporting that Bad Brad has been fined by Nascar for criticizing EFI. For what it's worth. 72 cameras will probably result in "analysis paralysis" where it takes the truck five minutes to find an accident. I don't plan on watching until opening ceremonies. It'll be good to get this season behind us.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of former NASCAR personnel, everyone at ESPN thinks that NHRA and NASCAR are identical but for the shape of the tracks. After all, they are both cars, right?

Jim said...

72 cameras, and 71 of them will be trained on two cars. The rest will be ignored. The second half of the race will be a commercial fest, as have been every race with the non stop "Non Stop" breaks.

The bigger the hype, the bigger the let down. ESPN's chance to do right will undoubtedly be a miserable failure, because they prove week in and week out that all they care about is revenue, and this is their opportunity to get a wad of it, and they're not going to miss out on their big opportunity.

Sally said...

It sounds as if, once again, ESPN is going to botch things terribly and concentrate on just 2 cars (are we going to have a pool on how soon and how often we get the 'if the race ended now' blather?), and those of us who were hoping to watch an actual race with more than 2 cars cam just hang it up. It would be lovely if I were proved wrong, but I won't put any money on it.

Dot said...

@ Anon 5:07 AM, said "With all cameras and new stuff, do you think we will get to see a race?"
You took the words right off my keyboard. LMAO

iworkhere said...

Oh yes, the dreaded and unlucky "in car reporter" bad luck omen.
That is surely why Carl turned it down and Tony accepted.
It's as superstitious as another "never do" unlucky thing that Carl practices.
Carl never, wants to see the winning trophy before the race.
I guess the rabbit foot, lucky penny and a monkey in the racecar days have passed.