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 NASCAR.com 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.
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