Brainstorming: The Live TV/Internet Product
Hello Oilpressure.com followers! Some of you may know me as DZ, or @groundedeffects on twitter or by my blog of the same name, or perhaps you caught me on video last September doing a guest spot on "One Take Only" right here on this site.
For those that don’t know me, I started with my Groundedeffects blog back in September of 2009 and became active on twitter after my first ‘tweet-up’ at the Chicagoland race in 2010. That day I met several people who are quite active on social media to this day. Some I’ve spoken to in person; some just this past weekend in Milwaukee.
For those who’ve read my blog, you know my blog stays away from the immediacy of current statistics and event discussion and ranges among all sorts of wide-angle topics relating to the past, present, and future of IndyCar racing. My thoughts aim for more of a broad view, less concerned with the vast bits of minutia and details that always seem to gum up the decision-making works, so I was quite happy to be invited to participate in the Brainstorming Series here at Oilpressure.com.
Much as Paul noted last week, and perhaps for most all IndyCar fans, there was a specific date when my perception of IndyCar changed.
Having watched on TV for a few years, my father took me to the Indy 500 on May 27, 1979. Sitting in the front row of (long gone) the L-South Stand at the end of the backstretch, I was a mere 18 feet from the outside track wall, right at the point where the cars swung out to begin their turn into 3. The sensations from the first 20 laps of that race are still as fresh in my brain as they were over 36 years ago. That was my moment. I was instantly and forever hooked.
We returned in 1980, but I missed after that until I purchased tickets on my own in 1988 and ever since. As exciting as the race was presented on TV (in it’s tape-delayed and edited-for-time goodness), it never compared to that live experience.
Following up with thoughts on my site from yesterday, I was thinking about how the product of IndyCar is currently consumed by fans both in-person and via TV. Doing some rare live, on-site tweeting during Sunday’s race in Milwaukee, I was struck how easily I could tell who was watching on TV as who was present based on their responses. That experience leads me to consider how the good the product is in-person and how it needs to be better translated to those not on-site.
Firstly, I’ll examine the most recent form of live coverage – the IndyCar 15 mobile app. I am a Verizon Wireless customer and do have a substantial data plan through my business, so I am in the fortunate position of being able to consume this product essentially at will. I am not only impressed by the in-car camera options it provides during the race, but also very impressed with the spate of features and the data presented as well. I did open this up while at the Milwaukee Mile and not knowing the least bit about how it works, I can tell you that the data coming through my phone was only at most 1 second behind the live event. I will definitely use this app more when not on-site and especially when TV goes to side-by-side or full commercials.
Oh yes. Television. How long have you and IndyCar known each other? 50 years or so? Seems like a very long time.
If you’ve ever been even somewhat close to these cars at speed, you know how it really doesn’t translate to TV very well. AT ALL. When I stop for a moment and consider it, I actually can’t think of a worse way to watch something that’s so impressive in person. I guess the TV coverage is what we had when we couldn’t make it to the venue. Now, it’s the primary way to receive the product for the vast majority of fans. This is also true with most any sport these days. The days of buying a ticket to see the latest amazing thing in town seems essentially gone with the massive expansion of available channels and the use of live TV coverage so prevalent today, watering down an already diluted market for content.
On the business side, TV ratings still determine relative popularity to those who purchase ad slots and make major marketing decisions with where to place their product. Those are the people for whom the rubber meets the road quite literally when it comes to examining IndyCar’s TV ratings.
As a fan, my issue with TV coverage has always been how to bring the incredible sensory experience to people who can’t be at the venue. In-car cameras in the early-1990s made a great leap forward in presenting the view from the cockpit, but aside from the evolution of computer graphics enhancing the on-screen product and the advent of High-Definition, there has been no change in the format or the cinematography of IndyCar since the 1970s.
I would love to brainstorm some ideas regarding the coverage of the visual sensation of seeing an IndyCar at speed. I see a definite opportunity for IndyCar to set itself apart from the old and rather staid decades-old coverage with wide-angle cameras shooting from high vantage points in the venue, essentially neutering the vitality of the sensory experience for the viewer. I realize there are massive hardware and infrastructure issues to contend with, but this, again, is why we’re Brainstorming…
1. Continue to experiment with the on-car camera options. Seeing things from a driver’s perspective adds to the event. If, by switching to an in-car camera, we could also see the live streaming of the steering, pedals, engine rpm, etc., that we see on the IndyCar 15 app, this would enhance greatly my viewing pleasure.
2. Invert the traditional camera angles. I propose we use primarily low-level and close proximity cameras on ovals to capture the beautiful speed of the cars and use higher-level wider-angles on the road and streets. Seeing more than just a portion of a corner on a road course would allow the viewer to see more of what constitutes the racecraft involved. Conversely, ovals are more about the maintenance of momentum and speed. The faster, the better. Lower angles would
3. Keep visual graphics to an absolute minimum, and more clearly provide essentially visual information. The production for F1 telecasts is superb in this way. Clean and neat and informative, not garish and attention-seeking. The more they encroach into the frame, the wider the camera angle also has to become, making the action seem even farther away. I’d even propose the track-and-dots graphic for reviewing the field at regular intervals instead of a constant scroll of numbers that always seems to not be in the field where I want to see. Maybe I WAS too hasty in poo-pooing the idea of having those informative graphics come from the actual car itself as was proposed with the Swift lights chassis idea?
How can IndyCar become innovative in the visual coverage of its racing?
Can IndyCar enhance its image by innovating and becoming a new standard for covering auto-racing visually?
What can this sport do to better translate the sensations of being at the track?
What are your thoughts?