Team car TV

Monday, 4 April 2011

Saxo car

The in-car TV footage from the Tour of Flanders worked for me. I was sceptical but the production skills made it great.

Precedent
It had been done before by France Télévisions for their Tour de France coverage and I was not excited by the prospect of watching a DS eating a baguette behind the steering wheel and other non-events. French TV used long and slow shots with images of riders dropping back to the car to collect water bottles and they often chose a friendly French-speaking team with no rider in contention. They also put a reporter, Philippe Lafon, in the car tasked with asking unsophisticated questions like “what do the riders drink?” or “how many spare wheels do you have?” As a result it was dull, a ploy used to pass the time on a long flat stage as opposed to bringing anything new.

TV drama
This underlines the importance of TV production skills in making a drama. The Belgian producers constantly scanned the team cars for interesting bits and then replayed the best moments. When Gilbert got a small gap over the Bosberg and persisted with his effort Marc Sergeant said “ride the time trial of your life” via radio. We heard Jonathan Vaughters tell his team not to ride, to aim for third place and no more. And watching the camera shake as the Saxo-Sungard team car erupted with joy was great TV.

The whole point was that the footage was used to raise the tension and excitement. Rapid snapshots from the team car added to the excitement in the closing stages of the race as opposed to the way France Télévisions used it to fill the time during the middle of a race.

It’s a good addition and I hope it stays. The only trouble is the cost, someone has to monitor the audio and video from several cars at once with a view to identifying broadcastable highlights. So don’t expect to see this in smaller races but I’d like it to happen in any race where the broadcaster is willing to use it.

Finally it goes without saying this was a great race and in-car TV is only of interest at the margin. I really enjoyed watching the race, this was the real story of the day. Nobody tunes in for “Directeur TV” but if it’s done skilfully, it can be a positive addition.

If you missed this, you can see some footage from inside the cars online at Sporza.

Postscript
It seems this could be used in Paris-Roubaix and onwards. Following discussions and more information, I’m adding some more facts about the production:

  • It’s expensive with two people were tasked with monitoring eight audio/video feeds during the race a separate relay aircraft was needed, circling above the race.
  • It’s awkward for the team car, the dash space is taken up by a camera and the car’s onboard electronics get interference. Plus the large antenna on the roof of the car is not easy to fit around the bikes.
  • The footage is broadcast with a delay of 30 seconds to three minutes, only because it takes a while to find a good image and drop it into the live coverage at the right moment.
  • The UCI was apparently sceptical about the idea but approved the idea.
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{ 7 comments }

Gadi April 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

Dear Matt – I finally got The Death of Marco Pantani ! and looking forward reading it (He was my “Idol” in these old days , and maybe he is still is ….) .
It was indeed great race yesterday and I wonder why can’t they bring the riders IN as well as the directors OUT .

jfjoeylu April 4, 2011 at 10:59 am

Maybe in-car TV should be used for one-day races only. I agree that watching a DS eating its sandwich and answering dull questions is not very exciting and gets really boring if you are served the same show every day during 3 weeks ….
I’ve also notice that French TV coverage is 80% aimed at comments on French riders, French teams and French DS (the last 20% are for the stars of the peloton) and is made in priority for French “grand public”.
Yesterday I had to watch the race on France Télévision. I was stunned that, when everyone could see Vaughters tell his riders to sit in at what revealed to be one of the most crucial moments of the race, T. Adam and L. Jalabert they barely made a comment on that (not even later when it seemed to be so wrong). Considering who Jallabert is I can’t help but think that it is only due to a deliberate choice…
Maybe they think that French Grand Public do not have any interest short of French people. I don’t know it was just incredible !!!

Gillis April 4, 2011 at 4:37 pm

On the one hand I see this as a good opportunity to enhance coverage and make the overall view experience better. But on the other, I find it shows how much the DS is a factor in the race (yes this is kind of a radio debate). The shots of riders dropping back and showing up at the window are a cool perspective, but at the end of the day I want to watch bike racing, not driving.

Tom from Raleigh April 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I thought it was great when the Leopard Trek DS pulled up next to the QuickStep DS asking the DS to direct Chavanel to trade pulls with Cancellera.

Larry T. April 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I thought the in-car camera shots were like watching World Rally Championship — but with the cars droning along at just 50 kph, it added little to the show. Since all the DS’s will be afraid of making any obscene or otherwise interesting comments or gestures, knowing they’ll be broadcast, I doubt anything interesting will be added by this stunt. To me it just underscored the “radio-controlled” racing argument raging on now.

leif April 5, 2011 at 12:28 am

One of my favorites for in car videos is the late sixties Merkx Giro when all the DS were driving Hemis and squealing tires around corners trying to keep up with bikes on decents.

The helicopter footage is for flats…motorcycles work well in climbs and in breaks and chases I like the DS car.

ave April 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm

It was much better than I expected it would be.

In particularly Garmin’s “do not ride” message certainly did little to help evade the UCI’s radio-ban.
It was clear the radio is not about safety messages. Otherwise Hammond wouldn’t have crashed, would he?

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