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