how to make XC racing visually interesting?

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JeffOYB
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how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby JeffOYB » Mon Jan 23, 2017 9:16 am

US Ladies did really good again this past weekend in the Relay -- they got up into 2nd at one point -- tho the 1.5 min highlights video doesn't let us see how -- then finished close 4th.

I tried looking at both Men's and Women's highlights in slow-mo to see if that helps make it interesting. Didn't really.

Slow-mo does make the men's skating look kind of neat.

The highlights weren't very highlighty, tho. Not much drama that I could find. Maybe I just missed it. I still can't tell who the Americans even ARE in the pack! I don't have the suits sorted out.

Too bad the full races aren't right up there, easily findable.

It doesn't help that at this time of year each weekend still has World Cup CX racing. So I watch one set then flip to the other. So far, CX is kicking butt on being more interesting. World's next Sunday. The big guns have been both flexing and being coy lately. Scary crashes in both men's and women's have added some question to what's going to happen.
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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby Neuro » Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:28 am

Agree TV coverage could really improve a lot. Pet peeve of mine. No real sense of speed, usually just a long frontal or rear shot where you can hardly see them moving. Even before the finish line they will incredibly switch to a front camera so it's almost impossible to see who is beating who in a sprint finish.

Add to that almost all mass start race deciding moments are missed, even if they usually happen in the same place each year and one should know to put a camera there and not switch to something else. Also, if there is a big fight last km's, the cameras for some reason will focus on a single racer when what we want to see them all in shot. No picture-in-picture (Pip) either in 2017 is poor. There really ought to be more use of GPS tracking or whatever as well.

Etc etc. It's the same for biathlon. I have written in suggestions, but never heeded. It's been the same for years now.

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby skiffrace » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:24 am

You mean "how to make XC racing interesting in US", right?
Here is how you do it:
1) With a toss of a coin divide all competitors into 2 opposing teams.
2) Equip them with shoulder pads that will make them look 2x as wide as they are (a-la American Football), and in full-face helmets, preferably with hinged cheek plates, a-la Sir. Wilfred Ivanhoe.
3) Quintuple the length of the poles.
4) Position the 2 teams on 2 opposing slopes.
5) Let them go downhill at each other at full speed.
6) After they use their lances (poles) a-la Battle of Agincourt, they can use fists (a-la hockey)

With these measures, x-country skiing TV ratings in US would jump ahead of sumo wrestling (but still remain behind the greyhound races)

And seriously, you need a superstar that wins all the major races. Bicycle road racing was invisible in US until first Greg Lemond, and then Lance Armstrong started to dominate the sport. Madison Avenue sniffed big money, and bicycle races started getting extensive and good coverage on US tv. Now with Lemond and Armstrong gone, it went back underground (mostly)

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby Magnus Johansson » Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:16 am

Ha, ha, ha! Wonderful explanation, Tom, especially with the two opposing teams!

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby JeffOYB » Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:14 pm

The nice thing about CX cyclocross racing is that there are often a dozen moments of dramatic showdown in each race for several significant placings.

I don't know if it's possible to build that into XC.

Like, you said the cameras miss the place on a hill where the drama is sure to happen. ...In CX there are usually 5 such places and 5 laps so 25 good moments for significant change in results.

It's interesting also that the culture seems to highly regard and report in glowing terms on racers as they move up from 30th to 20th or maybe break the top ten. Drama in the back is given some coverage.

Like XC, CX sometimes has a foregone conclusion at the front for the winner or even the podium. But even then surprises and shocks will happen mid-race. It'll look sewn up then something crazy happens. Yet the fans do rather dislike it when a technical problem robs them of a good duel. The stars also don't seem to like it. They like going head to head. And if a mechanical takes out a rival they will accept the result but you can tell they would've prefered a good battle.
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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby Neuro » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:00 pm

For nail biting entertainment biathlon can be very good indeed. TV viewing figures in places like Germany are in the millions, almost rivaling Formula 1. XC skiing with some shooting. Interestingly one of the oldest sports.

Here in Norway, prestigious 50k races usually has the highest viewing figures of any TV program in any genre. It's huge, even if some races can have very little action (mass start in bad weather = no breaks etc). This is of course related to the celebrity factor of Northug nowadays, but they are quite popular nevertheless. Some of it must also be attributed to the commentators though, they are incredibly good.

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby skiffrace » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:57 pm

X-country skiing suffers the same disadvantage as all the distance sports - fixed camera won't do it.
The advent of television elevated all the ball sports to its current status thanks to the convenience with which the event can be covered.
A couple of cameras or even single camera may show all the action all the time.
Distance sport with fixed cameras will always be at a disadvantage for reasons others mentioned above.
The solution would be to have moving cameras.
In bicycle road racing it can be done from the cars, and it's done well.
I am not sure how would you implement that in X-country skiing.
Perhaps small drone snowmobiles moving alongside the course, or maybe super-miniature cameras mounted on competitors heads?
Some events already have the moving cameras, but only at the finish. If they were placed along most of the course, then the central operator could switch instantly to the most interesting one.

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby dcpattie » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:01 am

I think the long term goal should be increasing participation - with elevated participation you'll get more individuals watching simply because there is now a connection where there wasn't before. That is what has happened with the recent running boom (not your fathers 70's/80's boom) which is fueled by...women (a good thing).

Women across America posted on their FB and twitter accounts how they were watching the women's marathon in Rio. And even hobby joggers knew some of the top marathoners names - they'd comment on how they were cheering for Flanagan and Linden.

Skiing will never get to this level but IMO this is the model - and its starts with safe, accessible rollersking!
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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby Neuro » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:36 pm

skiffrace wrote:X-country skiing suffers the same disadvantage as all the distance sports - fixed camera won't do it.
The advent of television elevated all the ball sports to its current status thanks to the convenience with which the event can be covered.
A couple of cameras or even single camera may show all the action all the time.
Distance sport with fixed cameras will always be at a disadvantage for reasons others mentioned above.
The solution would be to have moving cameras.
In bicycle road racing it can be done from the cars, and it's done well.
I am not sure how would you implement that in X-country skiing.
Perhaps small drone snowmobiles moving alongside the course, or maybe super-miniature cameras mounted on competitors heads?
Some events already have the moving cameras, but only at the finish. If they were placed along most of the course, then the central operator could switch instantly to the most interesting one.

Good points. Tour de France is a really a tour de force TV production, I agree. It's very well done. In XC and biathlon they have scooter with a cameraguy at the back, but just for a few hundred meters and then it's usually wasted with a close up shot so the sense of speed is missed.

As you say there are also cameras on cables close to the finish line, but for some reason, they are usually not used for the important bits, just for some fancy shots in between.

Drones is a very good idea, but after one fell down and almost hit Hirscher on the head in a slalom race, their use will be much limited from now on until some fail safe system can be found.

But competitor head cams is a very good idea. It would be such an easy thing to implement and give a unique view. Trouble with this type is the same as with onboard in motor sport; they don't show all the sponsors signs and boards and therefore rarely used. Of course they could just compensate by putting them on digitally, but nothing so far.

Best is really scooter lanes for the whole course, but old tracks don't have the room and nowadays there is hardly enough snow for the skiers anyway..

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby jt10000 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:32 am

Hmmm - they've been using cameras on tracks (side view of sprints) in the finishing straights of the biggest races for years, and on wires from above for at least five years at some venues. And snowmobiles too.

Good sense of speed in this overhead shot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHva4YISOZE&feature=youtu.be&t=65m24s

And the whole race seems superbly covered. Well worth watching. World Cup biathlon seems very very photogenic, even beyond the shooting.

And in terms of ski race highlights, this is awesome - cameras on snowmobiles, on wires and tracks, and fixed/booms, with great editing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0qx2CorsVU

Worth mentioning is that for side shots that give a sense of speed in the middle of a race, the course has to be super-wide or open. It's harder to have a snowmobile along side or a boom camera on the side in the woods. It might be possible with cameras moving on wires above. Or helicopters - the Tour de Ski's point-to-point races have had this, as have some of the big ski marathons.

To Jeff's point about cross: I don't think World Cup cyclocross is better. Perhaps at lower levels of sport, cross coverage is better (there are nice highlights of our big regional series online, that are well edited), but at the top level I don't think there is a difference. Both are great.

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby JeffOYB » Sun Jan 29, 2017 7:34 pm

I'll check the links. I'd think that tricky courses would help. Drones. Compact venues that are easy for spectating.

Red Bull Nordi-Cross lamely tries for more pizzazz but i think it attempts cross-polinating from the wrong sports. (And it uses ignorant announcers.) XC can't benefit from motocross. It could maybe benefit from cyclocross.
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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby Neuro » Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:34 am

@jt10000 Some places and events are covered better than others, but some can be really poor. For example the biathlon event in Pokljuka in Slovenia can be almost a parody with long waiting shots due to lack of cameras, no shots of leaders coming in etc, although it improved slightly this year. And as we saw from the last event in Anterselva, Italy, the deciding moment on the track is typically the stretch after the downhill just before coming in to the stadium, and still no cameras there even if it has been known for years.

Just the lack of graphics showing the no. of misses next to the name is really an oversight, and so many other things could be improved IMHO.

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Re: how to make XC racing visually interesting?

Postby jt10000 » Tue Jan 31, 2017 6:44 pm

Jeff - here is the relay race you were referring to at a site that can be seen in the US. It was posted the day after the race.

https://youtu.be/grIyj5R9HRU


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