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The view from my couch

The TV Compound at Richmond
September 15,2002

I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been treated to a personal tour of the TV compound during the Richmond weekend. A big thanks goes out to Denis Ryan who graciously offered to give my husband and I the tour while we were at the track. Denis is the audio wizard who controls all the sound during the TV broadcasts of NASCAR racing.

Needless to say, I now have a much better appreciation for the coordination involved in each broadcast and what a truly massive undertaking each broadcast involves. As Denis told me, the TV networks put as many people and technology into each week's racing broadcast as are involved in producing a Super Bowl broadcast once a year.

There are just a few things that I want to mention here. Denis explained that most of the technical personnel involved in bringing the race broadcasts to NBC and Fox are the same folks who worked on the ESPN and TNN teams in past years. Also, the same group of people provide the technical work for both Fox and NBC broadcasts. The folks we see in front of the cameras each week and the producers and directors are the only ones who change during the two halves of the season. This came as a complete surprise to me. So the different feel between Fox and NBC are solely due to the network philosophy passed through by the efforts of the different producers, directors, and broadcast teams.

The truck race at Richmond which was broadcast on ESPN used the same technical folks as TNT did that weekend. Again, only the producer and director and on-air talent were provided by ESPN. This reciprocal relationship between the networks was also a complete surprise to me. I figured they might use the same cameraman, but had no idea the rest of the technical team is shared by the networks when they are at the same track.

During the tour, we were shown through numerous production trailers, each with a different specialty. Denis and his huge sound board are part of the main production trailer, but there were also trailers for the in-car cameras, in-car radios, replays, graphics, an International broadcast, and Sportsvision, which provides those lovely bubbles that the fans love so much. In answering how long it takes to set up the TV compound, Denis said it took two entire days to get everything in place and this was BEFORE the regular technical crew showed up at the track. The compound is truly a city in itself! Miles of cable, hundreds of monitors, crowded spaces wherever we went. Patience and multi-tasking are obviously job requirements for the “behind the scenes” crew!

During the races, we normally listen to various race teams on our scanners, as well as the MRN and TV broadcasts. Generally in the past, we search for the TV feed without the producer and director “talk.” After the tour of the TV compound, I chose to listen to the TV feed with this “talk” for all three races at Richmond. It certainly added a new dimension to the race for me and provided a new appreciation for what the production and on-air crews deal with in coordinating something as dynamic as a stock car race – and this was on a short-track! The logistics and physical nature of superspeedways make their efforts even more challenging.

Again, my sincere thanks to Denis for sparing some of his valuable time to show us around the TV compound and providing us with a small peek into the what goes on behind scenes during a race broadcast. This doesn't mean I'll ever stop complaining about the bubbles or endless commercials, but it certainly gives me a better appreciation for the balancing act that the producer, director, and folks like Denis have to do during the TV broadcasts.

You can send me email at cheryl@speedcouch.com.

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