Televising a sporting event contested on land provides enough challenges. During the annual Longhorn Invitational Rowing event in March of this year, Longhorn Network’s remote production team had to set up sound, lights and cameras for the three-day competition on a 1.25-mile stretch of the Colorado River.
LHN’s 12-hour, four-race coverage was recognized last week with a Lone Star Sports Emmy for Technical Achievement. Pat Lowry, coordinating producer and director, and Joe Baker, director of operations, explain how their team covered this unique event in Austin, Texas:
How did you approach planning for the event?
PL: There is no one at ESPN that you can call up and say – “Hey, we are about to televise some college rowing out here on Lady Bird Lake, how did you do it?” The good news for all of us here is that we have Joe Baker, who is quite the racing guru. And while this race is on water and not asphalt, his racing expertise was paramount in understanding the viewing experience.
JB: It’s just a really slow drag race and I did racing for years, so I approached it that way. I knew we needed cameras at the start, middle and end, but how do we get there? By boat, it turns out.[box color=orange size=small align=right]
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What does it take to televise the event?
JB: A crew of 33 needed 17 setup hours to produce the races over three days. With an impassable river bank, we had to sink 14,000 feet of fiber optic cable into the river. A manned camera was placed on a 120-foot camera crane equipped with the most powerful zoom lens available and 12 on-board cameras (eight on the side of the boat; four “Coxswain Cams”) captured the sights and sounds.
With races starting at 8 a.m., setup had to happen in darkness. To overcome the safety risks associated with working on a river, in the dark, all boat personnel were equipped with LED headlamps and auto-inflating personal flotation devices. Each camera position was illuminated with its own light tower.
PL: I don’t ever remember being on a show where I had to prep camera positions via barge, with men using machetes to clear the bush for a tripod at the finish line.
What did you enjoy most about the event?
PL: We set up a 60-inch television near the pedestrian bridge [one of very few public viewing areas] so fans could watch the race. It was the first time any of the parents had ever been able to watch the entirety of their child’s race due to the viewing constraints of this type of competition course. The families were elated. Oklahoma fans included!
What should LHN viewers expect from March 2014’s competition?
JB: Well, the biggest challenge for this spring will be getting over the cottonmouth snakes in the water [a previously unknown fact to the crew]. Ignorance was bliss.