When ESPN begins its coverage of the 2014 NASCAR season with a live telecast of the Nationwide Series opener from Daytona International Speedway tomorrow (noon ET, ESPN), Richie Basile will be in the director’s chair inside ESPN’s production trailer just as he has been since NASCAR returned to the network in 2007.
Working in tandem with producer Jim Gaiero, Basile helps orchestrate what millions of race fans see on their televisions and mobile devices when they watch a live NASCAR Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series race on ESPN.
“Mostly as the director I’m in charge of the look,” said Basile. “That includes controlling the cameras, getting the right angles to cover the sport, and picking and choosing what provides our viewers with that best look for the coverage.”
Basile, who has worked in TV production of many different sports, says televising a NASCAR race is different from any other sport.
“Most sports are kind of linear, they’re left to right,” he said. “The court or the field is the same no matter where you go, so if you’re doing a basketball game, you know exactly what a basketball court looks like.
“In NASCAR, all the tracks are very unique in sizes and shapes,” he said. “So camera placement is different. The amount of cameras being used and the use of in-car cameras to cover the sport are also different.
“It’s not on a clock, so you’re not timed, and things can happen at any point,” he said. “You’re still covering the sport when you have to go to commercial, where in other sports there are breaks in the action so you have time to kind of reset and set up your next segment. Here there’s constant action that you’re following.
“And you’re not following a ball,” he said. “In stick and ball sports, you’re following the ball, you know wherever the ball’s going to go, that’s where your play is. Here you have 43 cars on the track at the same time. You could be focused on action in turn two and something drastic can happen in turn four, so you have all kinds of different camera assignments watching those areas.
“You’re trying to focus on the best action on the track, but in a split second that can happen anywhere.”