Poor quality TV coverage at World Champs

World Rowing TV coverage

Did anyone else notice the really bad quality TV shots at the World Rowing Championships from Plovdiv, Bulgaria last weekend?

Here’s an example from me watching on my laptop.  The speed data graphic overlay is obscuring the bow balls so in this close race, you can’t see who is in front. #frustrating

World Rowing TV coverage
Graphic overlay obscures bow balls

This wasn’t the only problem.  One very obvious issue related to the audio from local commentators.  At one point we could hear the producer giving instructions to the commentators who were totally faded out.  (Martin Cross, I salute you!)

The chosen shots of the races focused on the wrong things.

There were times when a close up of one athlete was too close so you couldn’t see the oars, and was held too long – when they finally moved back to all the leading boats you could see the race had developed or the lead changed hands and you didn’t know how or when it had happened.

The side shots from the moving barge / boat got too far in front of the race several times (particularly before the bridge over the course) and you got a very imprecise view of who was leading.  Athletes also complained about the wash created by the TV barge which drove down one lane creating giant waves.  That channel was also used by crews going in both directions as the warm up lane (see picture above where you can see an eight sitting easy as the race went past). And of course that affected the crews racing in the lanes nearby – further exasperating the athletes after the lanes were re-drawn as the tail wind conditions grew – the fastest crews were meant to be in lanes 6 & 5 but at least some of the winners came from lanes 4 & 3.

And so we asked journalists on the spot whether they were aware of these issues.

World Rowing TV problems
Rachel Quarrel responds on Twitter.

Rachel Quarrel @RowingVoice was quick to reply and confirm she’d seen the same problems earlier in the week.  She confirmed that a local TV production team is often contracted

It’s often a local production company and they have to learn on the job during the week.

And she tagged Martin Cross (commentating for World Rowing in English) who had also noticed the problems.

He noted

There were two other World Champs in Bulgaria at the same time and the producer Stefan Rapp did an amazing job in very very very challenging circumstances…

Martin Cross on Twitter
Martin Cross confirms TV problems

We asked FISA

And Andrew Couper, Marketing Director kindly responded by sending us a copy of an email FISA sent to their sponsors on Saturday 15th September.

You will have noticed, that we were facing some unusual audio issues during today´s LIVE feed of the 2018 FISA World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv (BUL).

  • Insufficient audio mix of FISA commentators and ambience sound
  • FISA´s Live producer´s voice occasionally hearable in the LIVE signal

These issues are absolutely not in line with FISA´s expectations of a high-quality World Feed production at the pinnacle event of the rowing season = the World Championship.

We deeply apologize for this, but as World Rowing Productions (WRP) is not host producing this event we have just limited influence on the quality of the production.

We have identified the reasons for the audio problems and will do our very best to avoid any of those issues to happen again at tomorrow´s final day of the regatta.

Andrew added a further observation to me

You will note that this host production was by Bulgarian National Television not by FISA. We did our very best to help them but much of their equipment was well past its sell-by date (as was their audio-mixer) and some aspects were completely out of our control or influence.

Disappointed Fans

It’s clear I was not the only disappointed fan who found this lacking the normal quality of broadcast (maybe UK audiences are very spoiled with the BBC).  And while understanding that TV production using local teams is probably normal and logical and all part of the host country’s bid for the event rights, this really does need fixing.

Henley Royal, the Rio Olympic Regatta and the BBC have taught us what top quality rowing broadcasting can be.  The viewing fan feels engaged with the whole race, is able to see exactly how the race is developing tactically and also make close observations of the water, wind and oars of the competitors so we can make our own judgements and discussions about why and how the race was won.

FISA – we call on you to tighten up your broadcast contracts for future regattas.

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