ESPN’s Goldberg credits teamwork with IMS Productions for strong Indy 500 telecast

By Ken Kerschbaumer

ABC and ESPN Sports this past weekend found ratings success at the Indy 500 via a 5.1 national rating (up from 4.8 last year) and also proved that teamwork with IMS Productions made this year’s telecast one of the best ever. “More than any other year we worked with IMS to make sure our production and the world feed production worked together,” says Neil Goldberg, ESPN senior motor sports producer. “And with the amount of TV coverage coming out of the two productions, and the technology spread around the track we didn’t have one failure where we said ‘we’re in trouble.’ And that’s a testament to the people involved.”

Goldberg says the new IMS Production vehicle was fantastic. “In previous year’s the production area was small and congested and we were very close to the monitor wall and didn’t have great peripheral vision,” he explains. “But now we have use of the entire monitor wall and all the people in the truck can have eye contact and voice communications. The truck was very well thought out ergonomically and it’s very similar in its usage of space to our main NASCAR truck.”

Like the main NASCAR truck the use of flat-screen monitors and multiviewer technology gives the crew the flexibility it needs to make for a solid telecast and telling the story of a race that was, in many ways, a throwback on the track.

“It felt like the Indy of old with the drama in the race,” says Goldberg. There wasn’t a lot of sustained side-by-side racing but there was a lot of drama and our crew got everything.”

Goldberg says the biggest difference between producing an IRL race vs. a NASCAR race is the speed with which situations develop. “Things at Indy happen real quickly because of the speed,” he says. “In NASCAR things seem to develop more slowly and predictably.”

An experienced camera crew, however, makes sure fans stay on top of all the action. IMS Productions, which handles all the below-the-line staffing, brings the same camera operators from race to race. Indy cars, unlike NASCAR cars that have large numbers on the side of the cars, are often difficult to tell apart as the number is smaller. In fact, the easiest way to tell who is driving is by looking at the helmet of the driver, not the car.

“The experienced camera crew knows how to play the lens and in a lot of motor sports coverage the viewer can sometimes get shortchanged if the image is too tight,” says Goldberg. “For example, when there is a crash the natural instinct is to zoom in. We want our camerapeople to zoom out because, inevitably, someone else is going to drive into the area.”

Goldberg also credits the HD in-car cameras for helping tell a more complete story of the race. “The cameras performed fantastically and we were able to carry through a pass or incident without having to make camera cuts,” he says. “That changes the whole production.”