The Return of Live Sports Production Continues With MotoAmerica Championship
LDM Worldwide rolls out production focused on safety, quality
Motorsports continues to lead the way in the return of live U.S. sports this weekend, with the 2020 MotoAmerica Championship rolling after a nearly two-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. Headlining three full days of coverage across multiple networks, MotoAmerica Superbike has been given a juicy timeslot on FS1 leading into Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race. MotoAmerica’s production partner, LDM Worldwide, has rolled out a production at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI, that emphasizes the crew’s safety while maintaining the broadcast quality that MotoAmerica fans have come to expect.
“It’s amazing how excited [the crew is] to get back to work,” says LDM Worldwide CEO/President Larry Meyer. “We are just happy to be able to put people back to work since a lot of these folks haven’t worked for more than two months. And then, obviously, being able to [serve] the fans is great because I know how excited they are to have [MotoAmerica] back. Everybody takes pride in the fact that we figured out a way to come back and do it safely.”
With limited live sports content available, broadcasters have jumped at the chance to carry this weekend’s MotoAmerica action. In addition to Superbike coverage on FS2 Saturday and FS1 Sunday, MAVTV will carry Supersport series coverage throughout the weekend, and Eurosport will broadcast coverage in the UK and France (with plans to expand to 54 countries starting next month). In addition, MotoAmerica Live+ — the series’ live and VOD OTT service — will live-stream coverage all weekend.
Inside the Truck: Social Distancing Shakes Up Seating Chart
Game Creek Video’s Liberty A and B mobile units are onsite in the compound, along with a sat uplink from ARCTEK Satellite Productions. The linear broadcast is produced out of the A unit, while the B unit handles the MotoAmerica Live+ show with a dedicated producer and director customizing the line cut from the A unit.
LDM and Game Creek have significantly rearranged seating inside both trucks to ensure proper social distancing.
Instead of the typical five positions across the A unit’s front bench, there are just three — producer, director, TD — at least 6 ft. apart. The back bench features the AD on the far left, Director 2 in the middle, and Meyer’s EP position overseeing the broadcast. The A1 will be alone in the audio room.
Two benches on opposite sides of the replay room seat two operators each. To ensure proper spacing, the video-shading area houses two shaders instead of the usual three (each shader will be responsible for additional cameras).
In the B unit, the front bench seats one EVS replay operator 10 ft. from a pair of wTVision graphics operators (who are a functional unit that travel together). The back bench, which is isolated and has a separate entrance, houses the MotoAmerica Live+ producer and director.
Inside the Compound: Keeping the Crew Safe and Healthy
LDM and MotoAmerica have made safety the utmost priority inside the compound.
“We are going exactly by OSHA and CDC guidelines,” says Meyer, “and we are being as careful as we can to take all the precautions while still being able to get this production done. I think we have more PPE than we could possibly use this week, so we’re doing everything we possibly can.”
All crew members have their temperature taken twice upon arriving — once at the entrance to the track and once prior to entering the production truck. In addition, the entire crew has filled out a detailed questionnaire and signed a waiver to confirm that they have not been exposed to or infected with the virus (or can prove that they have been tested and cleared). MotoAmerica has two doctors and several public-health officials onsite.
Within the compound, all crew members are provided with one K95 mask per day and must wear it or another mask at all times. In addition, LDM Worldwide has acquired nearly 600 basic surgical masks.
Each crew member has been provided a dedicated headset to use for each production throughout the MotoAmerica season.
Game Creek Video has instituted a protocol in which all crew members must scan a QR code when they enter and exit the truck, permitting their movements to be tracked in case someone tests positive for COVID-19. In addition, no food, drink, or backpacks (belongings are locked up in the truck’s belly bay) are allowed in the truck, and crew members are responsible for wiping down their respective workstations at the end of each day.
And of course, hand-washing stations and bottles of sanitizer are scattered throughout the compound.
“The TV people in the compound are essentially a function group separate from everyone else,” Meyer explains. “Anywhere they commingle, they will have to wear full PPE. If someone goes into timing and scoring or race control, they will have to ask permission to enter and [will have to] use full PPE. The same goes for the pits and paddock.”
On the Track: Keeping Camera Operators, Reporters Safe
The production will feature 27 cameras in all, including two RF wireless and three on-board RF systems (provided by 3G Wireless), six POV cameras, and two booth cameras. With no spectators in the stands, LDM Worldwide will also send up a drone for non-live aerial coverage to capture key moments in the race for replay.
Camera operators will not be required to wear masks as long as they are properly social-distancing, and all camera equipment will be sanitized separately. Camera operators and crew members will be allowed to enter the compound but not the truck. Anyone who needs a piece of equipment that’s inside the truck, such as a cable or adapter, must request it from the engineer, who will retrieve it from the “Walmart” equipment room in the B unit.
All interviews with riders will be conducted using boom-poll mics, with the reporter and camera operator at least 6 ft. away. In addition, the winners circle and podium will allow only one rider at a time, and the teams will not be included in the celebration as they typically are. A separate interview area has been cordoned off for winners-circle interviews.
“The excitement is palpable,” say Meyer. “Every crew member is smiling, and we feel like we’re doing everything possible to keep them safe. We’re all excited to be one of the first [sports] back live, and they put us on FS1 in such a great timeslot on Sunday. We feel like it’s our duty to give [fans] something to watch and enjoy during this tough time.”