Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dear IRT

The IRT Network has been introduced this season as a means to see International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events live on line for a fee. This idea began last season with the IRT's agreement with ESPN to have matches webcast on Unfortunately, the deal fell through due to a sponsorship loss, as producing the matches that way was relatively expensive.

In comes the IRT Network. They do live webcasts of matches from the quarter finals through finals at all the IRT Tier 1 and Grand Slam events as well as some satellite events. Moreover, they archive the matches on their website for later viewing. This allows IRT fans to see these events when they can't be there in person, which is great.

But as with all things, even great things, there are ways it can be done better. Thus, we here at The Racquetball Blog offer some suggestions as to how the IRT Network could be better.

1. Camera angle. The IRT Network has quality pictures and several cameras. However, the best angle is not always used. What's the best angle? A view from the center of the back about 10 feet off the ground. Proof for this is on your television, as this kind of angle is exactly what's used in tennis all the time. Just watch some of the Australian Open.

Yes, it's nice to see the players from other angles occasionally, but most of the time we just want this one angle, which will allow us to see the whole court and both players. To their credit, has correctly had this from the start. In that regard, the matches they have archived are better for coaching/learning purposes than IRT Network matches.

We understand that it could be hard to get this angle in all the venues that you are webcasting from, but this is the biggest thing that can be done to improve IRT Network matches. Compared to this, the things we mention below are mere quibbles.

2. Spelling. Well, maybe this isn't just a quibble, because it's just wrong. He's the player that you've had in more games than any other. He's the #1 player on tour. And his surname has one (1) "c"! It's Waselenchuk, not Waselenchuck, as has been listed on his matches from the last two events.

After the California Open, we thought that you'd notice this and change it on your own. But you haven't. Please do.

3. Score box. Your current format for displaying match scores has (i) the current game score, (ii) player name, and (iii) number of games won, in that order. This can be improved by listing the player name first, then the score in each game and finally the current game score. People are used to seeing the latest score right-most on a display, so by putting it first you're currently going against that tendency (because left to right is the way we read things in most languages).

Also, by including the scores for each game played you are providing more information to the audience without having to say anything. It's a visual medium, so provide more info visually.

Thus, rather than what you have now, which is something like

9 - Jack Huczek - 1
8 - Rocky Carson - 1

we'd like to see something like this:

Jack Huczek - 8 - 11 - 9
Rocky Carson - 11 - 8 - 8

Again this is what's commonly done in tennis coverage these days.

4. Commentary. Doing commentary isn't easy. If it was, Bob Costas, Al Michaels and the like wouldn't stand out from the crowd so much. But given that please get the facts right. For example, during the NYC final it was said that Ben Croft's 9 points in game 1 of the quarters was the most in one game against Waselenchuk this season. That's wrong. Nine points or more have been scored against Waselenchuk on four other occasions, twice by Jack Huczek and once each by Jose Rojas and Juan Herrera.

Also, the play-by-play person shouldn't talk about himself. If Costas or Michaels talked about their sporting exploits when covering a sporting event, we'd be similarly annoyed, because we don't care about what they've done in the sport. (the color commentary person has the role of adding comments because usually that's someone who's played the sport at a high level) We're tuning because we care about the players and what's happening on the court. Not you. Nothing personal.

There's also too much explanation of game rules and whatnot going on. You're pretty much preaching to the choir with the webcasts, as it's unlikely that someone's just going to stumble along to them, so you can assume that viewers know most of the ground rules. Again this is what's done with other sports; Michaels doesn't explain all the rules of football all the time does he?

If something unusual happens, of course, give some explanation of that, but otherwise less can be more.

Less can be more in using sports clich├ęs too, and some have found their way into IRT Network matches. We're absolutely sure anyone who goes to the IRT Network match archives will absolutely hear what we mean. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Indeed, going through the archives is a good way to figure out how to improve, because it's only by looking at the IRT Network productions on record that things can be identified for improvement. Make no mistake: the IRT Network is a good thing, but as we said even good things can be improved.

We look forward to the IRT Network improving its webcasts.

Follow the bouncing ball....


Geoff Thomsen said...

I agree 100% about the camera angles!! During the live rally, the only camera angle should be from the back wall, as you describe. If, during a slow-mo replay, it adds clarity on a "get" to show another angle, that's ok. Otherwise, BACK WALL ONLY!!

Thanks for the great post, and thanks to the IRT Network for bringing us the live action!

The Racquetball Blog said...

And if anyone knows about camera angles it should be you, Mr Thomsen.



Anonymous said...

Wide aspect ratio cameras, please! The s-t-r-e-t-c-h to fill widescreen formats makes super-fit rball athletes look like fireplugs. When Ben Croft looks heavy, we know something is off...

Please set the rear camera to capture the return of serve - the second most important/frequent shot in the game. (I realize this is court/crowd dependent).

Else, the serve vanishes into a "black hole", and is mysteriously redirected back in view toward the front... or gets sucked in the "hole" for an ace.


Anonymous said...

Also, when posting the score - keep it on a band/box tight to the top of the screen. Else, it can interfere with the fast rball action happening low to the floor.