Sunday, January 25, 2009

Advice To File Away

Luckily next year we won't be subjected to the awfulness that is the Versus All Star Skills experience due to the Olympics, but here is some advice for the network (or, hopefully, their replacements) for the 2011 broadcast:

*The biggest thing is that less is more. Less replays, less camera angles, less graphics, less announcers.

*On that last note, Versus has gotten it right by mic'ing players. Marc Savard did a much, much better job giving colour and insight than Brian Engblom did. Engblom was completely useless and got in the way of Doc calling the action. One of the best parts of the skills is that the players are out on the ice actually having fun. Letting them talk actually shows that these guys have personality and only helps sell the game. Listening to Engblom does not.

*When players like Zdeno Chara do something wonderful - like putting up their own money to make their event more exciting and charitable - it is the broadcaster's job to tell you that it is happening but not after the fact. Listening to Engblom and Doc go back and forth trying to figure out how much money was actually given to Right To Play as Chara was getting the trophy was infuriating. It was probably the best story to come out of the night and it should have been bandied about throughout the telecast or at least previewed with a short feature interviewing the players involved.

*An aside - as a friend pointed out to me, it would be nice if the entire ASG was for charity. Like NHL players need the extra stipends? But while that would never happen, the league itself should partner with the NHLPA to at least put money on the line for the YoungStars exhibition. Any kind of motivation would be nice as the kids clearly were out there killing time playing a boring game of shinny.

*Speaking of the YoungStars, if the rules stay the same - running time, six minute periods - then the host broadcaster would do well to actually save the replays for the breaks. Yes, it is common sense but the production clowns at Versus clearly doesn't have any as they missed half of the action and several of the goals.

*Trying to be fancy with tons of cameras also ends up in lost action. Versus made the mistake in using unorthodox angles to show the breakaway competition. It's cool to see the ice-level action, but that is what replays are for. Using the usual high-center ice game angle to show the live action would show just how different or special these plays are compared to the normal run-of-the-mill shootout attempts.

*What happened to the pin camera inside the targets for replays in the accuracy competition? It was always cool to see the puck coming right at the camera. Or did McDonalds not allow that this year?

*For the hardest shot competition, a ice-level super-slo-mo camera would have been perfect to show the sheer power of the shooters. Here is a simple fact: things look cool in super slow motion. There is an entire awesome show dedicated to that on the Discovery Channel.

*Hire a professional to man the audio boards. Whoever Versus had did a terrible job jockeying the levels and us fans at home paid the price. The audio tech would jarringly open and close mics so you didn't really hear what was going on. During the intros, we caught the ovation for Vinny04 but missed most of the boos for Kaberle and the Bruins.

*Getting back to the announcer part, do you really need to have talent talking during the breakaway contests? Just so they can go "wow," or explain what you just saw? Why not just keep the arena and player mics on so the television feel like they are there? Like I need Engblom telling me, "look, he's using props" as Ovie puts on a hat? I can see that, thanks. I would rather hear the players on the benches asking 'what the hell is he doing now' or something to that effect.

*And this is more for the league than for the broadcaster, but enough with the live rock music. The players are the spectacle, as you can see from the pic at the top of this post. We don't need some random woman who can hardly sing butchering rock classics with some organist playing like he is in Amadeus.

But whatever, as I said, this is just some thoughts to file away as there will be no All Star Game next year. Instead we will get to see the best players in the game actually trying as they play for national pride in the Olympics. That will be great and you can be assured that NBC, who didn't want the ASG, will handle them better than Versus handled Montreal.

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