Fox Sports has cheated rugby fans and themselves in thousands of hours of coverage by anticipating kicks from set pieces, rucks and mauls, by switching from close-ups of the action to wide shots of plays.
The result has been two-fold – viewers miss the close-up action and skills, often in crucial moments of matches, and are left straining to see tiny figures off in the distance.
And as this happens 30-40 times in a Super Rugby or Test match it adds up to seven to ten minutes per game of lost close-ups of some of the best action – slick passing, big hits, defenders shutting down moves.
It comes down to a lazy, legacy element of TV coverage of rugby where for decades broadcasters have traditionally had their match directors and vision switchers assume going from a close up to a wide shot was going to best visually inform audiences.
It stems from the days when ABC TV covered club rugby. There was very little analysis of game coverage with a basic number of cameras. And no one, it seems, has ever complained. Or, at least, not to broadcasters.
Unless you have some understanding or experience in what is possible with television coverage it’s assumed going to a wide shot was the best and possibly only way covering the action – even if the viewers could be barely make out players on the far side of the field, let alone the frustration of missing some of the close-up action.
Fox Sports should immediately instruct their matchday producers, directors and vision switchers (who actually press the button to go from one camera to another) to reverse the procedure.
In other words, hold on the close-up action until the ball is actually kicked. Then, and only then, should they opt for the wide shot. In fact, many times in today’s games, halfbacks or five-eights don’t take the kicking option.
The difference this can make to covering a game of rugby was highlighted by the way US television covered the All Blacks games in recent years in Chicago.
Not only did they not always opt for pulling out to a wide shot they very often stayed with close-up framing of all of the action throughout the game, particularly tackles, rucks and mauls.
The visual impact for the viewer was much greater and provided much more of a sense of being right on edge of the field near the action.
An interesting comparison is how rugby league is covered. Because league takes some minutes to move up the field TV camera framing is mostly close or medium-close. You very rarely see wide, or even medium wide, shots during tackle sets.
Watch this week’s opening round of the 2019 Super Rugby competition, and count the number of times the broadcaster anticipates kicks – and how much of the close-up action and skills you miss because of that.
Come on Fox Sports. You otherwise do a pretty good job of covering the matches.
Here’s one thing that’s easily fixed – and delivers audiences a much more satisfying viewing experience.