Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, May 28, 2012

Showing orienteering speed on TV


If you've seen orienteering on TV one of the things you might have noticed is that it is hard to show how fast orienteers are running through the forest.  It isn't unusual to see video of orienteers that look like they're just jogging along.  The European Orienteering Champs TV coverage from Swedish TV did a good job of showing orienteers looking like they were moving fast.

If you watch a lot of sports on TV, you'll notice the common ways to show how fast a sport is.

1.  When the speed is easily defined and the viewers know how fast sports are moving, it is pretty easy.  You know that a 4-minute mile is fast.  In baseball, the TV coverage regularly shows the speed of a pitch in miles per hour.  An annoucer can just say, "that was a 95 mph fastball."

2.  When the speed is harder to comprehend, you'll get a sense of the speed by having the action go by a stationary camera.  NASCAR does a good job of this.

3.  Announcers can help.  Announcers can add some context by comparing the sport to some sort of benchmark, like a world record.  An announcer might tell you that a runner is on pace for a world record.  That doesn't tell the viewer how fast the athletes are moving, but it gives you an idea that it is relatively fast.

4.  The camera follows the athlete in a way that gives the viewer a sense of just how fast things are happening.  This is essentially the opposite of 2.  In 2, the camera stands still and the athletes go by.  In 4 the camera moves and the surrounds move by.  You'll see this on the downhills in the mountains in the Tour de France.

In the Swedish TV coverage of the European Champs, the coverage did a good job of giving the viewer a sense of the speed by using 3 of the 4 common techniques:

They had a camera near a spectator control on the ski hill.  The runners passed by the camera on the way down to the control and then back by the camera on the way to the next control.  It wasn't as dramatic as the NASCAR approach, but it was the same basic idea.  Because of the camera angle, you also got a sense of the steepness of the hill and the strength of the orienteers going up the hill.

The announcers made a few comments about how the orienteers were strong runners.  Rikard Ekman - the regular sports announcer - noted that the orienteers chasing Simone Niggli looked like they were moving much slower than Simone and wondered if she was really that good.  Anders Garderud, the expert commentator, explained that Simone really is one of the best athletes in the world.  That added some context, especially given Garderud's expertise as an orienteer and a world class runner.

The coverage featured a camera chasing an orienteer through the forest.  It was staged - they filmed the videos well before the races and put them in during the live coverage.  You can see a bunch of these EOC videos on Vimeo.  These are  a bit like the motorcycle cameras chasing cyclists down the mountains in the Tour de France.

You can find the Swedish TV coverage online at SVTPlay.  The videos will only be available until about mid June, so take advantage of it and watch some of the coverage.

If you look at the coverage of the women's relay you can see examples of how Swedish TV shows the speed of orienteers.  At about the 18 minute mark you'll see the orienteering version of the NASCAR camera.  Check out the Vimeo link above for some of the camera-chasing-through-the-terrain video.  Think of that as the orienteering version of a TDF downhill.  If you can understand Swedish, listen to some of the commentary to get an idea of how the announcers help explain the speed.  There's some discussion that begins at about the 29 minute mark.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:22 PM


The planning mistake was that they had an uphill finish for the middle and long. A downhill runin would have produced really fast running.
Bill Melville - Year of the Perfect Run
Insightful. And thanks for the link to the EOC coverage! I'm loving it!!

nice blog sports video
Nice blog. Keep up the good work!
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