Coming Friday: This not-so-rinky-dink ‘Rinkside’ flap

Video above is from the FSN Kings-Blues “Rinkside” telecast from last Saturday at Staples Center

They call it “Rinkside View.” You’ve called it “Stinkside View.” That’s when you’re being nice.

The Fox Sports Net’s L.A. offices have heard your constructive criticism astute suggestions, and in Friday’s media column, they’ll explain some changes to their approach, starting with Sunday’s Kings-Ducks telecast on FSN Prime.

Then they expect to hear more feedback as to how it can work spinning forward.

We’d assumed that “Rinkside” this season would be done in the way it has been in the past — as an alternative feed to the “traditional” NHL telecast. For next Tuesday’s Lakers-Chicago Bulls telecast, for example, FSN West will carry the tradition telecast with Joel Meyers and Stu Lantz, while FSN Prime will do the “Courtside View” coverage — low camera angles, boom mikes in crazy places, no broadcasters, and Bill Macdonald running all over the place behind the scenes.

That’s a nice compromise. But it’s not practical, especially financially, on the hockey side of the ledger.

Southern California hockey fans who’ve already seen this “Rinkside View” hybrid version for the last month complain most about how it makes them dizzy, restricts seeing plays develop and, some aren’t willing to watch — even boycott. A few have resorted to calling Fox Sports chief David Hill to lodge protests.

Oh, and they’ve filled our comments slots on the Kings blog in remarkable numbers. The passion is evident. A few even more off the deep end after FSN executive producer Tom Feuer offered his “let them eat cake” edict in the OC Register this week. Have to say, that didn’t go over too well. (see link here). Even if this seems to be the future of NHL telecasts.

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We caught up this morning at the morning skate in Dallas by phone with Kings broadcasters Bob Miller and Jim Fox for their take so far on “Rinkside View,” which they will be part of again when the Kings host the Washington Caps next week.

Miller:

“When I’m doing the broadcast, I don’t watch the monitor because it’s too restrictive of a view, whether it’s ‘Rinkside’ or not. But I did record a few ‘Rinkside’ games and watched them. I’m aware of the negative reaction from fans, and I’ve heard a lot of it, too. There are certain things I do like about it, but my feeling was that the low shots from next to the glass weren’t bad when a team comes out of a defensive zone to center ice. But once they’re across the blue line to the center zone, you need a higher view. It’s almost like watching a football game from the sidelines, and the players all start to run to the other side of the field and you can’t see the play develop.

“I really liked the robotic cameras above the goal, especially to see plays in the corner. You can see the players’ faces really well. But other times, you need a higher view in that offensive zone as well.

“My other opinion about those high camera angles that I see is that sometimes they’re actually too wide and too far and you don’t get close enough.

“I can see how some sports may lend itself to better viewing on a ‘Rinkside’ approach. In basketball, where the ball is bigger, there are fewer people on the court and it’s a smaller space, not as spread out and now always fast, there’s a chance it works better. You can also watch some sports without announcers for a time, like baseball and football, if there are graphics. But hockey isn’t so easy without broadcasters — and maybe I’m partial — or with tigher shots.

“Overall, there are parts I don’t mind and others I see needing some change. There’s no problem with trying something to see if it works. But you’ve got to listen to the fans’ reaction and maybe change things. We can’t alienate the fans. For that matter, I’d also like to see every game in high definition as well — hockey is the best sport to watch on high def, if only to see the puck better.”

Fox:

“I’ve honestly not seen (a ‘Rinkside’) full telecast since I’m busy doing it and only watch the monitor for replays. I understand there’s an issue with it, the ability to follow the puck and the way things flow. It’s a difficult game to cut.

“The only changes I have to make when we do ‘Rinkside’ versus a ‘normal’ game is the perspective. Instead of concentration on formations, it’s more the hand-to-hand battles.

“We’ve heard hockey is the most difficult sprot to televise so why do it the same way every year? An important part it listening to the viewers and getting feedback and getting adjustments. If the people are saying it’s tough to watch, then we should be looking for new ways. I applaud people for looking for new ways to televise the game. Then if it works, great. I remember when the Fox Box first came into the NFL. And people reacted to it. Now, if it’s not on the TV for a few minutes, you’re yelling: What’s the score? What’s the time. You get used to it.

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“I can see certain elements being part of the regular telecast. And that’s only trying to make the TV product better. From a replay standpoint, I think you hit the home run with ‘Rinkside.’ It can produce the perfect replay. But again, that’s just a replay, not a live shot. I go back to the first ‘Rinkside’ game against Anaheim, when Dustin Brown laid out Sammy Pahlsson. That was the best replay I’d ever seen. It was spectacular. You got right down there inside Brown’s shoulder pads. And the only way we got that was because of the ‘Rinkside’ setup. In a ‘normal’ game, maybe you get that if you isolate Brown for a shift. Here we had a 100 percent tight view. So you gotta pick and choose.

“When you have to make live cuts (during ‘Rinkside’) that’s very difficult. If you could do it like a movie, where you take all the footage and edit it and discuss it and then put it together, then you’d have a perfect hockey game coverage. But that’s not practical.”

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  • typicaljs

    Tom Feur, take a lesson please. If you have a job and you would like to criticize something/someone, do it the way Bob Miller and Jim Fox do it. Don’t come off sounding like a complete prick that doesn’t care at all about the sport your televising. Oh, wait…

  • Captain Material

    The close-ups are great, but watching hockey I want to see what is going on over as much ice as I can see. It’s great that I can see detailed stitching on a guys jersey, but when I have no idea what is actually happening in the game, it’s not so great.

    I think Foxy’s take says a lot. It’s like watching up close hand to hand combat, but you can’t see how the army formations are moving on the battle field.

    HD and wide screen TV seem like they would greatly enhance the old way of televising the game ON THEIR OWN. You get to see more ice to the sides and more detail in general. How about just that for a change instead of trying to change way too much?

    I have to say I’m a bit at loss for the “can’t see the puck” arguement. To me, when I hear someone say that, what I really hear them say is “I’m not familiar with the game in general”. First off, you’re telling me you can’t see the black object on the large white surface? Really? Or is it just that you don’t what to look for or where?

    Seeing the puck isn’t in itself essential to watching the game when you can see who is carrying the puck, when a shot is taken or save is made, etc. In baseball, can you see the ball all the time? Or is it just that people are familiar enough with watching baseball that they know where to look and what to look for?

    It is really annoying having the way the game is shown changed not based on what knowledgable fans want and from their understanding of the game but based on what people who don’t know what they are watching and don’t know how to get more information from what they are watching think.

    “I can’t see the puck.” Well, okay, stop trying to see the puck and watch the freakin’ game already!

  • KingsFanInRI

    -quote by Captain Material-
    I have to say I’m a bit at loss for the “can’t see the puck” arguement. To me, when I hear someone say that, what I really hear them say is “I’m not familiar with the game in general”. First off, you’re telling me you can’t see the black object on the large white surface? Really? Or is it just that you don’t what to look for or where?

    Seeing the puck isn’t in itself essential to watching the game when you can see who is carrying the puck, when a shot is taken or save is made, etc. In baseball, can you see the ball all the time? Or is it just that people are familiar enough with watching baseball that they know where to look and what to look for?

    It is really annoying having the way the game is shown changed not based on what knowledgable fans want and from their understanding of the game but based on what people who don’t know what they are watching and don’t know how to get more information from what they are watching think.

    “I can’t see the puck.” Well, okay, stop trying to see the puck and watch the freakin’ game already!
    -end of quote, beginning of my rebuttal-

    I have been watching hockey for nearly 39 years now and I have a firm understanding of how the game is played and how to watch it. I assure you that I have probably forgotten more about it than most will ever know, and I cannot see the puck at all on the Rinkside view.

    The main reason that I can’t see it is because the cameras cannot follow it. If the cameras had the ability to consistently follow the puck carrier (and therefore the puck) it would be a tremendous positive. Even once they do find the puck carrier, if, God forbid, he passes the puck, then the race to find it is on again. Given the speed at which hockey moves, the camera is then oftentimes 2-3 passes behind the play, the puck is in the net and all we saw was a great shot of what’s going on in the empty corner of the rink.

    Let’s not get into the use of the center ice camera on a goalmouth scramble. Camera is about 125′ from the net trying to follow a 5″ object with as many as 11 guys in the way. If nothing else, that’s bad producing by the network, not to mention how nonsensical it is. That is the one time that the behind-the-net cam is good.

    Speaking of the BTN cam, that one should NEVER be used when the puck (amazing how it all comes back to that puck) is 200′ away. That view is best used the way they have used it for many years now… goalmouth scrambles and only for a few seconds.

    Bottom line, hockey is just too fast of a game to use cameras (no matter how high the definition may be) that show such a small area of the ice at one time.

  • Captain Material

    KFIRI-

    Not sure who you are rebutting, because I pretty much agree with every word you are saying. You probably have a decade of being a hockey fan on me, but in my 20 or so years, I’ve mostly heard the “I can’t see the puck” complaint applied to the traditional method of broadcast, where gimmicks like RSV and Fox Tracks are brought in to address that complaint.

    I thought I was pretty clearly in opposition to RSV, but just in case let me make it clear: I think RSV is great for something like re-plays, but it is terrible for trying to show live action. Unwatchable.

    I was trying to make the point that I think too much is made about “seeing the puck” in general. My gripe with RSV is not being able to see the game, and I think we are pretty much in complete agreement on that.

    While I do understand where they are coming from trying to show the speed of the game, which you don’t really see even in person unless you are rather close to the ice (and thereby already sacrificing perspective and a comprehensive view of the game), I really think trying to capture that is worth the sacrifice at all.

    And I’m not trying to be condecending with the knowledgable vs. new viewer thing, but that is what they (FSW) are doing. They want to show the speed to bring more viewers. Problem is people who already are aware of the speed of the game (and how ellusive it is to see even in person unless your nose is touching the glass) are being given the finger in the process. That’s what I’m getting at with talking about being annoyed.

    “Bottom line, hockey is just too fast of a game to use cameras (no matter how high the definition may be) that show such a small area of the ice at one time.”

    I completely agree. Now if we could just get FSW to realize how futile it is trying to capture the speed and how much of a disadvantage it is sacrificing the rest of the game to try and do that, we’d all be much happier.

  • KingsFanInRI

    I stand corrected. :)