Monday, April 25, 2011

Gary Lovejoy: AC 34 Media Maestro

Gary Lovejoy has the challenging job of heading up production for all media - all moving pictures and audio - for the 34th America’s Cup. The first and last time he worked in the America’s Cup was in Perth in ‘86/87, as producer for ITV in the UK.

56-year old Lovejoy, who hails from Plymouth, England (and NO, he swears he’s not the reason the World Series is headed to that city in a few months), comes to the prestigious position at America’s Cup Event Authority with 34 years in broadcasting behind him. In a positive way, Lovejoy is quietly philosophical about the task ahead…

SailBlast: Many promises have been made regarding media for AC 34. What’s the most challenging aspect of pulling this off with the new format?

Lovejoy: I think doing it all justice, really. We’ve got a fantastic opportunity here which may not be repeated - if we make a mess of this no one may want to try again. We’ve been given the chance with the new boats, with a Cup holder who has vision, with a venue that’s world famous, and the chance to go around the world in the interim and take our traveling road show to lots of different cultures and venues. The crews will be sharp from all that racing, and we’ll have to be sharp by the end of it all. The challenge is to live up to all those things that have been put in place for us. We are privileged in that regard and now have to make it all work.

SailBlast: What’s the plan for these next few test weeks in NZ?

Lovejoy: The principle reason is to look at the onboard cameras that will go on the AC 45s and also to look at the graphic system that Stan Honey and Ken Milnes have been developing. It’s unique and important enough for us to trial them in NZ several months before the first race. We’ll look at other things as well - like what’s the pace of the whole game now because these boats move so quickly. We’ll be fitting two AC 45s out with their racing kit and we’ll be looking to see how the pictures begin to fit together, how a two-leg sequence for example works, and how much do we rely on these onboard cameras. Are they providing us with more or less than we thought they would? That then dictates what we do with the other cameras.

SailBlast: What’s behind managing the sheer number of cameras & equipment?

Lovejoy: It’s complicated and it’s not just the video, it’s the audio as well. With all the audio circuits that are coming back you have to make live selections of both what video you are transmitting and audio. The management of that live is one thing, then there’s another level which is the highlights program to be produced later that day where we are duty bound to anything we’ve missed in the live coverage - let’s face it, we will miss some stuff because there’s not going to be enough eyes & ears to see and hear everything that comes off the water live and immediately transmit it. Anything that we miss that we find is significant that we establish exists in the hour or two after the race we’ll put into that highlight show. But, the highlight show shouldn’t just be a butcher’s chopping board and hack of the racing that we put together to run the required duration - it should be significant.

SailBlast: How did you figure out how many cameras you’d need?

Lovejoy: I think it’s a feeling that comes together over a period of time. One of the things we have added in just the last couple of months is a camera that will concentrate just on crowds on the land because as you know that we’re promoting the idea that we’re going to race in a stadium environment, in an amphitheater. In the first two regattas in Cascais and Plymouth we have an opportunity to see people around the “playing field” - or, the racetrack. I think this is very important because there’s not many sporting events that you watch on TV where there’s an empty background. Because of its nature, even the biggest of sailing events has in the past had an empty background - a blue sky and a horizon. If we do have thousands of people come to the waterside in Cascais and Plymouth, we should show that they are there. Psychologically that will help people who are watching online or on television, think, “I’m going to give this a chance because some people have given up their Sunday afternoon to sit on a picnic blanket and watch this, it can’t be that bad.” I’m talking about the non-sailing audience now and I think that’s an important part of this. We can get the crowds in and the race management people do want to take the racing to the crowd so we have to show that.

SailBlast: How many will you need on your team?

Lovejoy: At the first World Series event in Cascais, Portugal there’ll be about 100-110, just on the broadcast team and for creation of the feeds for webcasting as well. Those numbers will probably increase by the time we get to summer 2013 in SF, but also what will happen by that time is we will have inherited the national and international team broadcasters who will want to bring their people to San Francisco to cover the event. We’ll have to facilitate them, help them to settle into the international broadcast center, we’d have to give them all the feeds that they require and work with them. Perhaps also by then we’ll have added some things that will be different and require a few more people.

SailBlast: How many boats will you use on the water?

Lovejoy: We’ll have four, sometimes five for what people would regard as conventional cameras on the water over and above those aboard the racing boats. We could well increase that but not massively because you do have the onboard cameras and there’s a point you reach where you may waste your onboard cameras if you have too many other cameras. The AC 72s have more cameras on board than the 45s but we must be sensible with this - you could keep placing cameras around the Bay here until you run out of cable. What we have in the air (three helicopters for major races and two for a World Series match race on a mid-week afternoon), what we’ll have on the water - from a financial perspective as well we have to justify everything that’s there.

SailBlast: How do you plan to “tell” the sailing story to non-sailing fans?

Lovejoy: I’m not a sailing expert and don’t pretend to be - what I have to be is the person whereby, if it confuses me or loses me or if I don’t understand it, then we shouldn’t be doing it. I’m just trying to use myself as a sounding board for everything that we’re doing with the target market. I’m older than the target market but if the target market is people who want to follow sailing but for one reason or another have been frustrated or turned off by it or haven’t understood it in the past, you concentrate on the basic story then you have the special equipment with which to illustrate it. If you aren’t telling the story properly, people will switch off unless they’re sailing fans and they’re watching because they’re devoted. You shouldn’t be pushing people to those limits, saying, “You’ve got to watch because you love sailing - that’s unfair.”

How do you determine what the best stories are?

Lovejoy: I think we need to refine this a bit but we need someone who is prowling the area and who is on the lookout for things that slip by, someone dedicated to looking at our output to make sure that if we did drop something out that it’s logged - there’s probably no job description for that role but I think its an important role that someone will have to play especially in the fleet racing. The match racing will be a little different, less to concentrate on and fewer excuses to miss something live but it will still happen. What we will use is more EVS machines (the standard machine that replays motion), which brightens up coverage and is a clever tool that is improving all the time and essential to major sports today.

SailBlast: Where is Gary Lovejoy when all this happens - on land, on the water?

Lovejoy: Pacing up and down like an expectant father in front of a myriad of television screens and trying not to say anything because the producer and the director need to be given the live, free reign once we get going - they need the boring guy in the suit to get out of the way.

SailBlast: The budget is purported to be in the millions - can you comment?

Lovejoy: We are controlling the budget. Sometimes with the venues it all slots into place perfectly and there’s no extra costs foreseen but sometimes it’s different, like with a leg on the Golden Gate Bridge. During the Cup itself we’ll be based at Pier 23, slightly around the corner to have a line of sight out there to pick up a signal. It’s only when you’re walking about on the Embarcadero that you realize where you’re positioned in relation to the rest of the Bay, which is what we did with John Craig (PRO) when he was explaining to us where he planned to go. We realized if the boats exit the Bay under the Bridge, turn around, and come back again, they’re going to disappear temporarily. We’ll have to bounce the pictures, as we really want that shot when the fleet comes back into the Bay but it will cause logistical headaches and more money.

SailBlast: What do you think you bring to the table with your experience?

Lovejoy: What the people who are working on this bring is a significant bank of knowledge already but we all have to be very open-minded and clear-eyed about what has gone before and what we want to achieve here and how we do it, which involves a mix of different skills and different backgrounds. We have to have people who have been through their football world cups and their Olympics so come the big day they can still produce what’s required. That’s what the old guys bring I guess. I’ve been lucky to have been exposed to different kinds of sports television experiences in different countries with different media groups and companies. I want to keep learning and I’m learning things on this job, which is important to me personally. I think it’s important that we’re all still learning and we’re all still prepared to learn. We’re being quite dangerously open and honest about what we’re trying to do here, it is a dialogue and we do want to talk to people and have them feel involved and for it to be fair. It’ll be a process as we improve what we’re doing and I’m sure the teams feel the same.

SailBlast: The work you’re doing now with the Cup must seem light years away from Fremantle?

Lovejoy: I was working with ITV and Channel 4 in the UK and we were following the British boat which was out of the game quickly but we found ourselves covering what was on the water a fantastic picture but it was done in a peak-time news feature magazine way - the program was at 6pm on a Saturday evening. The pictures were fantastic. Here, the technology has changed, the boats have changed massively and the distribution technologies have changed. We have a chance to do this on all sorts of platforms, from your mobile phone to your 60 inch plasma. So many things have changed but I would say that the six months I spent in Fremantle were six of the brightest, happiest most colorful months of my career. It was a fantastic event.

SailBlast: This one will be too!

Lovejoy: I hope so, that’s why I’m back. Everything is set up for this to be really, really good.

Sailblast: What’s the TV series that ACEA is planning to launch in July?

Lovejoy: With regattas on about every six weeks through the two -year period that last for two weekends, this means that for maybe 3-4 weeks we’re not necessarily on a TV schedule. In a two-year campaign leading up to the summer of 2013, we need to constantly acknowledge that we’re going to pick up new viewers along the way and they’ll need to be brought into the fold. Hopefully in an interesting modern way, the weekly show will take people along that journey, constantly featuring a little more in depth what’s happening on the water, who are the characters behind all this, what about the venues, how is San Francisco developing? There’s a great many things to look at - if you just did simplistic math and said we’re going to do between 90 and 100 shows, each program will carry four or five features - that’s several hundred aspects to feature.

SailBlast: Where will people be able to watch this programming?

Lovejoy: It’ll be available online regardless and it’ll be available to all of our TV rights holders around the world. Although it will be weekly, there’ll almost certainly be a monthly version available on airlines (the frequency with which they change their programming). We’re trying to make it available on all the media platforms.


  1. Marvellous, can't wait! Will sailing websites be offered a live feed like last years LVT series?

  2. I still want more detail on how the cameras and the feeds will work. I am not sure that Mr. Lovejoy knows how live news TV feeds work around the Bay Area. I sure hope he gives this some thought.