Photographer's Blog: The Voices of MotoGP

When I entered the media center at Losail a few weeks ago, I happened to be thinking about how many people contribute to our enjoyment of MotoGP. From the journalists who write the background stories and race reports, to photographers who show us things we can't see on video, to the large number of people who produce the TV feed, each has his or her role in bringing us closer to the racing and increasing our enjoyment of what we see. 

Years ago I was an avid bicycle racer, very much inspired by watching Greg Lemond take on the world in a sport dominated by Europeans. The TV broadcasts featured the commentary of a man named Phil Liggett, who still works as one of the main voices of cycling broadcasts in English. Liggett's enthusiasm and passion for cycling are inseparable from my experience of watching those 1980s Tours de France (and every one since, in fact), and he has stuck in my mind as someone who will be, for many, as big a part of the events he described as the events themselves.

For as annoying as poor commentary can be, good commentary can bring to the viewer's experience an element of enjoyment that comes only from being simultaneously educated and entertained. In MotoGP we are fortunate to have a team of commentators who bring a unique combination of expertise and passion for their subject to the British Eurosport broadcasts. Toby Moody and Julian Ryder are similarly inseparable from the MotoGP experience of the Eurosport viewer as Phil Liggett has been for many cycling fans. 

So I asked Toby and Julian if I might join them briefly during a broadcast. For this request I had a very selfish reason: I wanted to have at least a handful of images of Toby and Julian at work for my archive, because to me, they are a significant part of the greater MotoGP story. In typically gracious form, they welcomed me into their small room there at Losail and said I could snap away while they worked. 

Though many reading this will be familiar with the passion they bring to each broadcast, the audio of their commentary doesn't show us what's actually going on in the booth, so I thought I would describe that briefly to go along with a few images from the 10 minutes I spent with them during the Moto2 FP2 session.

The first thing that struck me is that what they make look so easy is in fact quite difficult. They work from notes they've gathered between sessions, notes scribbled after chats with people in the paddock, and made never knowing exactly what they might have an opportunity to share with the audience. The view out of the booth is very narrow, and their comments are made responding mainly to what they see on two monitors, one with the world feed and the other with the official timing information. If you don't think this is difficult, try turning the sound down and see if you can say anything interesting in real time while the action goes on in front of you.

But the most impressive thing to me was how they work in tandem nearly as a single intelligence to maintain the rhythm of the commentary. They use hand signals, nods of the head, and voice inflection to lead each other along a shared path of live commentary that is often much more interesting than what is happening on track. I am accustomed to hearing the finished product, but seeing it happen before me allowed me to appreciate how much skill goes in to making the performance look easy. There's the old cliché of the married couple, each of whom can finish the other's sentences, and Toby and Julian certainly have an element of that type of relationship, based on years of working together and knowing instinctively what the other is going to be thinking five or even ten seconds in the future. 

The result is that we are gathered into their world of two close friends talking about a sport they truly love. The immense knowledge they share between them and the way in which they share it makes us care about what we are seeing as they talk, and in instances like the first rounds of the season, this is even more important than usual. Even they are still learning what the new Moto3 bikes look like, which rider is on which bike, and what it is about a given personality that is interesting or otherwise something we should care about. Any sport, even motorcycle racing is, after all, boring unless you care about the outcome. Toby and Julian are able to pass along their own intense interest in the results of each session, and to me that is what makes their broadcast so special. When they are going crazy because some Moto3 rider you've never heard of just passed another Moto3 rider you've never heard of, the fact that they care so much about what has just happened is usually enough to get your interest. 

I fully expect that the millions of viewers who enjoy MotoGP on British Eurosport will look back on the Moody-Ryder broadcasts with as much affection as they do having watched Rossi tell his story from season to season. I fully hope that the Moody-Ryder broadcasts continue for many years to come.

Sincerest thanks to Toby and Julan both from me personally and on behalf of MotoMatters for allowing me into their world and for the tremendous job they do.

 

If you'd like to see more of Scott's work, please have a look at his online archive, Photo.GP, and to keep up to date with his work, appearances, adventures, etc, subscribe to his newsletter.

 

Comments

Thanks Scott for showing me a

Thanks Scott for showing me a view I would have never have been able to see..

Total votes: 116

The best in the business...

I don't think I would be half as interested in the whole motogp experience without these two legends at the helm - long live Moody & Ryder.

(ps - please bring back Randy)

Total votes: 106

+1 I constantly compare other

+1

I constantly compare other commentators in other motosports to them... they're the gold standard.

No other commentators I've heard (in English) have ever made it seem like I'm just listening in on a really interesting conversation about a race I also happen to be watching. They make everyone else sound more like they're just trying to score high marks in a communications class.

Total votes: 111

Those guys are great!

I rarely get to listen to them here in Brazil, but when I do it sure is great.

Speaking of commentary, and sorry to go off-topic from 2 to 4 wheels, this here gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it. And I must have seen the video at least some 50 times by now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZQZ6MjtGPQ

Total votes: 101

Fantastic video clip

Thanks I looked at the video clip, you are correct googsebumps all over. No wonder Nigel Mansell said that Indy car oval racing is the purest form of motor sports.

Total votes: 96

Adopted Parents

Toby and Julian to me are truly what Phil is to you, Scott. They were the first voices I heard when I started getting into motorcycle racing broadcasts, and they remain to be the voices I seek out when I watch today's races. I've grown to be an avid motorsport fan through their guidance.

Total votes: 101

Thanks for the insight, great

Thanks for the insight, great to see what goes into the commentary of Toby and Jules.

To me too, Phil Liggett is the voice of cycling, definitely a big part in why I've slowly grown more addicted to the Tour de France over the last 6 or so years. His knowledge on the sport (and the location) is astounding.

Total votes: 104

Love it!

As you say the racing is just one part of it. The passionate story telling is so important an aspect of what makes this, for me, my favourite sporting involvement every year. Australian commercial networks commentators please note ..... you are utterly, utterly boring by comparison to these guys!!! Learn from them and spread the joy even further.

PS. Scott how did you get the overhead shot given the small size of the room ........ do you have Spiderman powers?

Total votes: 102

Completely agree on all

Completely agree with everything. Personally I think the addition of Neil Spalding's technical knowledge makes it so interesting and eye opening. The chemistry between them all is just fantastic.

Their level is so much higher than everyone else it's astounding. They are the commentary Aliens.

Thanks for the look behind the scenes.

Total votes: 107

The Best

I would rather wait hours or days to watch a recorded race with Toby and Julian at the helm than watch it live.

And I have lost count of the number of times I have watched the replays on Eurosport, not to see the action but to listen again to the funny or insightful comments.

A nod too to Jack and James on the WSBk coverage, they do a good job as well. Although just once I would like to hear Toby and Julian commentating on a WSBk race similar to the ones we have just had. I'm suspect Toby would need medical treatment afterwards.

Total votes: 101

Legends .....

The best in the game.

Long may the BBC keep showing the main race on the red button & breaking contract to allow ES to cover it live too.

The best bar none.

Total votes: 99

Lest we forget

Oz is currently shutting down to remember our Anzac troops but I would like to make mention of the expert commentary that Barry Sheene used to provide during his time in Oz.
He was so close to the riders, the crews and team owners that he could always pull some vital snippet of information or often predict when a rider was going to pass or when his bike may fail. At times it felt as though his commentary was merely instruction to the riders.
Having said that, I agree that messrs Toby and Julian are the gold standard.

Total votes: 105

Is Eurosport's penny pinching coverage of MotoGP damaging the

sport? Not knocking Toby and Julian. What can they do stuck in a box, watching the same pictures as those we receive at home? The objective for Eurosport should be to put on a show that is as good and, where possible, better than being there: rider and team interviews before and after, Mamola/Spalders track side analysis of bike characteristics, set up, rider styles etc during practice and in the race itself, opening the mike so that we can hear properly what the different bikes really sound like. And if anyone is throwing their toys out of the pram in full public view at the end of a race, for example, I expect to see it for myself. Come on Eurosport, MotoGP needs you to raise your game and take the sport to a wider audience.

Total votes: 109

I'm impressed

by what they do off one monitor and a timings screen, I had no idea! I really like Julian & Toby, but I'll risk wrath here and say I like the BBC too, Charlie Cox makes us smile and I think the coverage is very slick. I also hate bloody adverts which gives the BBC a start for me.

What does drive me mad about ES is when they break coverage in WSBK and cut away to an advert regardless of what's happening on track - aaaargh!!!

Good article Scott - thanks.

Total votes: 103

Wish we had toby and jules in the US...

We have to endure SPEED here in the states. Beyond awful. They ran long with Nascar post-race coverage so we completly missed the first half of WSBK race 1. Terrible advertisements that take up half the screen. Id kill for Eurosport. Motogp.com coverage is great though.

Total votes: 100

I'll second that....

I feel like i'm watching a monster energy drink commercial with a bit of motorcycle racing thrown in here and there for good measure.... I wonder if the folks at the SPEED network have ANY idea who their audience is for world class racing.

Total votes: 101

Be glad you actually you have

Be glad you actually you have something. Here in the Netherlands the only way to watch it is the BBC, and when they don't show it on their primary channel the only option is internet streams. And that's only MotoGP, to watch Moto2/3 I already have to resort to internet streams of questionable legality and/or quality. And yeah I do usually find one with Toby and Jules, and they're great. But having to watch it on a laptop screen while I have a bigass LED TV in the living room is stupid.

It's completely baffling how in a country where 120.000 people show up for a MotoGP race every year it isn't available on mainstream television.

Total votes: 98

Am I the only one who pays MotoGP.com subscription?

I've been watching MotoGP for only my 4th season now (I discovered it just after Qatar in 2008) but I don't think I've ever seen a broadcast covered by Toby & Ryder. I think I've exclusively watched the official MotoGP coverage with Nick Harris, Gavin Emmett, and Ian Wheeler down in Pit Lane (except for last year when it was Joe Carandor).

I'm sure I'm missing some great stuff with Toby & Ryder, but all the same I'm really happy to listen to Harris/Emmett/Wheeler.

Total votes: 126

In the US there is only the internet

Whoever pays for SPEED and watches Motogp might as well shoot themselves. 1hr of MotoGP???? US MotoGP coverage SUCKS. And were getting 3 races? I've been streaming from a Aspire Revo to my TV for 4yrs. with 2-4gb download speeds. Cable is'nt available (in my area) and cold day in h*ll if I will pay to watch TV (via satelite) If you live for MotoGP buy the season package and watch it live. Its always funny when my friends text me during the race and they are watching it on SPEED 10 laps behind!!

Fri mornings at work we listen to practice at 7am LIVE. (computer speaker ouputs hooked up to a stereo reciever broadcast over the shop floor!!)

Now how can we get Julian and Toby in the US?

Total votes: 107

+1

In Australia we get pretty good coverage of all classes on free to air via OneHD and it's a lot better since they let the official commentators (Harris/Emmett) do the bulk of it, with the local stuff added for a bit of discussion/analysis/padding. Darryl Beattie used to be very fond of the pregnant pause mid sentence while commentating.
I reckon Harris and Emmett do a great job, but would like to hear the Toby and Jules version. I recall back in the 90's when we used to get WSBK televised we got Julian Ryder and a Kieth (Heuwen?). They were absolutely superb.

Total votes: 100

Voice of dissention

Sorry to be the only one here to go against the grain, but I FAR prefer the two Northen lads Jack Burnicle and James Whitham from Eurosport and the World Superbikes. For me, they have way more humour, are more interesting to listen to, and I love the way they always have a go at Max Biaggi's hairpiece, and occaisonally have an drool over the grid girls! We always get a laugh from them as well as expert opinion, and they can liven up any race when it gets dull.

I'd listen to them over the MotoGP commentators any day.

Total votes: 105

I finally did get the MotoGP

I finally did get the MotoGP internet subscription this year and couldn't be MORE thrilled with it... having that as an option to the crap coverage that SPEED provides is worth every stinking single euro-cent I paid for it... now if only I could find a way to get to WSBK without the NASCAR channel, er umm, I mean SPEED, I'd ditch it altogether... Is anybody at News Corporation reading this?

Total votes: 102

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