With a presence in the industry since forever, James “jimNeso” Cowan is no stranger to the world of esports both locally and internationally. He’s a well-respected veteran of the scene and has competed as a player, coached professional teams, run broadcasts, and even featured as on-air talent for competitions.
James’ most recent work consists of running the broadcast for the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries, a sim-racing competition which saw 25 elite supercar drivers from around the globe enter the world of esports. As the Esports Technical and Production Advisor, James was tasked with ensuring Supercars had a strong product for the world of esports through broadcast quality, league operations, and so much more.
We had the pleasure of gaining a strong insight into the Supercars product and learnt more about sim-racing and its ever-growing presence in the esports world.
Speaking on the product at hand, James stated “the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries was Supercars’ response to the global halt in race activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to remain on TV and honour sponsors and media commitments, all 25 drivers from the main series took part, and were key to the success of the series.”
“The series proved to be one of the most successful sim-racing products ever and has done wonders for Supercars by reaching new demographics and attracting new fans across the world. It was a unique chance for fans to see the drivers ‘behind the helmet’ and get to know more about them and their personalities.”
“On the back of the series, several of the drivers have taken the opportunity to stream to new audiences, and find new ways to connect with fans. The fast response of Supercars and the wider teams and stakeholders helped ensure that fans were kept entertained, and racing continued, albeit in a virtual format,” concluded James.
James spoke about the challenges he faced along the way, such as how he was to integrate sim-racing as an esport into the Supercars broadcast product. He stated that things moved quite quickly, from his initial conversations to literally being pulled into full Supercars’ team and stakeholder meetings the following day.
Despite all that, he advocates that the series’ success really is a testament to the level of passion and professionalism of the Supercars Media and the broadcast team.
James had a range of roles to play, from detailing the initial set up of the competition to familiarising the drivers with their simulators “my initial tasks ranged from the creation of the series rule sets and supplementary regulations for each round. Everything from up-skilling and assisting the driver, onboarding them on to the iRacing platform (for those that had never sim raced) and getting them up to speed as fast as possible.”
“Once drivers were on the platform, it was then about getting them familiar with the cars, the setups, troubleshooting issues remotely and giving them as much practice as possible. Setting up initial practice sessions every day for the drivers to join, and then dedicated rehearsal evenings to work out any issues ahead of Wednesday evenings.”
“Everything needed to be timed down to the second, and the rehearsals were key in ensuring that this was achieved. With the added pressure of a live TV broadcast with a fixed time slot, there was little room for error,” finished James.
On top of his growing list of tasks, James was also responsible for the look of the broadcast in-race; ensuring that broadcast PC’s were updated, running smoothly and special liveries were installed and working correctly. James would also be in charge of preparing the broadcast camera packs during the lead up to each round, which entailed working with Trackcams22 to help prepare a specialised camera package for each round.
Expanding on the camera pack setups, James stated “these closely mimicked the placement of cameras for real Supercars, Formula 1 or NASCAR broadcasts. From these initial camera packs, I was also responsible for delivering weekly b-roll footage from practice sessions with the drivers and providing these to the editing team for broadcast and promo reels.”
James spoke about his responsibilities as Race Control, ensuring drivers were ready for session start times, and communicating any in-race penalties handed out by the Driving Official Standards, by stating “I must admit, it was a little surreal at first, but it definitely had a ‘grim reaper’ feel to it. My days dealing with esports players assisted in the delivery of these messages, I can certainly draw parallels between the two. Once the broadcast was done for the night, the cycle started all over again.”
“After 13 weeks of intensive broadcast, Wednesday nights will feel a little empty from now on,” finished James.
Summarising his thoughts on the overall product and his experience working with Supercars, James went on to state “all in all, the results speak for themselves. The product has been met with critical acclaim across the globe, drawn in new audiences, connected drivers with fans in ways never seen before, injected wildcard drivers from other racing categories into the mix and taken Supercars to a host of new tracks across the globe, and all with no damage bill – though I can’t speak for the fate of a few keyboards.”
Although the competition has come to a close, James assured us this definitely won’t be the last time we see Supercars dabbling into the world of esports. If you’ve been intrigued by the insight provided by James, do be sure to connect with him on Twitter for all future updates.