ESPN’s eye-catching NASCAR video segments transform ‘arts and crafts’ into ‘lasers and tasers’

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR fans have seen the videos on ESPN: drivers in their firesuits, moving and looking at the camera while surrounded by smoke, lasers and lights.

The video often plays leading into a feature or commercial break during race telecasts.

ESPN’s NASCAR production team calls the videos “arts and crafts” and team members who participate in their making consider the process very rewarding.

“This is one of the more fun shoots we do every year, and I guess that’s probably why we call it ‘arts and crafts’,” said Kate Jackson, coordinating producer for ESPN’s motorsports coverage.

“Unlike a feature or a tease and things like that where there’s definitely a story being told, this shoot is basically just meant to be beautiful and interesting, so it allows you the opportunity to work with some creative companies to build a design concept and just really let your creativity flow for the season.”

With the 2013 NASCAR season getting underway this week here, ESPN held an “arts and crafts” shoot at DME Studios, conveniently located near Daytona International Speedway. Elements will appear in the live telecast of Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opener, which airs on ESPN at noon ET.

ESPN rented a hangar at the Daytona Beach airport for a previous arts and crafts shoot, but switched to DME Studios several years ago.

“They have a huge green-screen soundstage with a lighting grid and it just allows you to bring in all the equipment that you need with some of the infrastructure already built there,” Jackson said.

ESPN starts developing concepts months before the beginning of the season, Jackson said, working with Indelible, a design arm of Creative Group in New York. The “Twisted Metal” theme that was used for both series last year will continue.

“We just feel like we really like the look and the design and we just think we’re going to try and push it a little bit further this year,” Jackson said.

While NASCAR’s drivers are now used to what ESPN does in the shoot, there was some confusion in the camp of one of the sport’s top stars at first.

“The very first year we did it, I called it arts and crafts when I reached out to Mike Davis, who is one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s managers,” Jackson said.

“And so he somehow had told Junior something that it was arts and crafts, and they thought they were going to come and make arts and crafts, like little necklaces that we used to make for our moms in elementary school,” Jackson said.

“So we got there and when there was no arts and crafts, Mike’s like ‘I’m not calling this arts and crafts anymore, I’m gonna call it ‘lasers and tasers,'” she said. “So now every year when I reach out for Dale Jr., I have to call it ‘lasers and tasers’ instead of arts and crafts. It’s ‘Lasers and Tasers Year Seven’.”

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