CANTON-Speed, skill, and quick actions dominate NASCAR racing. For Josh Larson, Canton that means living his professional life in the fast lane.
Not in the driver’s seat of a race car but working for Broadcast Sports International (BSI). Josh is the Video 1 and Engineer in Charge who provides television audiences live in-car views of the fast and furious world of NASCAR.
The professional racing season is a long one.
NASCAR annually schedules approximately 38 televised races from February to November on FOX and NBC.
Josh utilizes his unique skills for 25 to 30 of those races throughout the United States and Canada for BSI which supplies the onboard cameras. Josh’s expertise and talents in video engineering recently resulted in two Television Academy Emmy awards.
A Road Well Traveled
Like racing, Josh’s road to the race track took several “left turns,” but as he looks back on his career, a love of technology was the key. After high school, he spent six years in the Navy prior to college. He served as a machinist mate working on a nuclear power plant located on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.
After the Navy, Josh was eligible for both the GI Bill and the Illinois Veterans Grant and attended Lincoln Land College for two years. He then moved on to Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he majored in Cinema, Film, and Photography. He had dreams of being an independent filmmaker.
“I had always had an interest in photography,” Larson mused.
“By the time I entered SIU, I wanted to be a director. I made a few films over the course of my time in Carbondale, and for my thesis I wrote a screenplay. After I graduated, the film universe was going digital, so I returned for another year to upgrade my technical skills in that area.”
After graduating, Josh spent a year exploring his options. A friend told him about BSI, a privately-held broadcast company founded in 1979. The company’s high-profile projects include onboard cameras for NASCAR races, wireless cameras and microphones for PGA Golf events, and wireless video and audio coverage of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration. BSI’s website states,
“Our fleet of state-of-the-art production trailers are in action every weekend at major live events.”
At the time, BSI’s major work at the NASCAR races involved setting up radio communications wirelessly with high power equipment and infrastructure that allowed the announcers to move freely about the track.
Josh applied and was immediately hired as a freelancer to work on NASCAR events in Pocono, the ALMS racing series, and Grand Am Road Racing.
What intrigued him about the job was how technical it all was and how it involved cameras and broadcasting equipment in radio frequency work.
His first gig as a “roof guy” required him to stand atop the grandstands, setting up the radio antennas, racks, cables and receivers.
However, Josh quickly advanced to the role of Radio Frequency Tech and moved to the infield of the race track to set up the required gear for the announcers and the live broadcasts. Josh’s work involved making sure the pit reporters would get the audio feed from the pit producers to the reporters, who would then transmit over the airways, both audio and video, through the networks.
Inside the Trailer
Broadcasting live requires the special talents of many individuals from a variety of entities all working together to provide the highest quality viewing for television audiences. Viewers seldom recognize the intricate details that must occur at lightning speed unless something goes awry.
Josh now works in the trailer and engineers in-car feed by “painting the in-car video” so that the overall broadcast footage appears in sync with the colors the network has created. Accurate painting ensures an overall aesthetic look of an event when broadcasted.
“While there can be many hours of waiting, once the action begins, it is exciting and intense,” Josh states.
“Oftentimes you are performing many tasks at once with several people talking in your ear at the same time. Keeping calm is definitely a challenge.”
As with any job, there are high moments and low moments. However, not everyone has those moments occur live on television with millions of viewers.
Josh recalls his best moment to be when a broadcast director picked up on some video that Josh had caught and then asked for it to be replayed. Viewers got to experience the rare occurrence of a car tire rolling out of the pit box and onto the raceway with a technician frantically running after it.
One of his low moments occurred when there was a broadcasting error that just couldn’t be rectified at the time. He regrets the error because it resulted in a loss of revenue for the company.
His other best moment, of course, was receiving two Emmy Awards for his Engineering work for Fox Sports One.
Josh just recently received the actual Emmy statues, which he now displays at his Canton home.
Life on the Road
Being on the road from February through November can be a challenge, especially when you are the father of 4 year-old-triplets. But because Josh receives a schedule for the entire year in January, he and his wife Lindsey (formerly Ridenour) can plan out their year-long personal calendars.
The family moved to Canton from Washington, Illinois, about a year ago to be closer to family and Lindsey’s home community.
Occasionally, Josh’s assignments involve other sporting events such as the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl.
“As long as I have access to feeder airports, I can live pretty much wherever,” Larson states. “I’ve learned all the fastest directions and times to get to Peoria or Bloomington airports in the past year.”
Josh’s work with BSI continues to be exciting as technology advances quickly in his chosen field. He advises anyone interested in live broadcasting events look first into radio frequency companies like BSI.
“If you enjoy learning and mastering technology, are a quick learner, are able to lift heavy objects, are willing to travel, and to work crazy hours,” Larson says, “then this may be the career for you.”
And while his description sounds just a bit like Superman, you, also, might possibly win an Emmy or two.