If you’re a tech geek, motor racing events are like being a kid in a candy store. As camera and audio technology has increased over the years, broadcast partners have been working with racing leagues, tracks, and drivers to give those of us at home access to visuals only a fly on the wall might have.
And if there’s one event where you go zero to 200 mph faster than any other, it’s arguably the Daytona 500. In no other sport is the premiere event the first of the season. NASCAR has figured out that you might as well kick things off in high gear.
To that, FOX Sports is pulling out all the stops for this year’s big race, engaging a myriad of technology to give you views and insights never seen before.
“Each year, Daytona Speedweeks allows us to develop, test and deploy more and more technical enhancements than we are able to do at most other events,” said Michael Davies, FOX Sports SVP Field & Technical Operations. “The sheer mount of multi-day, multi-platform programming FOX Sports has over multiple races, qualifying sessions and practice sessions allows us the reps to do so.
Added Davies: “This year is no different, as we are using the popular Visor Cam for the first time in a Daytona 500, our first fiber NASCAR IP transmission, different stabilized camera mounts to access different areas of the pits and our digital mosaic offering.”
The biggest addition this year involves the use of a drone. In a first, FOX Sports worked with NASCAR and International Speedway Corp (ISC) that owns Daytona International Speedway to provide drone footage on the backstretch of the track. While it will not go over the track, the drone will be tethered to allow it to fly for long duration and give a whole view of the race.
One thing that viewers really can’t get enough of is in-car views. With fan loyalty to drivers and race teams the highest in NASCAR, getting cameras in cars is something that is craved. This year there will be 14 in-car cameras (including the Daytona 500 pace car) for the race, more than in any NASCAR race in the last 15 years. Within this mix will be the use of the popular “visor cam” that is clipped to the helmet of drivers.
For graphics, FOX Sports tapped the Croation Company to add the ability to place 3D-graphics in the real environment by combining with VIZRT for the graphic rendering. What does that mean? FOX Sports will be able to place specialty graphics, including virtual leaderboards, sponsor enhancements and race summaries, as giant virtual billboards placed on Turn 3. You’ve seen similar-type graphics used during NFL games.
One of the crazier use of graphics is the ability to “pull a car apart” to show its inner workings. FOX Sports has enhanced its 3D-cutaway car that is used by the analysts for the race via touchscreen. FOX NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds will be involved in this aspect of the race via his own dedicated touchscreen inside the booth, allowing for immediate access to enhance any technical story, giving the viewer clear illustrative explanations around the latest changes to the Cup cars.
How about that view of the cars from the point of view of being actually at the track level? For the tenth year, there will be three “gopher cams” embedded in the track including coming out of Turn 4. FOX Sports has improved on the camera technology to give a wider field of vision with the tiny cameras.
In another use of small cameras, Michael Waltrip will be wearing a cap with a camera clipped onto the bill that will be used to walk up and down pitroad as part of pre-race activities.
With fans looking to get more and more info about the race, In terms of digital FOX Sports will have a compilation stream consisting of multiple in-car cameras with live telemetry. The FOX Sports streaming app will also display the linear broadcast alongside these exciting added elements.
FOX Sports employs seven main mobile production units in the multi-network television compound at Daytona International Speedway. In addition, the network’s coverage from Speedweeks requires two satellite uplinks and a set of mobile generators that provide nearly two megawatts of power independent of the local power source. This command center directs the following arsenal of production equipment:
– 300 FOX Sports personnel
– 12 production trucks including facilities for
– Live Television Production and Transmission
– Digital Production
– Editing Facility
– RF Cameras and Audio from BSI
– Telemetry and graphics from SMT
– Power Generation
– Studio Production
– 20 manned cameras
– 3 in-track Gopher Cam cameras
– 2 6-times super slow motion cameras (Sony 4300)
– 1 16-times super slow motion camera (Sony 4800)
– 1 1000-frame-per second Xmo cameras located the start/finish line
– 10 Robotic Cameras around the track
– 3 robotic Hollywood Hotel cameras
– Jib camera with Stype Augmented Reality Enhancement
– 14 in-car camera packages, each featuring three different camera angles
– 4 wireless roving pit/garage camera crews
– 2 in-car Gyro-Cams
– Massive network of digital replay devices and a rolling archive of past races
– 40 race team communication radios, one for each car on the track
– More than 150 microphones placed along the track and throughout Daytona International Speedway
– Racing Radios edit unit – deployed to get the most radio chatter on the air as possible
– The iconic Hollywood Hotel mobile studio