Technocrane tops Indy 500 innovations

ABC Sports and ESPN will have a more tightly integrated production of this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, with 62 cameras being used to cover the high-speed action. And while this year’s race won’t be in HD that doesn’t mean there won’t be innovation. For the first time ever this year’s coverage will use a split screen during commercials, making it possible for race fans to not miss a second of the race. And then there’s “technocrane.”

Technocrane was first used during ABC’s Super Bowl coverage this year. It swings like a jib camera but also has a shooting boom. The result? The camera cannot only swing but also be extended out and pulled in, giving an additional sensation of movement.

“It provides so many unique looks,” says Bob Braunlich, ABC Sports VP, remote operations, of the camera that will begin the telecast near the host position and then move down near pit row. “And running it is literally like a football team calling plays as it takes two guys to control the arm and a third to control the camera via remote control.”

For now SD still rules the roost, with NEP’s ND2 SD truck (complete with a Grass Valley 4000-3T production switcher, a Calrec 120 fader Q2 audio console and two six-channel EVX-XT units) handling the production of the world feed and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions truck with a Grass Valley Kalypso production switcher handling the unilateral coverage for ABC Sports and ESPN. The cameras are a mix of Sony and Grass Valley units.

“The size of this facility and the number of spectators are always the two biggest challenges,” says Braunlich. “It makes it really difficult to get around and fix or tweak things.”

And then, as always, there’s the weather. With the potential to have to fill hours of rain delay the production team has to be ready with a full arsenal of features, profiles, and insights. “They definitely need to hold content in their saddle bags because at best it takes 90 minutes after the rain stops to get the race going again,” says Braunlich.

While this year’s race won’t make the move to HD there’s some hope for the future. Advances in wireless HD transmission are finally reaching a maturity level where they could help the race flip the HD switch. With a 2.5-mile race track (it’s so large that a nine-hole golf course can be fit on a fraction of the infield) additional advances in RF HD might still need to occur but every month the technology advances. “This year HD RF has advanced by leaps and bounds,” says Braunlich. “Everyone wants to do the race in HD.”

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