Massive NASCAR production races across U.S.

By Ken Kerschbaumer

When Fox ended its first telecast of the NASCAR season from Daytona Speedway it marked the end of one race and the beginning of another: working with the other entities involved in the NASCAR telecasts, like ESPN, Speed, DirecTV and NASCAR Images, to get a caravan of more than 34 production vehicles across the country to California Speedway in Fontana, CA by Wednesday in order to get set up for next week’s race in about one-tenth of the time they had to set up for Daytona.

“This production is the size of a Super Bowl telecast and we’ll have to tear it down and do it again every week,” says Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports SVP operations.

Adding to the complexity is that on race weekend the two networks that broadcast the race on Saturday and Sunday (during the season Fox, ABC/ESPN2, and TNT will broadcast races) will share a number of resources like cameras, microphones, fiber and even power. That means that each week there will be a host broadcaster who will have the cameras pass through their trucks and to a shared resources truck built by NEP that can then distribute those signals out to everyone else.

“We started talking with ESPN about how we would do this a year ago,” says Steinberg. “We’ve all done Super Bowl-level broadcasts by ourselves but here everything is so interconnected. And while everyone tries to protect some of the stuff they think is new or proprietary everything has gone wonderfully.”

Fox has four Game Creek HD units at the core of its telecast, A, B, C, and D units (they are also used for NFL telecasts) as well as unit for Sportvision graphics and a shared resources truck with NASCAR Images.

Mike Davies, Fox Sports director of remote operations, says 17 Sony HDC1500 cameras (four with wireless HD transmission thanks to Broadcast Sports that also handled the 10 HD in-car cameras) formed the backbone of the Daytona telecast along with two Sony HDC-3300 HD Super Slo-Mo units, nine robotic cameras and, two jib cameras, the blimp shots and several POV cameras.

“There’s a fiber that runs around Daytona Speedway in a ring that brings almost everything back to the Game Creek trucks,” says Davies.

“Daytona was a great collaborative effort,” says Davies. “But the biggest challenge is getting to Fontana and setting up in three days. We left Daytona at first light on Monday morning and are double-teaming drivers to make sure we get parked by Wednesday.”

In the next issue of SVG Insider: Behind the scenes at ESPN’s Busch coverage.