For Daytona 500, Fox Focuses on Efficiency
By Carolyn Braff
A year ago, Fox Sports overcame an enormous challenge: pulling off two of its biggest events, the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, within weeks of each other. What was traditionally an entire week’s setup time was reduced to several days, and the Fox Sports team pulled it off without a hitch. What should have been a frenzied exercise in crisis management went so smoothly, in fact, that, even though NBC broadcast this year’s Super Bowl, Fox decided to keep its crunched setup time leading up to this year’s Daytona 500 broadcast, which airs this weekend.
“We parked Tuesday afternoon and were running by Thursday,” explains Michael Davies, director of field operations for Fox Sports. “There were a couple of long nights, but, for the most part, the crew had the setup down, and we are able to accomplish what used to take a week in 2½ days. We’re lucky to have a world-class racing crew and facilities engineers that make a setup like this possible.”
The theme of this year’s production is streamlining, as the network looks at new ways to stay cost-conscious without forcing the crew into endless work cycles. As part of that streamlining process, Fox has made sure that all of its camera positions provide something unique to the broadcast.
“This year, we’re trying to refine the setup of the cameras and also try to enhance the positions that we have for each of the tracks,” Davies explains. The marquee Digger Cam, provided by Inertia Unlimited, is back again this year, but some changes have been made to the four high-definition Digger Cam positions.
“Camera 52, which is in turn two, ended up being somewhat useless because it pointed right into the sun,” Davies explains. “We moved that one and made that into a back-stretch camera, so we’re looking forward to seeing what that one looks like.”
The Digger Cams are now permanently installed into the track, which significantly cut down on the setup time required a year ago. The cameras’ mascot has been enhanced and is sure to provide racing fans plenty of entertainment throughout the weekend.
In addition to the four HD Digger Cams, Fox will be using eight in-car positions provided by BSI that have up to three cameras each; nine robotic cameras for speed shots, positioned along the ring; seven hard Sony 1500 coverage cameras with 100x lenses; three RF handheld cameras along the pit; and three cameras in the “Hollywood Hotel,” a studio in a truck.
“There is a regular camera to provide the image that goes into the back of the Hollywood Hotel, which has a virtual window; there’s no actual window there,” Davies explains. “By using a virtual window, we can park near the garage and maybe get driver interviews and some other unique content.”
Game Creek is once again providing the mobile support for Fox Sports’ Daytona 500 coverage, supplying Game Creek Fox A, B, and C units — “normal football trucks,” says Davies — as well as Game Creek Fox D, a submix truck that came directly from the presidential inauguration, and Game Creek Fox E, which serves as the Hollywood Hotel. All of the trucks are parked in the compound except the Hollywood Hotel, which is stationed in the infield.
“We’re excited to give Daytona its due in terms of covering it in a way that people enjoy,” Davies says. “We’re going to continue to put our own special brand on racing, try to do more with less, and try to rethink everything that we do. I’m always excited to see the Digger Cams and the audio, the different enhancements our crew put to the broadcast, and I think there might be a few surprises to the broadcast that everybody will find entertaining.”
A crew of more than 125 is on-site in Daytona to produce more than 50 hours of coverage over two weeks, including the Daytona 500, Bud Shootout, and on-track coverage for SPEED Network.
“Between all the people that are here, and participating companies — ESPN, SPEED, NASCAR Media Group and others — it’s amazing to see it all come together,” Davies says.