ESPN, ABC Look Forward and Back for Indy 500
The Indianapolis 500 has always been celebrated for its innovation, dating back to Ray Harroun’s use of the world’s first known rearview mirror during his victory at the inaugural race in 1911. Now, 100 years later, ESPN and ABC will follow that tradition, deploying an arsenal of new and updated technologies during its live telecast from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
“Throughout the show, we’re going to offer all the stories of this year’s race but, at the same time, take our viewers through a history of the greatest spectacle in racing,” says ESPN VP of Motorsports Rich Feinberg. “We will also have a combination of some new technologies that we’re deploying and upgrades of state-of-the-art things we’ve done in the past.”
The Latest and Greatest for Indy’s Centennial
Feinberg and company will deploy a total of 64 cameras for the ESPN on ABC telecast two super-slo-mo systems, 15 robotic POV cameras (one at the start/finish line and 14 scattered throughout the track), and a variety of specialty camera systems. NEP’s SS-21, ESPN’s primary mobile unit for motorsports, is on hand to run the show.
Depending on last-minute team confirmations, ESPN expects to have 12 in-car HD camera systems available, each outfitted with a 360-degree rotating camera mounted behind the driver.
Providing high angles and aerial shots will be a HeliCam and aerial camera system that ESPN calls the Bat Cam, which features an HD camera running from the start/finish line down the front stretch and into turn one. The Bat Cam will provide coverage of pit road, fans in the crowd, and the action down the front stretch.
The Rev of the Engines in 5.1
Racing fans can expect to hear the sounds of the Indy 500 like never before. ESPN will produce the race in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound for the first time.
“5.1 audio allows for a truly enhanced experience — whether it’s the sounds of the engines, the crowd, the effects, the radios, and everything else mixed in,” says Feinberg. “When you can take all that audio and split it up into multiple channels, it just makes those sounds that much more realistic.”
Also attracting viewers’ ears will be a new radio-replay system from TASCAM that allows ESPN to record, play back, and edit radio audio from any of the 33 drivers. Although ESPN has used the system for its NASCAR coverage in the past, this marks its debut at the Indy 500.
“On NASCAR, I call it the world’s biggest TiVo,” says Feinberg. “It’s got extended recordable capabilities. You can separately record all 33 teams, and then you can go back in — just like on a TiVo — and, while you’re continuing to record, you can pick out sections and edit them together to help tell the story.”
New Look and the Return of RaceFX
In terms of graphics, ESPN will debut an insert look for motorsports, which will be deployed for all of ESPN’s IndyCar coverage going forward. The network will add the new look to its NASCAR coverage beginning with the Brickyard 400 on July 25.
All 33 cars will once again carry Sportvision RaceFX boxes for the RaceFX data-driven graphics system. The boxes supply GPS in-race car-positioning data for the graphic pointers that help viewers identify each car. It also provides telemetry data that allows ESPN to feature graphics indicating a car’s speed, RPMs, G-force, steering radius, breaking tendencies, and more.
“Unlike stock-car racing, we don’t have these big numbers on the roof and on the doors; they are basically just on the nose cone and the rear wing,” says Feinberg. “With the speed of these cars and the amount of side-by-side racing that you have in an open-wheel race, the pointer system is the key to identifying cars to viewers.”
Catering to the Casual Fan
Much like the Triple Crown of horseracing, the Indy 500 draws a throng of casual motorsports fans, who may watch only one or two races a year. Feinberg is well aware of this fact and sees elements like RaceFX as a valuable way to bring these viewers back for more.
“We’re very cognizant that, like other big events of this stature, a large portion of our audience are viewers that don’t necessarily watch a lot of IndyCar races,” he says. “We want to make sure that we are embracing those new viewers with our storytelling, graphics, camera work in hopes that they’ll enjoy the race and become fans down the road. Our goal is to remain authentic in our presentation and offer insightful details to hardcore IndyCar fans, while also embracing new viewers.”
Pre-race All About the History
The ESPN on ABC coverage will begin at 11 a.m. ET with The Indianapolis 500 — A Centennial Celebration, an hour-long prerace special hosted by Brent Musburger from a brand-new set that will be located right on the racetrack.
“Brent will be surrounded by current cars as well many of the old winning cars dating back to the Mormon Wasp in 1911,” says Feinberg. “We think that that will give a great feeling of nostalgia throughout the pregame.”