Fox Sports Stocks Daytona 500 Camera Arsenal With 4K, Infrared
Less than a month removed from Super Bowl XLVIII, Fox Sports could decide to take it easy at the Daytona 500. But nothing could be further from the truth.
To cover “The Great American Race” this Sunday, Fox Sports will deploy nearly 60 cameras: two Fox Super Zoom 4K cameras, two super-slow-motion cameras, two Inertia Unlimited X-Mo cameras, an infrared Ideal HeatSeeker camera, four in-track cameras, 10 robotic race cameras, three robotic prerace cameras, 12 in-car camera packages, two in-car gyro cameras, and 20 manned cameras.
And, for the first time ever, Fox Sports Go, the app that provides live streaming video of Fox Sports content, will offer live coverage of the Daytona 500. Fox Sports Go features two separate live streams, the customary Fox Sports broadcast in English and the Fox Deportes telecast, which returns to Daytona for the second consecutive year, in Spanish.
“Nothing in motor sports is more important than the Daytona 500,” says Fox Sports President/COO Eric Shanks. “This year is bigger and better than ever, and we can’t wait to hear the roar of the engines as Speedweeks kicks off the best two weeks in racing.”
Fox Sports’ Super Zoom 4K cameras, introduced in 2012 for MLB and NFL coverage, captures game action at 300 fps and produces images with five times the resolution of normal HD. The 4K cameras can be used live and in replays, during which the image can be magnified up to 10 times and maintain HD resolution.
Returning to the broadcast is the infrared camera, which debuted in 2011 during the 53rd Daytona 500 and registers variations in the heat signature of objects in its line of site.
Like the 4K cameras, the infrared camera is yet another toy at the network’s disposal. “We look at all these things as just tools. It’s nothing that you feel like you have to get into the race just for the sake of doing it,” Shanks explains. “If a moment comes up where you feel like it can help tell a story or it shows you something that you couldn’t see any other way, then you use it. … [To produce] a live event, you prepare for everything, but then you just have to sit and react to what’s happening.”
Fox Sports plans to station the two X-Mo cameras at the end of pit road and at the start/finish line, deploy four wireless roving camera crews to cover the pit and garage, and bury a small, stationary HD point-of-view Ground Cam beneath the asphalt track surface. More than 150 microphones will be placed along the track and throughout Daytona International Speedway.
To handle the myriad video and audio signals, Fox Sports will park six main mobile production units in the multi-network television compound. The fleet boasts 25 digital video-replay devices with more than 110 channels of recording/playout. In addition, Fox Sports’ coverage requires two satellite uplinks and a set of mobile generators providing nearly 2 MW of power independent of the local power source.
As for onscreen graphics, a Vizrt-encoded camera will graphically place three-dimensional virtual objects onscreen, including delineating the “restart box,” where cars can accelerate toward the start/finish line during a restart, and highlighting the entire track in yellow to emphasize that a race is under caution. Fox will also use a high-tech touchscreen, based on Vizrt technology, to give viewers a clear illustration of how the cars work and perform.
Fox Sports is also experimenting with wind-visualization technology, which Shanks believes will further enhance the broadcast and fans’ understanding of the sport. “Wind is one of those things that we don’t talk enough about in racing, and it has an impact on a lot of these tracks. Being able to see the wind, I think, is one of the innovations that we have. … It’s just one of those things that, if you can’t see it, you don’t talk about it, and now we can see it, so maybe we’ll figure out storylines for the wind as well.”
With so many cameras and gadgets in its arsenal for Sunday, Fox Sports seems to have anticipated every possibility. But even the best-prepped production team cannot know what will happen when the green flag waves.
“The races, they’re not scripted. You can’t sit down and write out, here’s what we’re going to do at this point, here’s what we’re going to do at that point, we want to show this, we want to show that,” says Darrell Waltrip, who will call the race. “Everything we do we react to [what] happens on the race track.”
Fox Sports’ multi-network, multi-platform coverage of the Daytona 500 takes place on Sunday Feb. 23 (1 p.m. ET) on Fox, with live prerace coverage on Fox NASCAR Sunday (12 p.m.). For the 14th consecutive season, NASCAR Hal of Fame driver and Emmy-nominated broadcaster Waltrip teams with host Mike Joy and analyst Larry McReynolds to call the race for Fox.