Fox Sports’ Engines Revving To Go in Daytona

Fox Sports kicks off the 2015 NASCAR season with the entire collection of events — including duels and qualifying runs, which began on Thursday — that are the run-up to the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Fox NASCAR will provide more than 80 hours of programming from Daytona Speedweeks in its 15th season of coverage, the first time since 2006 that it will broadcast all four days.

The scene in Daytona

The scene in Daytona

“We’ll be bringing a few extra new toys, but we’ll also be back doing what we’ve done before, up until 2006,” says Michael Davies, SVP, field and technical operations, Fox Sports Media Group. “There’s also a new 33-ft. tower cam at turn one, and the Stype augmented reality will be encoded from the jib camera between turns 3 and 4. There are new toys, but what we’re also doing is bringing a more cohesive theme to the entire event.”

It’s returning to a significantly changed Daytona International Speedway. After a $400 million multiyear renovation dubbed Daytona Rising, the newly rebuilt track is intended to emulate the kind of experience that NFL and NBA fans in the stands have come to expect.

Pointing to an architectural design that will extend the grandstands by seven stories, double the number of restrooms, triple the concession stands, and add a slew of luxury suites in 11 “neighborhoods” that will eventually have their own WiFi, Matt Taylor, lead design architect, architectural firm Rossetti, says, “NASCAR tracks haven’t kept up with how the ‘ball-and-stick’ sports stadiums have progressed in recent years. With Daytona Rising, we’re going to change that.”

Fox Sports has some changes of its own. With half a dozen main mobile units in the compound and more that 50 cameras and 150 mics strewn around the track, the production is among the largest of the year for Fox and will include plenty of tech toys, such as a 4K ultra-slo-mo camera system, virtual graphics, the ultra-small GroundCam POV system, Vizrt virtual-car/touchscreen technology, and Gyrocam in-car cameras.

Specialty Cams All Over the Track
For the first time in NASCAR coverage, Fox will use the Phantom Flex 4K camera for an ultra-slow-motion look at cars on the track. The Vision Research Flex 4K camera (provided by Inertia Unlimited) and Evertz DreamCatcher combine high–frame-rate capture with the high resolution of 4K, allowing the production team to magnify he action in ultra slow motion.

Fox’s Groundcam (provide by Inertia Unlimited) is a small, stationary high-definition point-of-view camera buried beneath the asphalt track surface. The cameras have been paired with high-quality condenser microphones. Advances in lens quality and materials enable Fox to provide a much wider and clearer field of view. For Daytona, there are four cameras placed in harm’s way, including one in turn 4 and another on the backstretch, positioned so that cars run the cameras over at more than 200 mph.

Gyrocam, a gyro-stabilized, in-car camera mounted in the center of the cockpit (provided by Inertia Unlimited), rotates as cars enter Daytona International Speedway’s extreme 31-degree banked turns, keeping its view level with the horizon at all times. The resulting look demonstrates to viewers just how dramatic Daytona’s turn angles are at race speed.

Virtual Graphics and Touchscreen Tech
Camera-tracking technologies from Ncam and Stype provide Fox Sports the ability to place 3D graphics in the real environment. For example, during the 2015 Daytona 500, Fox Sports’ Wind Trax technology demonstrates wind patterns on different parts of the track. In addition, specialty graphics — including virtual leaderboards, sponsor enhancements, and race summaries — are projected onto the track.

Fox Sports will also use Vizrt touchscreen technology to provide magnified looks at the smallest details of the cars on the track, providing viewers with a clear explanation of how the car works and performs through its components. For 2015, Fox’s 3D cutaway car has been updated with the latest rule changes.

Robust Audio in Daytona
Audio will benefit from more than 150 microphones placed along the track and throughout the venue, as well as m43 race-team communication radios, one for each car on the track, and  a special audio-editing unit deployed solely for driver-to-crew-chief communication to play back both live interaction and edited material.

A Brand-New Compound
Game Creek is onsite with production trucks and a new rolling edit facility that will be deployed for the first time.

Fox Sports and other broadcasters are working from a new broadcast compound near turn 3. It’s farther away from the track than the previous compound area near the start/finish line, but Davies says the venue has done a good job of running sufficient fiber between the two. “We’re a long way away, but they did a great job with connectivity.”

Stay tuned for more live SVG coverage from Daytona over the weekend and check out the Tuesday edition of the SVG Insider newsletter for in-depth reports on all the happenings in Daytona.

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