Fox Sports, NASCAR Innovate for 2015 Race Coverage
From 2007 to 2014, much of the coverage of NASCAR racing involved a strong partnership between Fox Sports, ESPN, NASCAR Media Group, and related service providers. But this season sees the beginning of a new TV deal, and ESPN is no longer part of the mix. More important, Fox Sports is producing both the Saturday and Sunday races (with NBC taking over NASCAR coverage in early July), a move that requires more energy, planning, and personnel.
“We had to impress upon the crew and the production team that we can’t assume anything. There are a lot of changes under the hood, not the least of which is ESPN leaving and NASCAR reconfiguring the shared-resources truck, as we are back to a single-broadcaster model,” says Mike Davies, SVP of field and technical operations, Fox Sports. “We got pretty good at sharing with ESPN, and, as much as we were competitors when we were in the parking lot, we very much worked together. People worked for both of our networks, but it was very much a sense of working on the same show.”
Now that Fox Sports is going it along, Davies says the team needs to think more holistically and look at things like prerace coverage to figure out where efficiencies can be gained. And then there was the need to add new facilities.
“First, we needed a real editing truck, as we have a bunch of mouths to feed with material,” says Davies. “So we have Game Creek Video’s Edit 1 unit with six individual edit rooms and a purpose-built router. It’s basically a postproduction facility on wheels, with four edit systems, ingest, and graphics.”
The truck measures 72 x 24 ft. when expanded and houses Apple Final Cut Pro editing, Adobe Premiere software, and an Evertz Xenon router with 96×96 3G/HD-SDI inputs and outputs with 32×32 fiber inputs and an additional 96 Xlink outputs for multiviewers, 64×64 MADI, and 96×96 analog audio.
Game Creek Video also built a robotics-control trailer that will be used by NBC Sports later in the season. It also houses additional office space.
Also being put to increased use is the Game Creek Video Fox D unit, which handles production duties for NASCAR RaceDay, airing on FS1. Camera signals are sent to the show’s studio in Charlotte, NC, where the show is cut. Helping in those efforts is new connectivity from NASCAR that allows 200 Mbps in and out of trucks.
“NASCAR has organized the bandwidth much better; last year, we had to use T1 lines,” says Davies of the new efforts. That connectivity also makes it easier to transfer content to and from Los Angeles for editing, because some of the packages are better served by being created at home.
NASCAR’s officiating system is making life easier for Fox Sports.
“It’s incredible technology,” says Davies. “When a penalty gets confirmed, we automatically get a clip of the actual infraction.”
Also new is the use of the Stype Kit, a 3D virtual-studio and augmented-reality system that can turn a standard camera crane into an encoded crane capable of data tracking for virtual-graphics insertion.
“In Daytona, we put it on the jib between turns 3 and 4, so we are sprinkling in new technology where it allows,” Davies explains. That means the return of 4K Super Zoom on March 15, when the CampingWorld.com 500 is held in Phoenix, and the placement of the Inertia Unlimited Gophercam cameras to the ideal positions on each track.
There is an extra graphics operator in the back row of the A unit and a completely separate EVS replay department to prebuild segments. More ENG crews are also part of the mix.
The race-coverage facilities from Game Creek Video remain much as they have for the past eight years, but upgrades include a move to all EVS XT3 servers, router upgrades, and moving to a Calrec Artemis audio board with Hydra audio networking. Says Davies, “We’re really impressed that, after nearly 10 years, these trucks can still keep up and work with the best of the them.”