Got Milk? Indianapolis 500 Gets Under Way Sunday on ABC
With the notorious exception of Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993, winners of the Indianapolis 500 traditionally swig milk in the winner’s circle. Since 1965, Indy fans have seen 50 winners on ABC, which will celebrate its 51st broadcast edition on Sunday. And what’s billed as the world’s largest single-day sports event will get commensurately big coverage.
ESPN’s production of the Indianapolis 500 telecast for ABC is one of the largest and most complex that ESPN does each year. The production will deploy a total of 85 cameras, including three onboard cameras in each of 12 of the 33 cars competing in the race. Four of the 12 will be equipped with RF provider Broadcast Sports Inc.’s dual-path technology, allowing shots from two of the cameras on a car to be used simultaneously. The BSI technology made its IndyCar debut three years ago.
In addition, this year’s show will use five nac Image Technology Ultra Hi Motion cameras to enhance views and replays and enable viewers to see detail not visible at regular speed. This is one more than last year’s complement, with a low-positioned Ultra Hi Motion unit covering the chute and the pit exit and three others covering turns 2, 3, and 4 as before and the new one on the roof across from the pits to capture action in that area and end-of-race celebrations. With five Ultra Hi Motion cameras, ESPN is now capable of shots around the entire 2.5-mile track as well as all of pit road.
Voices, Trucks — Lots of Both
ESPN will have plenty of voices on the air. Allen Bestwick will call the race with analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever, both former Indy 500 competitors. ESPN SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak will host the telecast from the Speedway’s iconic Pagoda, with pit reporters Jon Beekhuis, Rick DeBruhl, and Dr. Jerry Punch. ABC’s Indianapolis 500 telecast will be produced under the oversight of ESPN VP, Production, Rich Feinberg. Shawn Murphy will produce the race telecast, and Bruce Watson will direct; Kate Jackson will produce the prerace show with Chip Dean directing.
NEP’s SS21 (A, B, C, and E) mobile unit will serve as the primary production hub, with IMS Productions’ HD 5, HD 1B, HD 2C as secondary trucks. In addition, BSI has rolled out two trucks to handle the reporters’ handheld cameras and the in-car cameras. A Mobile Satellite Technologies C-band uplink will provide transmission services for the ABC primary feed; a Mobile Sat Ku uplink, the ABC backup feed; and another Mobile Sat C-band uplink, the feed from the 12 in-car cameras for the ESPN3 multiscreen live sports network. A Midwest Uplink truck will handle the ESPN international world feed.
ESPN also has two CAT Entertainment twin-pack generator sets on hand for primary power.
Viewers of the ABC telecast will have the option of a second-screen experience through a choice of live-streaming video from the onboard cameras on ESPN3, which will carry the feeds exclusively through WatchESPN, on Indycar.com, and the Verizon INDYCAR 15 app.
There will be packages galore before and during the race, starting with the opening tease, “Speed, Risk and Danger,” an anticipatory look at why drivers are willing to risk everything for Indianapolis 500 glory. Others during the pre-race show or in SportsCenter’s coverage include ESPN Sport Science, offering an inside look at what it takes to be an IndyCar driver and what the driver’s body goes through during a race, and ESPN’s Marty Smith leading a roundtable discussion with the four Team Penske drivers: Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Simon Pagenaud.
Senior Coordinating Producer Shawn Murphy says the biggest challenge facing the network for this show is “not trying to get so micro on the thing that you lose sight of the big picture. So many things can happen: [for instance,] you can have a favorite driver fall back early in the race, and you want to make sure you capture him coming back, especially if you have a finish like last year’s [between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Castroneves].
“It’s been a wild month on the track already,” he adds, referring to a series of crashes during qualifying runs. “We want to make sure we can cover anything that comes up. It’s about keeping an open mind so that we don’t miss anything significant along the way.”