Live From Daytona 500: Fox Sports Set To Take Fox Sports GO to New Heights With Car Channels
Two dedicated Car Channels available to live stream during Sunday’s race
The Super Bowl of motorsport, the Daytona 500, shifts into high gear on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET when Fox Sports begins its 17th season covering the sport. Among returning technology favorites is Gophercam (for its ninth season), and there are also some new elements, including two dedicated Car Channels on the Fox Sports GO app, a “playbook” for the 3D-cutaway car that will help NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds get analysis on-air more quickly, more high-speed cameras (two high-frame-rate 4K Sony HDC-4800 cameras for super zoom, four super-slo-mo HD units, and two Inertia Unlimited X-Mo cameras), and eight in-car camera packages.
“Daytona is the first race, and we want to put resources into it to begin with,” says Mike Davies, SVP, technical and field operations, Fox Sports. “It’s helpful that we are here for two weeks as we can test things and see what sticks for the season.”
Overall, Fox will put 20 manned cameras to use along with the previously mentioned in-track, in-car, and high-speed cameras. Also on hand will be 10 robotic cameras mounted around the track, three robotic cameras at the Hollywood Hotel studio set, a jib camera with augmented reality, four RF roving pit/garage cameras, two in-car gyro-cams, and more than 150 microphones.
“At the Super Bowl, the super-slow-motion and high-resolution cameras were important. With NASCAR, it is doubly important to catch everything,” notes Davies. “We are always hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and get something, and, with a day race, we get a lot of light for those shots.”
The two Car Channels that will be delivered via the Fox Sports GO app are another example of innovation for the big race. Fox Sports is creating two Car Channels for each of the races this weekend, and each channel will focus on one driver. NASCAR fans who tune into the Car Channels will see a screen divided into segments that include a program feed of the broadcast (plus commentary and team communications), one that always shows the leader, another with telemetry data related to the driver, and yet another window to cut to shots of the driver who is the subject of the channel.
According to Zac Fields, SVP, graphics technology and integration, Fox Sports, the Car Channels require a Vizrt system with two outputs, some proprietary software from Fox, an AJA Kumo routing switcher, and two Marshall cameras in the pit positions of the drivers.
“The whole thing is automated,” he says. Output from the compound is encoded and sent to BAMTech for delivery.
Fields and his team also worked closely with McReynolds on revamping the cut-away car.
“He worked with our team and added so many new functions and animations, like aerodynamic animations,” says Fields. “He also now has his own telestrator in the booth as opposed to having it in the Hollywood Hotel studio. It’s really cool to see because he moved into the analyst role last year, and, once he figured out what he wanted, he helped make it and own it.”
The Car Channels team will be operating out of Game Creek’s Edit 2 production unit. Game Creek’s FX unit will be the core of the race coverage, and this year marks the 11th time it has been at the center of the Daytona 500.
“This truck is performing just as well as it always has,” says Davies. “It takes an awful lot of preparation with all of the elements, and the setup here has been very smooth. It’s a testament to how the truck was built.”
The Fox Sports presence extends outside of Daytona: two RF cameras are also fed to Charlotte, NC, for a lot of the shoulder programming. “Those cameras bypass the truck and go straight to Charlotte,” says Davies.
He adds that a lot of the work done at Daytona, such as the Car Channels this year, often proves to become something that can be used in other sports.
“You can envision that being used for a custom team or player channel that could be used by anybody,” he says. “And, at an absolute minimum, it shows us new ways to leverage technology to automate processes. So that is exciting.”