Fox Sports To Deploy High-Speed Rail Cam at NASCAR Coca-Cola 600
After successful test in Fontana in March, the Mega Trax MX 500 will provide race coverage in Charlotte
NASCAR viewers are in store for a brand-new perspective this Sunday. Fox Sports will deploy a Mega Trax MX 500 RF-controlled robotic rail cam during its Coca-Cola 600 race coverage at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The rail-cam deployment will follow a successful test in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.
“What we are looking for in a camera system like this is really about how we can make the cars look faster on TV,” says Michael Davies, SVP, field and technical operations, Fox Sports. “Many times, with traditional coverage cameras, you’re not really seeing the kind of amazing speed that you can see in person at a race. This will give us another dynamic look to show the speed of the cars.”
CLICK HERE for a look at rail-cam footage from Fontana.
Rather than use the Mega Trax MX500 for pit coverage, as it did at Auto Club Speedway, Fox will depend on the system for unique views of race coverage in Charlotte.
“We had great luck with the rail-cam test in Fontana earlier this year and now wanted to use it in a completely different way than we used there,” says Davies. “We are placing it in a location that could give us some really interesting views of actual race coverage.”
Fox Sports and Mega Trax will construct about 850 ft. of rail behind the inside wall on the backstretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The system will be focused on covering the cars as they exit Turn 2.
“We’ve been looking for another race to do this at, and, since the Coca-Cola 600 is one of our biggest races of the year, it made sense to do it here,” says Davies. “Because you have to generate the space for a fairly long [dolly] track, each racetrack is going to be different in terms of where you can put it. That is going to totally change how we use it here compared with Fontana, where we got mostly pit coverage. Here, we will be using it exclusively for race coverage at the exit of Turn 2. We are interested and excited to see how it turns out.”
With nearly silent operation, the MX 500 rail cam accelerates from 0 mph to 60 mph in about three seconds, topping out at speeds in excess of 90 mph. Although the system can function with a variety of camera heads, it will be outfitted with a Sony HDC-P43 camera this weekend.
“[Mega Trax] comes from the movie [industry], so they were looking at how they use their camera rigs for movies and trying to adapt that for motorsports,” notes Davies. “Whenever you take a technology that’s in one discipline — whether it’s industrial, military, or film — there is always a learning curve in terms of what you need to do to make it broadcast-friendly. Luckily, their platform is pretty friendly in terms of supporting a broadcast-camera mount, so we are able to use a P43 on that camera head, which we’re very comfortable with.”
BSI is also working with Fox Sports and Mega Trax to provide RF connectivity for both the camera and the control system.
Although Fox doesn’t yet have plans for further rail-cam deployments following the Coca-Cola 600, Davies says the team will continue to evaluate the system, and he sees its being used again on high-profile NASCAR races and, potentially, other Fox Sports properties.
The rail-cam deployment marks the latest chapter in the efforts of Fox Sports Lab, a designed approach to exploring technical partnerships that give viewers a fresh perspective and ad-sales teams more-targeted sports integrations.
“When we think about camera coverage of NASCAR, Fox Sports Lab is constantly on the lookout for unique platforms that can give our fans a brand-new perspective. The Mega Trax rail cam fits perfectly into our long history of NASCAR-coverage innovations, including Gopher Cam, Gyro Cam, and most recently, Visor Cam,” says Davies. “We hope this will add yet another reason to watch the most compelling race of the Memorial Day weekend.”