NASCAR Makes Moves Into 360° Video With Plans To Push 4K This Season

With BSI transmitting signal off the camera, NASCAR also looks to enhance the in-car–audio experience for second-screen viewers

With an offseason so short (less than three months), it can be tough for Tim Clark, VP, digital, NASCAR, and his team to get some real long-term planning in. When they are able to, however, they make it count by setting ambitious priorities that keep the racing organization on the cutting edge of video-production and digital technology.

Among NASCAR tech enhancements this season is deployment of 360-degree cameras at various locations around the track.

This winter has been dedicated largely to increasing investment in immersive video experiences, putting tech like 360-degree cameras and augmented reality in the spotlight. NASCAR’s digital outfit started the 2019 campaign with a bang at the Daytona 500 just over a week ago, placing 360-degree cameras around the track at important locations (such as the start/finish line and pit row) in addition to inside the 43 car of Bubba Wallace.

“There’s not a lot of sports in the 360 world where you can put a camera where you actually care about what is in front of you, beside you, and behind you,” says Steve Stum, VP, operations and technical production, NASCAR. “In basketball or football, you can look only at the field. Racing gives you an opportunity to see inside of a car and what’s going on behind it, outside the windows, wherever.”

WATCH: Examples of NASCAR’s 360-Degree Cameras in Action at Daytona 500

According to Clark, the plan to further expand the availability of NASCAR’s 360-degree viewing experiences. After a year of solid testing and even some fan-facing activations on Twitter, the various 360-degree live streams are now included as an added feature within the NASCAR Drive product, the organization’s robust second-screen–streaming experience, which is designed to complement the live broadcast.

“360 is something that we can do at scale,” says Clark, “and was also something that could have a broader reach from an audience perspective. It was certainly a unique opportunity for us.”

Signals from the 360-degree cameras are transmitted live via BSI (Broadcast Sports International), and, at NASCAR, the image quality was at 1080p. Stum says that, although that experience in itself is interesting, his team is working to add the bandwidth and hardware necessary to transmit a 4K-quality stream from the in-car 360 camera. The hope is to accomplish that by late spring or early summer.

There’a also work being done to add special audio sensors that will help viewers hear what it’s like inside a car with more accuracy than ever.

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