NBC Sports NASCAR Production To Call Charlotte Motor Speedway Home for Season
Game Creek Video’s Peacock will serve as hub for 15-week series
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been home to plenty of historic moments, and this week it will add two. For race fans, it will be the first time ever that the same track has hosted both the NASCAR Cup Series and the INDYCAR Series on the same weekend. For fans of technical innovation, it will be the first time a week-to-week show of the size and scale of NBC Sports’ NASCAR production will rely so heavily on distributed production, with the main production team located at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The efforts are the result of weeks of planning and coordination by NBC Sports, NASCAR, INDYCAR, Game Creek Video, and IMS Productions, according to Ken Goss, SVP, remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports.
“I’m very fortunate to manage a truly talented operational and engineering team across NBC motorsports,” he says. “They’ve really embraced and have risen to the challenge of navigating these unprecedented times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The team worked really hard to develop efficient workflows between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and I’m looking forward to getting NASCAR back on the air this weekend.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway will be at the center of NBC’s NASCAR coverage for the next 15 weeks. Game Creek Video’s Peacock A and B units will provide a production hub that will be connected to a Game Creek Video production unit that will be at the particular track each week.
“The location checked a lot of boxes for us,” explains Craig Bernstein, VP, remote technical operations, NBC Sports. “The track has enough compound space and bandwidth capacity to facilitate a remote production of this size. NASCAR Productions is based in Charlotte, and a lot of our production and technical personnel are local, which helps us with possible travel restrictions. It also frees up resources in Stamford needed to accommodate solutions we’re planning across our other sports.”
Dominic Torchia, manager, remote technical operations, NBC Sports, is at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the production team working out of Peacock A and B.
“It will be the production hub for all of our NASCAR races,” he says. “We’ll have a single Game Creek Video production unit travel to each race, which will act as an extension of our main MUs in Charlotte. The three trucks are connected, and all video and audio signals will pass between sites via AT&T circuits. Production will assemble the show just as if they’re onsite at the race venue.”
The front-bench production team, the A1 mixer, mix-effects mixer, tape release, graphics, and comms team will all be located in Charlotte, and the broadcast talent team will call the race from the broadcast booth there. Only cameras, effects mics, and transmission will be onsite at the track in Indianapolis.
“[The talent] will call the races off-monitor,” Torchia explains. “We will give them some additional feeds so they can feel as at home as possible. There are dual 10-Gbps circuits between the tracks that NASCAR manages for us [and] will get us all the signals we need.”
More than 40 video signals will be sent to Charlotte. The mix of wireless, regular, and super-slo-mo camera signals required the engineering team to figure out how to transmit that mix as efficiently as possible.
“The wireless signals from BSI are being brought back as data right from the cameras,” Torchia notes. “They won’t be broken down to baseband at the track.”
SMT, also in North Carolina, will have connectivity so that telemetry data from the cameras can be read for insertion of on-air graphics.
Torchia credits Game Creek Video SVP, Technology, Jason Taubman and his engineering team with embracing the new workflow and making it possible.
“They jumped right into this,” Torchia says. “We were in constant communication. This wasn’t easy to do without sitting in front of each other, but, when I went up to Game Creek last week, they had created exactly what we had talked about. I give them a ton of credit for pulling this off in a short amount of time.”
Bernstein says the team would typically have a week to set up operations. That week was reduced to two days.
“We arrived at what we feel is an elegant solution,” he adds, “but it was certainly not trivial getting here as far as the operational and engineering complexity goes — especially when you factor in the ever-changing landscape due to COVID.”
That short turnaround is one of the reasons having IMS Productions involved made such a big difference. Based at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IMS will provide the cameras and mics required to cover both the road course (which on Saturday will host both the INDYCAR race and the NASCAR Xfinity race) and the oval, which will host the NASCAR main event on Sunday.
Eric Thomas, senior technical manager for motorsports, NBC Sports, will be on the road each week, overseeing trackside operations. He says IMS Productions has been a very good partner: “They opened their arms and said, Tell us what you need. And they provided everything we needed to be here. I can’t say enough about IMS, Game Creek Video, and AT&T, which provides the circuits to Charlotte.”
The definition of crew safety has been transformed in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bernstein notes efforts to keep crew members safe: Game Creek Video cleans the trucks daily; NBC has provided crew members personal headsets to use for the season; foam mouthpieces on mics are changed out daily.
“Every production is a team sport, and a group of guys and women come together,” says Thomas who also gives a shoutout to Matt Hogencamp who is tech manager for the Charlotte side of the operations. “The talent and skill set depend on the lead techs, the TD, audio — everyone contributed to the plan to do NASCAR this way. And Dominic spearheaded the communication to make everyone feel comfortable, because they are used to walking into a truck and having everything at their fingertips.”