Indy 500 Returns: IMS Productions Ready for Unique Race Day

The 104th running of the Indy 500 will be unlike anything before

For the second year in a row IMS Productions is at the center of the Indy 500 which will be held this Sunday at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Needless to say, it will have a very different feel from any of the races in the 104 years the race has been run, an event known as much for the spectacle and hundreds of thousands of fans as it is for the racing drama.

The broadcast compound at the Indy 500 will be spread out to allow for improved social distancing.

“We have the greatest race in the world and there won’t be any fans,” says IMS Productions President Kevin Sublette. “And I think that puts even more pressure on NBC and us to make sure we are performing well. There are normally 300,000 fans here but this year they will be watching from home and there won’t be a local blackout so local fans will be able to watch.”

IMS Productions is providing the production facilities for NBC Sports with HD-5 as the main truck and HD-3, HD-4, and several office trailers on site to provide ample room for the nearly 200-person production team to work safely on race day.

“We also had to lay in 145,000 feet of Tac 12 fiber cable,” says Sublette. “This is a big show for us.”

HD-5 is a 55-foot trailer with gear that includes a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame HD switcher, a Calrec Apollo audio console, an Evertz EQX video router, an RTS Adam intercom system, and Image Video tally controller. It also has Panasonic monitors on the front bench, Marshall monitors on the rear bench, and Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony monitors in the video area.

“We have 65 Sony cameras to cover the race, six of which are Sony HDC-4300 for super slo-mo,” says Sublette. “There are also 14 on-board cameras from BSI, four RF handhelds from BSI, 10 robotic cameras that we own, and then eight POV robotics, three jib cameras, a Steadicam, and a Technocrane.”

The race coverage has not been scaled back as the only change to the size of the production related to the pre-race show which was cut from three hours to 90 minutes. That, along with the lack of hundreds of thousands of fans descending on the track on race day, will allow for the production team to show up closer to 6 am, which is when the gates used to open, instead of 4 am.

“We won’t need police escorts this year,” adds Sublette.

With close to 800 people (broadcast crew, teams, officials, venue personnel) expected to be at the track on race day there are plenty of safety protocols in place to prevent COVID-19 issues. The compound has been spread out as much as possible, there are additional restrooms and wash stations, and host positions for NBC’s Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick will be outside.

“We’ve really pushed operations hard to follow guidelines and we have more sanitizing bottles than we know what to do with,” says Sublette.

The emphasis on social distancing had the biggest impact on the EVS replay team.

“We have 120 channels of EVS, so we have to spread those guys out,” explains Sublette. “The one department is spread over four locations so that was additional workload for our engineers, and we had to make sure the infrastructure was in place to let them do the job.”

When Roger Penske, owner of the Speedway as well as the IndyCar Series, purchased both earlier this year it fulfilled a life-long dream with the purchase, the team began a renovation process for the Speedway to make for a better fan experience.

IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske in front of the new video board that has been installed on the Pagoda at the track.

In a statement to race fans yesterday he laid out the vision” “When fans return in 2021, you will see many of the improvements we’ve made, including more than 30 new LED video boards, 5G connectivity and refreshed concession stands and restrooms. The winning driver and car are now lifted atop Victory Podium, allowing more fans to see the iconic post-race celebration. More improvements, all focused on our fans, are on the way.”

Topping the list of things Indy 500 race fans will have to wait until next year to experience is the 104×20-foot Pagoda Plaza Media Board which has been installed on the iconic Pagoda (it can be divided into four sections) and is among 47 types of screens that are across the Speedway.

“Ross Video gear and SMT is in the control room and can control all of them,” says Sublette. “We’re very hopeful to have the fans back next year and they will a huge difference.”

Sublette says Penske is really focused on the team performing at a high level on Sunday. There won’t be fans but there will be many of the iconic traditions that make the Indy 500 so special. And when the PA system is fired up and the announcer’s voice booms across the track it will provide a much-needed presence and sense of normalcy.

“Last year was the first year we provided all of the facilities and we’re proud that a small company can provide facilities for the largest race in the world,” adds Sublette.

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