Live From Daytona 500: Game Creek Video Readies Encore Mobile Unit for NASCAR on Fox Season Opener
Cleatus, the usual truck for the race, stayed in L.A. after the Busch Light Clash
It’s a fresh start to the NASCAR on Fox season, and to accommodate the network’s push toward 1080p HDR, Game Creek Video is calling an audible for this Sunday’s Daytona 500. With Cleatus — the normal mobile unit assigned to racing’s biggest race — sidelined in Los Angeles after being upgraded, Fox Sports will be relying on the services and technologies of the company’s Encore truck.
“We’ve done a truck swap over the last few years at the end of the NASCAR on Fox season, so Encore filled in and did the last couple of events last year on Fox,” says Alex Harmon, engineering manager, Game Creek Video. “We had a baseline foundation, but, as gear changes every year, we pretty much had to rebuild this truck from the ground up.”
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Beginning with the Clash at the Coliseum two weeks ago, Game Creek Video has been hard at work with Fox Sports to improve the workflows of the broadcaster’s main mobile unit. Stationed in Los Angeles since the conclusion of the preseason race, Cleatus will be back on the circuit when Fox Sports returns to the West Coast for next week’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. In the meantime, the truck’s tech is being spiced up to handle an entire slate of 1080p HDR shows throughout the year. As for the upcoming race in Daytona, Encore is serving as a buffer between the Clash and next week’s contest.
“We have over 120 paths of SDR-to-HDR and HDR-to-SDR conversion that we’re using,” says Harmon. “It’s a big build-out for a one-off event, but it shows how much Game Creek and Fox are committed to NASCAR and doing this race the right way.”
Encore has packed on the mileage over the past month. After supporting 1080p HDR shows for Thursday Night Football and Fox Sports’ top-flight NFL games on Sunday, the mobile unit made the trip to Los Angeles for the NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 30.
Luckily, the professional-sports schedule provided ample time for Encore to travel more than 2,500 miles from Los Angeles to eastern Florida and set up the infrastructure in time for the Daytona 500. Encore’s A, B, and C unit will host a bunch of responsibilities: the front bench, replay, and graphics for the broadcast as well as the onsite studio show. These operations will include camera feeds from 16 Sony HDC-P31 robos, 10 Sony HDC-4300s, three Sony HDC-5500 RFs, two Sony HDC-4800s in 4K at 16X, and two Sony HDC-5500 at 6X as well as 12 EVS relay servers. These cameras are all equipped with Canon BCTV lenses, including the new UJ111x8.3 field production lens. Similar to the Clash, the Daytona 500 will receive additional spacing from other Game Creek Video mobile units.
“Bringing out Edit 4 and Robo 1 for more space has been super helpful,” says Harmon. “The biggest challenge will be rebuilding Cleatus to a certain extent since we brought a lot of equipment from the Clash to Daytona.”
Game Creek Video was part of one of the last normal events before the COVID-19 pandemic. At the 2020 Daytona 500, stringent health and safety restrictions weren’t yet prevalent, and, by the time last year’s edition came along, a sense of normalcy had returned to the U.S. Despite this gradual return to what was commonplace before March 2020, Encore will be handling numerous remote workflows, including 22 total transmission paths from Fox Sports’ Los Angeles-based Pico facility; its studio in Charlotte, NC; or the television compound in Daytona.
“Last year was a full- on production,” says Harmon. “The scale [for this year] is the same, if not a tiny bit bigger, but the big change is having all of the fans here.”
Aside from the Clash, Sunday’s race will be Fox Sports’ first major sports event of what promise to be a wild 365 days. Remote workflows are still a part of the broadcast formula, but, after this weekend, it’ll be an excited and complex time for the mobile-services provider.
“[Truck assignments] are going to be a bit of an issue next year with Fox having Super Bowl LVII,” Harmon says. “It’s going to take some creative thinking to make [this schedule] happen.”