Speed Sets Pace for NASCAR Season
The 2012 NASCAR season begins in earnest this weekend when Daytona International Speedway becomes the center of the racing world. And while ESPN and Fox Sports have the marquee events, it is Speed, the TV network dedicated to all things motorsport, that has been logging the most hours of airtime. The network has had a presence at the track since early January, when test days were held there, and also covered a 24-hour race held at the track at the end of January.
“The good thing is, we start out with those events so we can get the cable infrastructure started early,” says Bruce Shapiro, senior coordinating technical producer for Speed. “So the track cable is put in and left in. And that is an example of the tremendous amount of cooperation between NASCAR Media Group, Fox, ESPN, and us. Without that, we would all be lost, and the infrastructure support from NASCAR Media Group is important, just like it is from the NFL, NBA, or whatever other league you are working with.”
A crew of 75, the largest during the season because of the need for four stages rather than two, has been working hard to make sure the network is in midseason form for the largest race of the year.
“We have been on the air since last Thursday,” says Shapiro of efforts that have covered everything from media day to practice laps and programs live on-site, such as NASCAR Live and Race Hub.
Speed shares racetrack coverage with Fox Sports and ESPN but also has four of its own ENG crews roaming the track with Panasonic P2 and DVCPRO cameras. Apple Final Cut Pro editing systems are on-site for cranking out stories and features.
“The biggest whiz-bang thing for us this year is four Vizrt graphics engines,” adds Shapiro. “Last year, we had three, and this year, we added the fourth as social media becomes a big part of what we’re doing. We take in things like Twitter feeds that are related to the event, filter them, and put them on-air.”
The four stages this year are on the track midway and in the Fan Zone, a studio on the infield, and then the announce positions that are shared with Fox Sports. The production team operates in NEP SS29 A and B, and NEP ST31 is also on hand for graphics support. On-track productions are done out of the Game Creek Video Fox trucks.
“Fiber infrastructure on all of this is key, and the NASCAR Media Group is always one track ahead, working on the cabling,” says Shapiro. The Calrec Hydra audio-routing system is an example of the kind of tool Speed is putting to good use on the fiber ring. A Hydra box is located at each of the remote studio locations and connected via fiber to the production units. So all audio communications and microphones at the remote site are simply connected to that box rather than having to run separately back to the production compound.
And Speed, like Fox Sports and ESPN, as well as all the related NASCAR entities and vendors, is already beginning to think about the next race. Once the Daytona 500 ends on Sunday afternoon, the caravan of trucks begin the 2,200-mile trek to Phoenix, with the goal of being on-site by Wednesday. Speed also has a standalone race on April 14 in Rockingham, NC.
“The attitude among everyone is ‘let’s get it done,’” says Shapiro of a spirit that can infect everyone and anyone involved with NASCAR.