Fox Sports Builds on Super Bowl Momentum for Daytona 500

Many of the production personnel who spent a week digging out of snow prior to the Super Bowl 10 days ago traveled directly from Dallas to Daytona, FL, to prepare for this weekend’s Daytona 500. Where lesser crews would have been fatigued by the non-stop schedule, the Fox Sports team is rolling into this weekend’s broadcast with a full head of steam.

“We have a lot of energy coming into Daytona from the Super Bowl,” says Michael Davies, VP of technical operations for Fox Sports. “The weather is a whole lot better, so that has re-energized everybody. After what we’ve gone through in Chicago and Dallas, this has been amazing.”

The Fox Sports production team also brought the same army of trucks from Dallas to Daytona, driving Game Creek’s Fox A, B, C, and D units directly from Cowboys Stadium to the Daytona International Speedway.

“The way the Game Creek engineers and our department laid things out, it really snapped together extremely quickly for our first show,” Davies says.

Same Crew, Different Show
Although the mobile-production trucks and crew may be nearly identical from the Super Bowl to the Daytona 500, the two shows are vastly different.

“On a football game, there are far more traditional hard cameras and handhelds, whereas, in NASCAR [coverage], you rely on your robotic cameras,” Davies says. “NASCAR relies not only on your normal coverage cameras to tell you what’s going on in the race but also on your robotics and specialty cameras, like Gopher Cam and in-car cameras, to really put you on the race track.”

New and Improved
Fox Sports has developed a precise formula for covering speedway events like the Daytona 500, but a few new elements will be added to this year’s production. Two Inertia Unlimited X-Mo high-speed camera systems will be used for this weekend’s coverage, set up in two specific locations.

“In the past, when we’ve used X-Mos, we’ve sort of thrown them up there to see what we get,” Davies says. “Now we’ve got specific assignments. We’ve got one coming off of turn four right into pit-in, so we’re hoping to see a lot of the action coming off of that turn and some of the stuff that happens as drivers make the decision as to whether to pit or not. We’ve got another one inside turn two to see the action along that way.”

The X-Mo systems will run between 360 and 500 frames per second, depending on what looks best at the track.

Also new for 2011 will be the location of the pre-race show. Instead of using the network’s “Hollywood Hotel” for the entire pre-race show, portions of the show will be moved into the pit area, “so we can open the show outside, right in the middle of everything,” Davies says. Northern Lights Productions’ Z Stage studio setup, which Fox used for both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl, will also be featured in Daytona.

An IT Dream Team
One reason Fox is able to move so efficiently from one blockbuster event to the next is its remote IT infrastructure, which allows the entire remote team to work as efficiently as if they were sitting on the Fox lot in Los Angeles.

“Some of the unsung heroes of these events are the people who come in and conjure up the IT infrastructure as well as all of our phones,” Davies explains. “One of the things that gets re-created at every race is an IT infrastructure that almost duplicates what we have in the office. We’re dialing out on five-digit Fox extensions and using our own [virtual private network], which makes it feel like we’re sitting in our regular office.”

Fox’s remote IT staff consists of two people who arrive on-site with the rest of the crew and have the IT infrastructure up and running in about a day. Almost all of Fox’s phones are IP phones based in Los Angeles, so it is imperative that communications be set up quickly.

“I’m consistently impressed at how well those guys do, as well as manage any bandwidth anomalies that might happen along the way,” Davies says. “In the whole compound, I only have five copper lines. Everything else, all 40 or 50 other lines, they have to deploy out of our system. It’s something that we’ve been moving to.”

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