BSI Ups Ante to Four In-Car Cameras for IndyCar Racing
As a rule, four is always better than one — regardless of the item in question. But this rule is especially true in the case of in-car cameras for car racing on television. Although Broadcast Sports Inc. (BSI) has been outfitting IndyCar Series cars with a single RF HD on-board camera for several years, this Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, FL, on ABC will mark the debut of a four-camera setup never before seen in IndyCar racing.
The key to this four-camera model is a new chassis from car manufacturer Dallara that allows BSI to seamlessly integrate the existing roll-hoop camera and three new cameras into the body design and electrical system of the car.
“This is the first time that the sanctioning bodies, chassis manufacturer, and the on-board supplier all got involved, and we were able to push it in the same direction to make this happen,” says BSI GM Peter Larsson. “Every time they have come out with a new chassis, we make a little headway, but this is the first time that everyone has truly embraced what we are trying to do here. Once we got the support of the sanctioning body and the manufacturers, we were able to achieve so much more.”
Four Cameras, Six Cars
In addition to the previously established 360-degree roll-hoop camera, BSI will deploy cameras in the rear wing (for a panoramic forward-facing shot), in the right-side radiator duct facing the front tire and suspension (for side views of the racing action), and on the rearview mirror (to capture the driver steering and shifting).
Six cars will be outfitted with the four-camera system this weekend, and plans are to increase that number to 12 for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indy 500, in May. Cars without cameras will carry dummy units to ensure consistent weighting for all cars.
“The sheer number of cameras capturing views from the track will be incredible,” says Doug Parr, project manager/engineer in charge for IndyCar, BSI. “With four cameras per racecar, we will have 48 on-board views at Indy. Until now, the most on-board cameras at Indy was 16. Even on a regular race day, we will have 24 cameras.”
All four cameras will be subswitched into a single RF transmitter on the car, rather than each camera’s being transmitted individually. In addition, all four will be run from the car’s auxiliary electric system rather than on the battery-based system previously used. Using the Cosworth auxiliary power supply eliminates the use of a battery to power BSI’s equipment, saving space and weight in the car.
A Four-tunate Chassis
The redesigned chassis features four built-in hard points that allow BSI to easily attach the camera securely to the car. As a result, the size of BSI’s on-site crew and the amount of set-up time for each race will stay essentially the same.
“With Dallara really willing to embrace the concept and build hard points into all the chassis, it’s been a lot easier,” says Larsson. “With the hard points, we don’t have to go drill holes [for every camera], and the cables are already laid into the chassis. Everything is already there, so it is just a matter of basically bolting it into place. So the time to put these four in doesn’t take much longer than a single camera in [the old setup].”
A Quartet of Camera Angles
The new rear-wing shot, which has never been used before in IndyCar racing, will offer a high, wide view of the racing action around the car.
The camera in the right-side radiator air-inlet area is only a few inches off the ground and will convey the tremendous speed of the car. The shot will also provide a close-up view of the tire changes and suspension adjustments during pit stops.
BSI’s rearview-mirror camera will provide a detailed front view of the driver in action as never captured before.
“We originally wanted to put it on the front of the car, but there just wasn’t enough real estate,” says Larsson. “Now, [with this position] you will be able to see the driver’s eyes and the intensity of concentration, as well as him steering and shifting.”
The roll-hoop–camera position has also been improved. Dallara and BSI worked to further reinforce this area to cut down on vibration and also made the roll bar slightly taller to allow a better rear view.
A True Joint Effort
While BSI played a key role in both the development of the new chassis and the four-camera system, Larsson is quick to credit IndyCar and Dallara for bringing this innovative effort to fruition.
“The people from IndyCar and [Dallara] really went out of their way to help push this through,” says Larsson. “The manufacturers’ sole goal is to make a really, really fast car, and then we come along asking them for all this stuff. But they were extremely helpful and flexible throughout this whole process.”
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday March 25 on ABC.