Live From Daytona 500: SMT Rolls in New Truck for NASCAR Needs

Move to third-party graphics software improves operations

By the time SMT acquired Sportvision on Oct. 1, Fox Sports’ NASCAR Premier Series coverage had already come to an end. So this weekend marks the first time the “new” SMT is on hand for a Fox Sports NASCAR event, and it also just happens to be the biggest race of the year.

(standing, l-to-r) Paulus Weemaes and Phillip Cochran inside the main SMT production area in their truck at the Daytona 500.

Standing: SMT’s Paulus Weemaes (left) and Phillip Cochran inside the main SMT production area in their truck at the Daytona 500

“NASCAR has their biggest race of the year at the start, so we don’t get a whole season to test things out,” says Paulus Weemaes, director, motorsports, SMT. “But the event is spread out over two weeks, which gives us plenty of time to get ready.”

The SMT team is working out of a refurbished (and rebranded) production truck that houses the necessary equipment and a workplace for five operators and a three-person engineering team.

“This year, we are using third-party software for the graphics,” notes Weemaes. “We used a proprietary system until last year, and the move to a more commercial product has made it easier to change graphics. What used to take two weeks in the past can now be done in two days.”

A small onboard computer is mounted to the inside of the roof of the race cars.

A small onboard computer is mounted to the inside of the roof of each race car.

Key to the SMT operations is an onboard computer in each car that collects telemetry data: speed, throttle, brake, gears, rpm, etc. Five times a second, that information is sent to base stations around the track via antennae on the roof of the car. GPS data is also captured via satellite.

At the same time, SMT is capturing pan-tilt-zoom data from six cameras around the track. That PTZ information is key to adding in graphical pointers that can reference the data captured by each car’s onboard computer.

According to Phillip Cochran, technical production manager, motorsports operations, SMT, the company’s Communications Control Monitor pulls together information from the GPS, steering sensor, scoring information, and more. That data is then dispersed to various systems that turn it into on-air graphics.

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