A Record 110 Cameras Will Capture ABC/ESPN’s Last Ride at the Indianapolis 500
More in-car cams and super-slo-mo will be deployed
The Indianapolis 500 is always one of the biggest and most elaborate productions on the sports calendar, but the 2018 edition may be even more so. With ABC’s string of 54 consecutive Indy 500s ending this year — NBC Sports Group will take up the mantle in 2019, after inking a three-year media-rights deal with IndyCar that includes the iconic race — ABC and ESPN plan to go out with a bang.
“We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, and IndyCar, and it has been our distinct honor to be partners for so many years,” said Burke Magnus, EVP, programming and scheduling, ESPN, in a statement when the deal was announced on March 21. “We look forward to the rest of our events this season and wish them all the best in the future.”
This Sunday, ESPN will cover the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a record-breaking 110 cameras for the 102nd running of the Indy 500. The increase over last year’s 96 cameras is due in part to the new IndyCar body, which includes a fourth in-car camera position (last year’s cars could be equipped with three cameras). A total of 14 cars will each carry four in-car cameras powered by Broadcast Sports International (BSI); two of the cars — Graham Rahal and defending champion Takuma Sato — will swap one in-car camera for a Visor Cam mounted on the driver’s helmet. Racing fans will have the option of live-streaming any of the in-car cameras through ESPN App.
In addition, ESPN will add BSI-powered RF cameras on two parachutists who will fly in prior to the race, and an “over the wall” RF helmet cam will be worn by Blair Julian, the left-front-tire changer on racer Scott Dixon’s team. The helmet cam, also provided by BSI, is another Indy 500 first and will give fans an up-close look at what happens during a pit stop.
The network is upping its super-slo-mo capabilities as well, placing a Sony HDC-4300 camera operating in 6X slo-mo in each of the track’s four turns.
“In the past, we hadn’t covered all four corners; Turn 1 was a robotic low on the wall, and [super-slo-mos] were high up in the normal hard-camera perches, side by side with other cameras,” explains Dennis Cleary, associate director, remote operations, ESPN. “This time around, we opted to have our normal four cover cameras in the corner be the super-slo-mos, and we’ll cover the race normally with those, [as well as] get super-slo-mo coverage out of them.”
Nine mobile units and four uplink trucks will be onsite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including NEP’s ND7 as the primary production unit and IMS Productions’ HD5 for support, with a total of 16 EVS machines and 123 channels of record and playback. Approximately 170,000 ft. of fiber-optic cable will be laid for the production, and 17 satellite paths will transmit the telecast to ABC.
The roar of the race will be captured by 210 microphones placed throughout Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“We pride ourselves on the audio side of our racing coverage, especially in this event,” notes Cleary. “Our audio team, we feel, is some of the best in the business, and we plan to make that same effort again this year.”
Every aspect of the production will be handled onsite by 150 technical-crew members. Inside ND7, the production team will be led by Senior Coordinating Producer Amy Rosenfeld and Coordinating Producer Kate Jackson, with Jim Gaiero producing and Bruce Watson directing. The prerace show will be produced by Jackson, with Chip Dean directing.
Coverage of the Indianapolis 500 begins Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET, with the checkered flag set to wave at 12:19 p.m. In addition to the linear broadcast on ABC, ESPN will stream the race live on the ESPN App and distribute it to more than 170 countries around the world via its global networks and syndication. U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world will be able to watch this Memorial Day Weekend tradition live, thanks to a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.