Fox Sports Teases New Virtual Studio for 2019 NASCAR Season
The Charlotte facility will be powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine
Fox Sports is revamping its Charlotte studio in anticipation of the 2019 NASCAR season, outfitting its facility with a state-of-the-art, multipurpose virtual studio set. The ultra-customizable 60- x 60-ft. facility, which is using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, allows instant 3D analysis of racetracks, cars, race shops, and more, with the ability to create unique and changeable spaces within a studio environment in a matter of hours.
The new set will debut in February as home to NASCAR Race Hub, NASCAR RaceDay, and other NASCAR programming.
“Innovation and ‘what’s next’ thinking have defined the Fox Sports approach from Day 1,” says Mark Silverman, president, national networks, Fox Sports. “Working with industry leaders and integrating cutting-edge technology have produced one of the most advanced studios in sports. We are extremely excited to show it off early next year as we get viewers ready for the 2019 Daytona 500 on Fox.”
Unreal Engine Is at the Core of Virtual Studio
The virtual set features graphic elements powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, the technology behind the popular online videogame Fortnite. The Unreal Engine suite of tools empowers creators to bring real-time, high-fidelity experiences to PC, console, mobile, augmented-reality (AR), and virtual-reality (VR) platforms.
“Unreal Engine gives new meaning to photorealism for real-time renderers,” says Zac Fields, SVP, graphic tech and integration, Fox Sports. “Being able to blend AR and 3D graphics better than ever before offers us the ability to deliver a seamless transition from the virtual set into the 3D world.”
The virtual set can transform into remote locations, bringing the location to the Fox Sports studio instead of taking the studio to the location. Fox Sports will integrate its own custom production workflows, allowing content to be instantaneously populated/changed within the virtual set .
A Look at the Gear: Stype Cameras, Zero Density Software
The studio features five Stype Red Spy encoded cameras, including one Steadicam and a jib.
In addition, the facility is equipped with Zero Density studio software, including the most advanced keying features possible on a virtual set. The keying will make use of a 50- x 47-ft. green-screen area, while maintaining the ability to shoot 360 degrees.
3D tracking technology from Blacktrax is used to automatically trigger events on the set. Whether it’s automated lighting following an analyst on set or AR activated by an analyst, this technology opens the door for unique storytelling opportunities.
Fox will also deploy real-time AR using a combination of set elements and 3D graphics (for example, raising a race car through the floor or changing the content that texturizes the set).