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FOX Sports Resurrects Gyrocam; Rolls Out Live Drone, Fingerworks Telestrator, Hawkeye 4K Extraction

FOX Sports Resurrects Gyrocam; Rolls Out Live Drone, Fingerworks Telestrator, Hawkeye 4K Extraction

Despite heavy rain in Sunday’s forecast, the broadcaster is ready to roll at Daytona

Coming off an unprecedented Clash at the Coliseum, FOX Sports looks to be headed for another wet and wild adventure this weekend when it officially kicks off the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway. But regardless of what day the Great American Race takes place, one thing is for sure: this year’s Daytona 500 broadcast will have no shortage of cutting-edge production technology.

After nearly a decade, Fox Sports has brought the Gyrocam back to Daytona this week.

“Some years at Daytona are massive innovation years, and some are refinement years,” says Mike Davies, EVP, field and technical management and operations, Fox Sports. “I think this is a refinement year. That said, we have a lot of very cool new and returning [technology] that we’re excited about. Starting [the season] with the biggest show of the year is always hard because everything needs to be ready for primetime by that first event. But it’s also exciting because we get to see all these new tools in action right away.”

Among the key tech toys on hand for the 1080p HDR production at Daytona will be the in-car GyroCam from BSI, an enhanced 3D telestrator from Fingerworks, live drones from Beverly Hills Aerials, and Sony Hawkeye extraction capabilities from an HDC-5500 4K camera.

FOX’s assortment of cameras distributed throughout the track include a large complement of Sony HDC-4300, -4800, and -5500 broadcast cameras, a bevy of Fletcher robotics (mostly outfitted with Sony HDC-P31 camera heads), and several speciality cameras.

The Prodigal Camera Returns: Gyrocam Is Back in Action for FOX

Most notable is the return of the Gyrocam, a gyro-stabilized, in-car robotic camera mounted in the center of the cockpit. The BSI system rotates as cars enter Daytona International Speedway’s extreme 31-degree banked turns, keeping its view level with the horizon at all times. The resulting look demonstrates to viewers just how dramatic Daytona’s turn angles are at race speed. This marks the first appearance of the Gyrocam in a Daytona broadcast since 2015.

The Gyrocam is an in-car robotic camera mounted in the center of the cockpit.

“The car they use today is a little different from the old car that we used to have [the Gyrocam] in,” says Matt Battaglia, director, remote engineering, FOX Sports, “but BSI was able to design a mount that is perfect for it. As you’re going around these awesome banks at Daytona, it will keep that horizon level to give viewers at home that feeling of just how sideways these deep corners are. If you’ve ever been here and tried to walk up those banks, you can’t even walk up those banks [because they’re so steep].”

‘A Game-Changer’: Revving Up Telestration, Virtual Graphics

“We’re also doing a lot with 3D Telestration that we’ve been doing on football,” Battaglia adds. “We’re applying it to NASCAR and looking at the product ahead of time. It’s going to be a game-changer. Just being able for our talent to track the cars with our new talent, I think, is going to be pretty cool for the viewer.”

Davies believes that one of the most important innovations this year will be the addition of the enhanced Fingerworks telestration system that has become popular on NFL and college-football coverage: “We’ve been working with Fingerworks and tasked them to do the same thing for NASCAR that they have done for football. While Telestration has never been a huge thing for NASCAR or car racing in general, we think that being able to highlight specific cars with that glow and give our announcers some tools to illustrate the point they are making is going to be extremely helpful. I think it’s going to be a game-changer and something the average fan is going to respond to.”

Enhanced optical car pointers will be among the virtual graphics deployed for race coverage.

FOX also continues to escalate its use of virtual graphics within the broadcast, including optical car pointers and AR elements. Besides delivering real-time data, up-to-the-second tracking and telemetry, and team analytics at Daytona, SMT is once again providing enhanced optical tracking pointers for FOX Sports’ aerial camera coverage. Telemetry data is also integrated directly into the FoxBox clock-and-score graphic, helping streamline the way information is presented to the viewer.

More than Just Beauty Shots: Live Drones Are Integral to Race Coverage

Coming off its historic effort at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas last week, Beverly Hills Aerials is providing a pair of live drones at Daytona. First is BHA’s custom high-speed FPV drone, dubbed “Spicy,” which was developed specifically to capture the eye-melting speed of NASCAR racing. In addition, BHA has deployed a gimbal drone outfitted with a Sony broadcast camera for the more stabilized shots. Both drones are delivering 4K video, which is converted to 1080p when it is sent to FOX Sports’ production truck.

Beverly Hills Aerials is on hand at Daytona to help provide live drone coverage for FOX Sports.

“What’s different about drones on NASCAR versus drones on regular stick-and-ball sports — with the notable exception of the UFL — is that we get to use them as a primary-coverage cameras,” says Davies. “They function as part of the coverage instead of [just for] beauty shots or wraparound [content]. And the shots they are able to capture not only are stunning but actually help [viewers understand] what’s going on in the race.”

FOX Sports Director Artie Kempner and Producer Chuck McDonald will also have a Sony 4K HDC-5500 on the roof platform with Hawkeye extraction capabilities, four wireless RF pit cams from BSI (including a Sony a7 mirrorless camera for shallow–depth-of-field shots), Sony HDC-4800 16X slo-mos on the front stretch and Turn 3, and both manned (MB Tower) and unmanned (Fletcher robo) cranes capturing aerial shots.

“This will be my 18th Daytona, and I’m still amazed by the sheer scale of this [production],” says Davies. “It seems almost impossible that something this big could be pulled off, but our amazing crew led by Matt Battaglia and [Field Technical Producer] George Grill and our tech managers find a way to get it done year in and year out.”

FOX Sports Director Artie Kempner (left) and Producer Chuck McDonald have a multitude of cameras at their disposal for the Daytona 500.

FOX’s NASCAR Ops Inside the Compound and Coast to Coast

Game Creek Video Cleatus A and B mobile units are back at the center of FOX’s NASCAR production. They are on hand in the compound alongside GCV Robo 1 and Edit 1 and NEP SRT3, a custom-built truck for NASCAR’s shared resources. CES has deployed two large generators to power the entire compound and provide redundancy. Other facilities in the compound include NASCAR Productions’ production truck, SMT’s mobile unit, the NASCAR PRO and Timing & Scoring trucks, a PSSI satellite uplink, and several office trailers.

Fox Sports Tech Managers (from left) Clyde Taylor, George Grill, Mark Alsmeyer, and Pete Chalverus

With the Clash taking place a day early and no Super Bowl to produce the weekend before, FOX was able to park its trucks onsite at Daytona with time to spare this year.

“The Clash is a bit of a gift for us because it gives us a dry run on a variety of levels,” says Davies. “The Clash allows us to get the plane built, down the runway, and off the ground, and then, by the time, we get to Daytona, we’re safely in the air and approaching cruising altitude.”

Of course, FOX’s weekly NASCAR productions go well beyond the presence onsite. In addition to the crew at Daytona, FOX Sports has team members located in The Vault at its Pico Blvd. facility in Los Angeles and at its NASCAR studios in Charlotte, NC, with editing in Florida and command and control out of NEP’s facility in Pittsburgh.

“It’s truly a coast-to-coast operation at this point,” says Davies. “It’s a lot smaller operation at the track than it used to be, but it’s a bigger show than ever overall. That’s because we’ve distributed that work across the country, and it has been extremely successful.”

Fox Sports operations-management team: Karin Fasing, Kellie Wagner, Savannah Brotherton, Stephen Rebout, Baltizar Nunez, Tim English, Natalia King, Emma Landis, Yesenio Osorio, Jaycee Cameron, and Ronnie O’Campo

Cloudy With a Chance of Racing

With inclement weather expected in Daytona tomorrow, the ARCA race planned for Saturday will air live tonight, beginning on FS2 following the conclusion of the Truck Series race. This is likely just the first domino to fall in what looks to be a rainy weekend in the Daytona area. However, weathering the storm is nothing new to FOX Sports’ operations and production-management teams.

“Sure would be nice to have a Daytona where you didn’t have to worry about rain,” says Davies. “But, when you’re dealing with Florida this time of year, it’s bound to be a factor. It certainly won’t be our first Daytona looking at these contingencies, but we always plan so that we are prepared for anything. I can’t stress enough how important our production-management team is in making that happen. They’re always up to the challenge.”

Whether the Daytona 500 is on Sunday or Monday in rain or shine, the veteran Fox Sports team is ready to go at Daytona International Speedway and is prepared for any speed bumps along the way.

“Some things are fun doing, and others are fun having done,” notes Davies. “With the exception of the weather sometimes, Daytona is always fun doing. There’s a smile on this broadcast that I think comes across [to viewers]. That’s because of the attitude of the people working on this show: everyone works as hard as possible to make a great show but never takes themselves too seriously. We couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

The article was first published here

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