SBJ/February 26 - March 4, 2007/This Weeks News

NASCAR boasts new Olympic-size TV hub

There were times when Steve Stum from NASCAR Images was surrounded by more than $20 million in the latest high-tech video and audio equipment at Daytona, and yet he was one drained battery from being crippled.

NASCAR Images now coordinates the compound,
which covered an acre at Daytona.

“In a place this size, if your radio doesn’t hold the charge, that’s your biggest headache,” said Stum, director of field operations for NASCAR Images, the Charlotte-based production company that coordinated the television compound at the Daytona 500.

Stum sat in the nerve center of the massive compound, overseeing an operation that included 17 production haulers and numerous support trucks on about an acre outside Turn 1 at Daytona International Speedway. The compound held just eight haulers a year ago.

More than 110,000 feet of fiber-optic cable transmitted the feed from inside the speedway through NASCAR Images’ new shared-resources truck — like a giant router — to the many networks that were broadcasting, from Fox and ESPN to Speed and DirecTV.

The same feed is distributed to each network, which then uses its on-screen devices to give it its own distinctive look.

“A Super Bowl compound would have about seven main production trucks; we have 17,” Stum said. “This is more on the scale of an Olympics. With the Olympics, they have months to set it up. When we move everything to California [for NASCAR’s second weekend of racing], we’ll have two days.”

It’s all the things TV viewers never see that are the lifeblood of a compound this big.

This area served as the office for about 600 people for two weeks, and all of those workers needed a place to park their cars, eat and go to the rest room. Because the compound was a good 10-minute ride in a golf cart from the infield media center, about 150 golf carts were issued.

“Nobody sees all of the infrastructure required for this many people,” said Jerry Steinberg, Fox’s vice president of field operations. “It’s a city.”

In the past, the Nextel Cup broadcaster coordinated the compound and distributed the feed to other networks. But with the new eight-year TV deal, which went into effect at Daytona, NASCAR Images has taken over the coordinating role.

The broadcaster still has control of the cameramen. When Fox is broadcasting the Cup race, Fox’s director is in the ear of the cameraman. During the Busch race, ESPN’s director gives the orders.

“It just enables us to control the feed and control the access to it,” especially now that the TV compound has grown so significantly, Stum said.

Steinberg said the switch was seamless at Daytona.

“With all of the networks that were there, we’ve never before had this kind of multicompany integration,” Steinberg said. “The way everybody worked together was the amazing part. I haven’t been a part of anything this big, and we’re getting ready to do this every week.”

A year ago, NBC televised the Daytona 500, TNT had the Busch race and Speed carried the Craftsman Truck race. This year, in addition to Fox and Speed trucks, ESPN brought in six haulers to handle their Busch race, qualifying coverage and daily “NASCAR Now” shows.

Another hauler housed DirecTV’s production crew for its “HotPass” broadcast. More trucks were needed for Nextel Vision and FanView, Kangaroo TV, Broadcast Sports HD, SportVision (telemetry, GPS) and the international broadcasts.

Sirius Satellite Radio also needed a feed for its channels that carry driver-to-crew audio.

“It’s similar to an Olympics because a lot of different people need to be served,” Stum said. “Then once they get the feed from the track, each broadcaster can make it his own.”

NASCAR Images had access to the feed in the past, but the new shared-resources truck (SRT) has allowed Images, NASCAR’s version of NFL Films, to explore new content licensing opportunities. In one corner of the SRT, equipment captures the race’s video and audio feed, which will be used to produce keepsake DVDs from each race.

Images is partnering with Team 19 Marketing, whose CEO is former NFL receiver Lance Alworth, to create an interactive DVD that will allow the viewer to watch the TV broadcast or select a car to follow throughout a race, including driver communication and multiple in-car cameras. Images also will contribute behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from that race.

A DVD will be made for each race using Duplitech’s on-demand technology and Team 19’s marketing and distribution. The DVDs, about an hour in length, will be sold on a yet-to-be-created Web site and at-track.

Once the Daytona 500 finished, workers spent eight hours breaking down the compound. About 4 a.m. the morning after the race, a convoy of trucks headed west for the 48-hour trip to Fontana, Calif., for the next event. And in many respects, the real challenge began there.

Instead of having weeks to figure out the setup, as it did for Daytona, NASCAR Images and its many constituents had two days to be up and running at California Speedway.

“That’s the one that worries me,” said Rick Abbott, ESPN’s vice president of remote operations.

But sure enough, as the sun rose over the hills of Southern California, the compound began to take shape last Wednesday. About an acre just outside California Speedway came to life with the hum of golf carts and the thump of cable hitting the ground.

And a mini-city grew from nothing.

By The Numbers: NASCAR’s TV compound at Daytona

20 million Value in dollars of the haulers in the compound
110,000 Feet of fiber-optic cable
600 Population inside the compound
300 Parking spaces required around the perimeter of the compound for personnel
150 Golf carts distributed to compound personnel
40 Cameras around the track and in the pits
17 Production haulers in the compound
15 Porta-Johns in the compound
12 Days it took to set up the compound
8 Hours it took to take it down
Sources: NASCAR Images, SportsBusiness Journal

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