Improved replay capabilities, new Hawkeye, and additional cameras are marking coverage this season.
When the NBC Sports NASCAR production team hit the road for the 2020 season, the COVID-19 pandemic forced some big changes. The crew was split in two, some on the track and the rest working for NBC Peacock, which was located at Charlotte Motor Speedway and served as a hub for the entire 15-week season. This year the team is working as one again and is on hand for every event.
“The talent is excited, the production is excited and the team is super excited with the last few weeks of racing and the fans on TV,” said Michelle Baker, Production Manager, NBC Sports. “[Having] two compounds was difficult, and everyone comes back together very well. There is a lot of energy and positivity.
Game Creek Video’s Peacock is once again the production unit of choice for the NASCAR season. Designed as a racing truck, it includes Peacock A and B, an assembly truck (providing additional space), and a truck for robotic cameras.
“This consistency helps us”, notes Eric Thomas, Technical Director, NBC Sports. “It would be very difficult to change on a weekly basis.”
According to Matt Hogencamp, Technical Director of NBC Sports, the biggest improvement is that Peacock’s replay capability has been upgraded, with EVS VIA servers replacing EVS XT3 servers (Dominic Torchia, Director, Remote Engineering and Technology, NBC Sports, led this effort with Game Creek) and feature-rich, higher bandwidth Arista 7050X3 Ethernet switches that adapt to the new EVS environment. A new Hawkeye system is also in place for on-board camera needs.
“We started this season with a whole new replay system with new controllers,” says Hogencamp. “It has helped streamline some of our workflows. And, with Hawkeye, we have a new system for our cars that is lighter, smaller and [features] new technology more suited to what we are trying to do with our on-board cameras.
As for the cameras, the Bat Cam wired camera, which can reach speeds of up to 100mph, will be used several times throughout the season, but drones, at this point, are not part of the mix. In addition, BSI is playing a big role with RF technology: NBC Sports has increased their POV style cameras, including a grass camera which provided a new look and new angles of coverage.
This summer will be incredibly busy for the NBC Sports team. Besides NASCAR, there is the Open Championship from July 15-18 and, starting July 23, the Tokyo Olympics, which will involve part of the NASCAR team.
“Some of our engineers and our production will go to the Olympics,” says Baker. “It’s an opportunity for them not only to go, but also to work on a different event. It’s great for everyone.