SMT amps up Fox Sports’ new graphics package with heart rate telemetry and real-time position tracking
Virtual car graphics will also reflect the new Next-Gen car model
The 2022 NASCAR season on Fox will see a handful of changes to the apps seen on the show. Along with the show in 1080p HDR, the network is rolling out an all-new graphics package with advanced features for new and traditional fans. These new elements will include the hard work of SMT, which provides the integration of statistics for real-time position tracking, improvements to the virtual GhostCar and driver information such as heart rate and engine speed.
“The broadcast elements have been completely revamped this year and they’re definitely the biggest lift we’ve ever done for NASCAR,” says Paulus Weemaes, Senior Director, Motorsport, SMT. “Changing the look is quite simple, but we are now animating a lot of new features.”
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Deeper storytelling: Crew provides real-time tracking, driver telemetry
Last year, after the conclusion of the NASCAR Cup Series, SMT participated in the off-season testing of NASCAR’s new Next-Gen car model. After test laps performed at Daytona International Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Phoenix Raceway, Weemaes and company worked with the organization to develop gear and broadcast solutions that would match the final version of the vehicle. In the fall of 2021, SMT collaborated with Fox Sports to bring data-centric insights to the networks new chart slate.
Creatively, the company will continue to provide its own proprietary solution for the Restart Zone graph, but in an added twist, it will liven up the Fox Box after years of a stationary background. On a more statistical front, SMT’s scoring software will infuse these 2D and 3D charts with accurate data via a custom interface system. One of these new activations is real-time tracking of cars via on-board optical pointers. Vizrt’s Viz engine will power these pointers.
Another feature, which focuses on the physical attributes of the driver and their car, will place the fan in the cockpit. Using a prototype version of the WHOOP exercise bracelet, SMT will take advantage of the heart rates of five riders throughout the weekend: No. 11 Denny Hamlin; No. 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and No. 99 Daniel Suárez in the NASCAR Cup Series and No. 27 Jeb Burton and No. 11 Daniel Hemric in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“We modified our system to retrieve this information live from them, and it is now part of the elements that we return,” says Weemaes. “We started doing this last year with the Camping World SRX series on CBS Sports. Senior Producer Pam Miller was very supportive and knew what we could do with it.
With any new invention, this requires trust and open communication with drivers in the field as well as a Fox Sports NASCAR Cup Series Producer Barry Landis. It might be seen as a huge hurdle to overcome, but for Weemaes and company, their long history at this race and in NASCAR makes this process much easier.
“Most of them agreed with [the bracelet] because they know him,” he adds. “This is our 23rd season in NASCAR and the ninth season with the same vectors on the roof, so these drivers know us very well and know how we work.”
Breaking down the action: fans discover new team analysis
Fans who appreciate the analytical side of the Daytona 500 will be treated to an even broader offering of stats. Through vectors installed inside the roof of the car – which was done by someone from the SMT team to adhere to COVID-19 safety – on-screen and team scans will present new information on all the cars on the track. As for the virtual GhostCar used to compare the pace of a pair of drivers, the overlay will reflect exterior changes to the car, including the unique lug nut on each tire and other touches made by Ford teams, Chevy and Toyota. SMT was able to reproduce these alterations thanks to 3D files sent by NASCAR and car scans sent by Fox Sports. Mixed with telemetry data and up-to-date car locations, SMT hopes to present an interesting variety of information.
“I can now produce a full virtual video with graphics, which we weren’t able to do before,” says AJ Mead, Digital Product Manager, SMT. “For example, [race analyst] Clint Boyer can use it to dissect a rider’s launch in qualifying, watch his throttle and talk about shifting.
These graphics will also include a lap time-based leaderboard for practice and qualifying, a side-by-side bird’s eye view in virtual video, a ‘focus mode’ setting, and more. Teams can access this treasure trove of knowledge, and heading into Sunday, SMT brought in new customers to reach a total of 37 Cup Series teams and 26 Xfinity Series teams.
Helping Flair On-Site: NASCAR Receives Graphics For Remote Production Of Video Card Show
After a more relaxed race last year, Sunday’s race expects a sold-out crowd. To match fans’ passion for the most famous race on the NASCAR calendar, NASCAR Productions will do everything possible to entertain the crowds of fans in the stands. The NASCAR crew will be tapping into the cameras hosted at the venue, and for a more streamlined approach, SMT will again provide feeds of those scans to their team for added flavor. Unlike last year, SMT Coordinating Producer Nick Rider will lead this effort and resolve any issues onsite within the compound while the NASCAR team is stationed offsite.
“[The videoboard show] Previously, this was done in NEP’s SRT truck in previous years, but now NASCAR has streamlined this operation to be self-contained in Charlotte,” adds Weemaes. “That was one of the effects of COVID-19.”
Switching to 1080p HDR: the team makes modifications to the truck on site
During the main broadcast, racing fans will experience the Daytona 500 in 1080p HDR. Similar to the stylistic changes to the graphics, SMT also needed to integrate 1080p HDR workflows into their on-site mobile unit. The task began with an on-site van equipped with 1080p HDR-enabled technologies for the Busch Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. For this main truck that is in Daytona, it took a lot more effort to get that infrastructure in order.
“We had to upgrade a lot of equipment to make sure everything could pass 1080p HDR, which we did internal testing for two runs on Fox last year,” says Chris Stoddard, Lead Engineer, SMT. “We convert a few of our software to 1080i, which works well for racing, but whatever video we have going through the graphics is 1080p HDR to match Fox’s workflows.”
With Weemaes, Stoddard, Mead and Associate Producer Nate Karamanski, a total of 12 on-site staff will facilitate their roles from outside Daytona International Speedway. It’s a drastic improvement over last year’s Daytona 500, and a welcome sight for putting on a top season debut.
“We always have a team on site and remotely, but during the pandemic there was a very limited number of people on site,” says Weemaes. “We normally have six staff on site, but as the first race is the most important of the year, we have double the number of people here for training purposes and to make sure the truck is operational.”