The broadcaster is ready to take coverage to the next level for year two.
By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director Friday, February 3, 2023 - 12:25 pm
For SVG News
The inaugural Busch Light Clash NASCAR Cup Series at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last year tested the mettle of everyone: the crew at the venue, NASCAR drivers and teams, and Fox Sports. This weekend, the event returns, complete with its quarter-mile track (the shortest in NASCAR), and, for everyone, year two feels a lot more comfortable.
“Last year, we had no idea what we were going to run into,” recalls field technical producer, Fox Sports. “NASCAR was on a quarter-mile track for the first time in decades, and the drivers were in a brand-new car that they had never raced in. Now they have a year with the car and can lean on it a little bit more. For us, the laps just flew by so we’re hoping to be able to dive a little deeper. Now that we’ve done it once, everything slows down in your mind, and you can do more rather than feel like you are catching up to what is going on.”
The event also is the first (of many) to celebrate two anniversaries, and Fox will have a crew of 70 onsite for the studio show and a total of 350, including the race-production crew.
“We’re trying to present it on a grander scale as this year is NASCAR’s 75th anniversary and the Coliseum’s 100th anniversary,” says Grill. “Those two things are driving a lot of the production side.”
The biggest change this year is that the studio show will be handled via Home Run Production from Charlotte, NC.
Only limited crew will be onsite. Production for the studio show — including director, TD, and graphics — will be housed at the Charlotte facility. Notes director of operations, remote studio, Fox Sports, “It’s something we would like to do more of on the studio side. This is our proof of concept.”
Adds Grill, “If we can save budget and show this all works well, maybe we can bring the studio show out to more events. But it also eases the stress of personnel stretched over these four weeks with the NFC Championship, this race, the Super Bowl, and then the Daytona 500.”
For Fox Sports, the event is part of a four-week run that is about as big as it gets: the NFC Championship Game last weekend, the Clash this Sunday, Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, and the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19. That means that folks who were onsite last year will be in Phoenix prepping for the Super Bowl, but Mikulicka says that, because last year’s race was the first ever, there was plenty of note taking and photo snapping.
“Last year went swimmingly well,” says Mikulicka. “It was such an unknown thing, and I think we had the most notes ever taken on a show. I have to give a little bit of tribute to [former manager, remote studio operations,] Amy Burns, who is no longer with Fox, for giving me a lot of good notes. We’re ready for a lot of things, and we’re able to have the flexibility to try new things because we have the notes.”
One change, for example, is that the prerace concert stage was modified because a USC student section will be next to it, ensuring that the concert will be a little livelier for fans in the stands and viewers at home. It also means a backdrop with more fans in the stands for the studio show, which will be located on the other end of the track.
SMT will provide some new services to Fox Sports for Clash coverage. Debuting for the 2023 season, a new optical pointer tracking solution, ISOTrack2.0, allows simultaneous tracking of up to four objects with real-time insertion of pointer graphics from in-car or aerial cameras, such as from helicopters, drones, or blimps. Additionally, ISOTrack2.0 can supplement the tracking graphics with real-time data from SMT’s GEMStat, GEMLive, and RACEf/x systems. Additional graphics will include Race Off Pit Road and Restart Zone graphics and, new for the Clash, the Choose Rule graphic, which will display live positioning as drivers pick their spots.
Some things will stay the same. As was done last year, the core production effort will originate from Game Creek Video Cleatus mobile unit, which will cover the Clash, then head cross-country for the Daytona 400, and make the return jaunt across the country to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, for the Auto Club 400 on Feb. 26.
“In terms of cameras,” says Grill, “it’s pretty much what we did last year.” The camera complement will include Skycam, a Strada crane for shots overlooking the Peristyle, and drone shots provided by Beverly Hills Aerials.
“We have the heavy-lift drone, which can handle a more broadcast-style camera,” he notes, “and the Stradacam crane can come in nice and slow over the Peristyle and look down into the bowl.”
One lesson from last year was that, because the cars are driving at slower speeds, the use of high-speed cameras is enhanced.
“You’ll actually see the turning of the wheels and everything,” says Grill. “Even our jib camera will have a high-speed camera because it’s so close to the action.”