NASCAR coverage on ESPN to be some of the most technically advanced ever

ESPN and ESPN on ABC's coverage of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series will be one of the most technologically advanced programming in the history of televised motor sports, according to Jed Drake, ESPN senior VP and executive producer of remote production.

All NASCAR on ESPN races will be produced in the 720p HD format. All of the approximately 60 to 75 cameras ESPN will use in televising the car races will be HD.

ESPN has been preparing for the use of HD in-car cameras in preparation of the NASCAR Busch Series season-opening Orbitz 300 from Daytona, FL, on ESPN2 Feb. 17. The coverage will also include a grass cam, wall cam, crew cams, pit overhead cams, blimps and multiple robotic cameras at various points around the tracks.

In-car cameras are a challenging aspect of motor sports coverage and moving that to HD is even trickier. The camera systems had to be re-engineered for HD, as did the camera power and transmission systems within the racecars, all while maintaining a delicate balance to not add weight to the cars, which could affect their performance.

The sports network will also use virtual technology from Sportvision, which the network said has never been used in NASCAR Busch Series coverage before. Sportvision uses satellite technology to create on-screen pointers to designate specific cars within a pack, helping viewers distinguish their favorite driver's car and lead-lap cars, and produce telemetry from the racecars to show speeds, braking and other compelling information to viewers. All cars in the races will carry Sportvision transmitters.

For the "NASCAR Countdown" studio shows that will precede all NASCAR race telecasts, ESPN will originate from one of the most technologically advanced traveling studios ever built for sports television. The studio, which weighs nearly 78,000lbs and will travel to 26 NASCAR tracks this season, will allow ESPN to bring the look and feel of its Bristol, CT-based studio shows to the tracks.

The mobile pit studio will be outfitted with LED lighting, three robotic HD cameras and a contoured video display fronting the anchor desk. Situated near the pits at every track, the studio will be elevated 14ft while in use, with 30ft glass windows as a backdrop. Coverage will also include a new animation, graphic and musical package featuring the band Aerosmith.

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