Reality Check, Viz|Engine Fuel NASCAR Hotpass On DirecTV

HotPass, NASCAR's multichannel pay-per-view offering on DirecTV, crossed the finish line of its 2007 season with some impressive numbers as more than 200,000 subscribers tuned in to watch some 720 hours of HotPass programming.

HotPass is fueled by software from digital media studio Reality Check Studios, based in Hollywood, and the powerful rendering engine, Viz|Engine, from Bergen, Norway-based Vizrt.

HotPass combines the traditional network coverage of all racing action with five additional channels that each focus on a specific driver. With HotPass, viewers can follow the drivers through every lap, every pit-stop and even hear conversations with crew chiefs.

"In car racing, wrecks happen," said Reality Check Studios Senior Producer Kevin Dresser. "If a wreck is bad enough to take a driver out of the competition, we need to be able to adjust accordingly. Viz|Engine lets us change one variable, in this case the driver's number. With one stroke, all the associated graphics change instantaneously, the backgrounds, sponsor wipes, transitions, and lower thirds. It's crucial to the broadcast."

Because DirecTV is contractually obligated to include the host broadcaster's feed of the race throughout, at least a two-box format is in effect at all times. Viz|Engine provides the background and the layouts for that two or three-box configuration. Viz|Engine also processes scoring tickers, telemetry or remote data collection to show a specific car's MPH and RPM, track maps, wipes and transitions.

According to Dresser, the power of Viz|Engine simplifies the process in spite of the number of graphics requests it handles.

"Normally there would be three or more graphics devices handling that much graphic content," he said. "We're using only one Viz|Engine, making it cheaper and using less hardware. The combination of our software and Viz|Engine means we require fewer crew members. In a traditional production environment you would find ten people carrying out the jobs that take three from our crew."

The next season of NASCAR will begin Feb. 17, 2008.