CHARLOTTE N.C.—NASCAR, born out of moonshine running during Prohibition, continually focuses on building its fan base. Product relevance and fan experience are two key areas of fan acquisition. Social and digital media are used to drive the brand and develop new fans and followers. The tracks are Wi-Fied to support interactivity within the venues.
Social media was used to promote a show called “100,000 Cameras,” a show that captured the NASCAR Sprint All Star Race May 16 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Two-hundred hours of video was posted. Fox Sports had 250,000 viewers for the show, up 146 percent for the time slot. The race franchise uses Elemental Video for live streaming.
The NASCAR Fan Engagement Center is a glassed-in, free-standing room on the 8th floor of the NASCAR facility, in an area overlooking the downtown development. It’s basically an ultra-modern control room equal to any depicted in a recent high-tech sci-fi flick. A bank of 13, 46-inch displays lines the curving wall under a 12-foot ceiling. Five or six display 3D data visualization maps that reveal what’s trending on social media platforms. Which driver, which race, broadcast partners, and so forth. It helps them track what fans are talking about.
TV Technology tests this: “Live at the #NASCAR fan & Media Engagement Center. Seeing if they track my tweet.” 1:57 p.m.
@TVBroadcast: “We are tracking it!” 2:19 p.m.
Sean Doherty is director of Digital and Social Engagement for NASCAR. He said NASCAR monitors more than 100 live events and more than 400 industry announcements per year, from qualifying events and test runs to races and sponsor announcements. All are tweet-tracked and promoted on social media.
On the track, NASCAR is also testing technology to automate its pit road, including officiating. With 43 teams and 43 cars all on pit road at one time, officiating can be difficult and dangerous. The automated system will allow NASCAR to utilize technology, including video, to immediately identify penalties. It’s expected to launch in 2015.
The race franchise is in the process of replacing T-1s with fiber for gigabit Ethernet connectivity at the tracks. There are 23 venues. Daytona was done last year at a cost of around $1 million. Eight more are scheduled to be done this year.
“Typical connectivity is a series of T-1 connections averaging 9 Mbps of data transfer for the TV compound and NASCAR’s official timing and scoring. Currently, video is transferred back to the NASCAR Plaza using two video muxes over satellite. With the addition of the gigabit circuit, these muxes will now be sent back over IP, significantly reducing the cost of transmission,” according to Christopher Witmayer, director of Broadcast, Post Production and New Media Technology at the NASCAR Media Group.
NASCAR also is leveraging its library, comprising 220,000 hours and 800,000 assets, and systematically making it available online. It is the largest motorsports library in the world, according to Steve Stum, vice president of NASCAR Operations and Technical Productions.
Bill Stafford, NASCAR’s Facility and Studio Operations director, says the broadcast operations center is “built a little like a truck.”
There are 21 fiber-based edit bays. Ten more are being added as editing is being transitioned from Final Cut to Adobe Premiere. Two to four TB of media is ingested each day. Selective ISOs are being recorded at track on EVS. Due to the amount of cameras—up to 38—recording and transporting adds an additional challenge, so these feeds are recorded and selective highlights are saved in a melt reel.
LTO is employed for archiving. NASCAR has 9 PBs of data in the archive, all of it in Apple ProRes 100. A handful of people sit at half-a-dozen terminals or so and enter metadata by hand. The are more than 8 million metadata points and growing at 900 TB per year.
The tape library prior to 2014 is stored on LTO-4 and recently switched to LTO-6. By switching to LTO-6, the NASCAR library will be able to support up to 24 PB of LTO-6 media. NASCAR supports 2.2 PB of spinning disk storage with all 220,000 hours of proxy videos available 24x7, as well as storage for current projects being edited. StorNext is used for a file-sharing platform, powered by Reach Engine from Levels Beyond for asset management, and IBM’s RamSan for nearline Flash storage. The network does 128 simultaneous transcodes.
Telestream Vantage transcodes 25 formats, everything from GoPro to RedEpic at 5K, into extremely high quality 720p Apple ProRes H.264 proxies from the 18 EVS channels that come in. Producers work with the proxies, finalize in Apple ProRes 100 and “Viola!” Stum says. “TV.”
NASCAR stores a complete copy of the Video Archive in a SpectaLogic T-Finity robot, which is available for NASCAR Productions to pull content high resolution content from during edit sessions. A replicate copy of each LTO is also stored offs-site and can be brought back to NASCAR Plaza should a tape need replacing. Though we do not have a ‘geo-redundant’ archive, this is certainly in review and may be on our future roadmap.
The International Control Room is connected to the track using an MPEG-4 MUX transport delivered over satellite. Material is edited live and played back via EVS to the satellite farm, out to 172 countries and territories in 25 languages.
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