When NASCAR driver Jeff Burton began circling Daytona International Speedway yesterday during the Gatorade 125, he wasn’t alone. Fans from around the country sat with him seeing a driver’s-eye view of the race thanks to four in-car cameras, the Internet and Turner Sports Interactive.
NASCAR.com's TrackPass puts viewers in the driver's seat. With TrackPass, viewers can see first-hand what it’s like to be sandwiched between other cars, via their Real Media Players over the Internet.
Streamed live from www.nascar.com via the site’s TrackPass applet, the race was the first-ever attempt to provide live in-car coverage over the Internet. Those who watched with their Real Media Player saw first-hand what it’s like to be sandwiched between other cars –at times by mere inches- while traveling at excessive speeds.
What they didn’t see, however, was the helicopter hovering over the track at an altitude of 200 to 500 feet to relay video transmitted via microwave from Burton’s car to a teleproduction truck at Daytona, said Pete Scott, senior director of multimedia content for Turner Sports Interactive.
“We take the video feed from that truck and marry it with the conversations Burton had with his coaches through his wireless system,” Scott explained. “Then we uplink that feed to a satellite, downlink it, encode it and distribute it through the AOL network for fans to see on the Internet.”
Three things made watching the race this way over the Web compelling. First, the in-car cameras delivered a unique perspective on the sport. Not only did the four cameras provide a compelling perspective on what it’s like to look at a NASCAR race, but the fact that engineers from BST Television controlled them remotely, adjusting their irises to compensate for changing light conditions on the track added to the vicarious experience.
Second, in car audio, which comes from FanScan, provided a unique flavor. “It’s fascinating to listen to the coaches tell drivers when to make a move, or to watch a guy coming up on the left or the right of their driver,” said Scott.
Third, telemetry from the car provided data to allow viewers to monitor conditions such as speed, engine RPMs, track position and even when Burton touched his brakes. All of this information was relayed to Turner Sports Interactive, which produced the coverage for NASCAR, and used to automatically generate a graphical status report that accompanied the streaming video.
Yesterday’s coverage of Burton was an experiment with permission to stream the in-car video granted by broadcast rights holders NBC and TNT. Future in-car Web streaming coverage will center on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with 12 races between now and mid-November.
Regardless of the race, this approach to coverage makes the sport more compelling, said Scott. “The world of technology is making it so you will have multiple information sources inform you, and the beauty of NASCAR is there is so much information that tells the story,” Scott explained. “In other words, the car itself tells the story. There is a cause and effect. If the tires aren’t right the speed will go down. Marrying that type of data with the in-car video and audio in an appealing package that’s accessible over the Web makes for a compelling story.”