This weekend brings us two high-profile sports events in the Daytona 500 and the NBA All Star Weekend.
The 50th Daytona 500
FOX brings us a number of new technological advances to their broadcast, two being outlined in the exceprts from their press releases below:
On Sunday, February 17 (2:00 PM ET), FOX Sports proudly presents the 50th running of the Daytona 500 with an electrifying 80 minute prerace show to celebrate the races history and most memorable moments from the past 49 races. Hosted by Chris Myers along with analysts Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip the show is a special tribute to living racing legends who have won the Daytona 500 including Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and FOX’s very own Waltrip. In addition to previewing Sunday’s race, FOX welcomes motorsports broadcasting legend Ken Squier as a special contributor to the broadcast, adding historical perspective. It was Squier who called the first live televised Daytona 500 back in 1979 and who coined the phrase “The Great American Race.” Also in the prerace, NASCAR on FOX analyst Larry McReynolds takes a look back at the late Dale Earnhardt’s first and only Daytona 500 win in 1998 where he served as crew chief.
GOPHER CAM PROVIDES “HOLE” NEW PERSPECTIVE – Imagine that your ultimate wish is to stand trackside at the world’s most famous superspeedway, inches away as the best drivers anywhere whiz by at a breathless 185 miles per hour during the nation’s most prestigious auto race. That’s the view Gopher Cam provides at the 50th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 (2:00 PM ET) and beyond.
Gopher Cam is a small, stationary high-definition point-of-view camera buried underneath the asphalt track surface, inches below the yellow line at Daytona International Speedway. There are four Gopher Cams in-place for the 50th Daytona 500, one in each of the track’s four turns. This is the first instance where a camera has been installed below the surface of a superspeedway, and this is the first time that a sub-track surface camera is HD caliber. The cameras have also been paired with high quality condenser microphones, another first, for an unbelievably realistic audio/video experience.
“Television’s never-ending goal is to bring the viewer as close to the action as possible,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill. “We’ve had great past success with Catcher-Cam and Diamond-Cam in our MLB coverage and Grass Cam and Wall-Cam in NASCAR on FOX broadcasts. However, Gopher Cam, and forgive us for having some fun with the name, is different. These are HD cameras developed specifically for this use. The pictures are phenomenal, and the audio that the mikes provide is mean and loud. It’s a tremendous complement to our Emmy-caliber NASCAR broadcasts.”
The camera hardware and electronics have been installed six inches below the asphalt, and is housed in a cylindrical stainless steel fixture. The lens is less than a half-inch in diameter, and camera is angled slightly to see oncoming traffic. The assembly is covered by a protective dome that is four-inches in diameter and rises less than one-quarter inch above the track surface. Cars rolling over them will have no idea of their presence. The cameras are connected to FOX’s mobile production units outside DIS via copper wiring that was trenched in below the track and grass and run to where it meets up with the network’s advanced fiber optic wiring system.
Live Online Q&A System To be Launched
This virtual Q&A is unlike others that may have preceded it. On FOXSports.com, NASCAR on FOX analysts Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds, three of the sport’s most knowledgeable experts, can answer viewer’s questions in real time. Each individual has been recorded providing simple, concise explanations to hundreds of potential questions that might arise during a NASCAR on FOX race.
“Every sport, including NASCAR, is loaded with unique terminology that many core viewers understand, but sometimes has others scratching their heads,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill. “Our virtual Q&A is designed to enhance the viewing experience by helping the curious fan better understand what they’re seeing while they’re seeing it.”
FOX’s virtual Q&A is an adaptation of patented technology called Synthetic Interviews developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Penn., by Scott Stevens, Ph.D. and Michael Christel, Ph.D., computer researchers in CMU’s School of Computer Science and Entertainment Technology Center (ETC).
“By enabling fans to interact with their favorite on-air personalities online, FOX Sports and FOXSports.com are delivering the type of engaging, multi-platform experience that users have come to expect from sports event coverage,” said Brian Grey, SVP and GM of FOX Sports Interactive. “It’s these types of multi-platform programming experiences that deliver a new level of engagement for sports fans and also resonate with brand advertisers.”
Synthetic Interviews is a technology that allows users to ask questions and receive video answers as if they were engaged in a face-to-face conversation with a live person. Specifically regarding this effort, one of the three NASCAR on FOX experts appears to answer the question or explain the term as though speaking directly to the viewer. When the project is launched on
Sunday, over 300 terms frequently used during race coverage, such as wedge, marbles or camber can be explained by the FOX Sports Answer Man. While not every possible question can be anticipated, items featured can be refreshed and updated based on demand.
NBA All Star Weekend on TNT
TNT’s coverage of NBA All-Star Weekend festivities tips off Friday, February 15 at 9 p.m. ET with the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam. Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley will be courtside to call the action with Craig Sager reporting from the sidelines. Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai will follow with Johnson, Smith and Barkley.
The excitement continues on Saturday, February 16, when Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai tips off an exciting night at 5 p.m. ET. TNT guest analyst Magic Johnson and NBA Insider David Aldridge will join Ernie Johnson, Smith and Barkley live from the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. At 7 p.m. ET, TNT will present NBA’s Greatest Slam Dunk Contest: Airborne. Through first-person interviews of players and TNT announcers, ‘Airborne’ reflects on memorable NBA dunk contests and the host cities that served as backdrops to the dunks that made history. Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, TNT will televise exclusive live coverage of NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, which includes the Haier Shooting Stars competition, the Playstation Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, and the Sprite Slam Dunk. The evening will be capped off by the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2008 presented on TNT by Old Spice Pro Strength at 11 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT.
TNT’s All-Star coverage takes center stage on Sunday, February 17 at 8 p.m. ET with the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. Play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and analysts Doug Collins and Reggie Miller will be courtside with Craig Sager reporting from the sidelines.