After a lockdown hiatus lasting almost ten weeks, NASCAR racing returned to screens on May 17 with the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway thanks to live coverage provided by Fox Sports. In order to comply with NASCAR and Fox Sports’ corporate governance and ensure the health and safety of its employees, the objective was clear; to deliver high quality race coverage while putting the least amount of people at risk.
“The beauty of Haivision technology is that it turns right on, everything just lines up and locks in, video is being transported, and people are ready to go to work. It’s a testament to how battle-tested it is.”
VP Field Operations and Engineering, Fox Sports
To reduce the number of crew required on the track, a new approach was necessary, and the Fox Sports team set about creating workflows based on their experience at past events. According to Brad Cheney, VP Field Operations and Engineering at Fox Sports: “There were things that we knew we could do but we had never done them before all on the same production.”
Over the past few years, Fox Sports’ technology team has been developing technology to deliver new and improved ways of working, including remote working which allows experienced team members to contribute to multiple projects simultaneously. Last season, Haivision’s low latency video technology was deployed in the field for the first time for NASCAR coverage to speed up the links while also providing bandwidth reductions. When this new remote project came to light, Fox Sports knew it needed a solution that was low latency, reliable, and extremely bandwidth efficient, making the Haivision Makito X Video Encoder the best choice for the job.
A New Remote NASCAR Workflow
There are 16 live video feeds leaving the track to Haivision Makito X Video Decoders located in Fox Sports’ network centers in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Los Angeles, California. This allows both its production and broadcast engineering teams to work remotely and interact seamlessly with the onsite production crew. This is all done on a private ethernet network between the track, LA, and Charlotte, and a public network via the Haivision SRT Gateway providing low latency internet streaming for executives and production staff working from home.
At the broadcaster’s LA facilities, Haivision equipment enables remote replay and graphics operations. The team is comprised of three replay operators, two graphics operators as well as producers and assistant directors who are connected to and running machines in the mobile unit at the track. Fox Sports leverages the Haivision Makito X and SRT Gateway to bring multi-viewers and other video sources back to them so that they can operate.
Producers and on-air announcers in Fox Sports’ facility in Charlotte are able to produce the race using multi-viewers enabled by Haivision Makito X and SRT Gateway so they can see the graphics that are being built in Los Angeles in real-time as well as the replay outputs.
To understand just how these facilities are tightly interconnected Brad explains: “The producers in Charlotte are talking to the replay team in LA and then telling the director at the track what the next replay is going to be.”
Additionally, there are other engineers located around the US involved in managing these networks. Video is sent via the private network back to LA where the Haivison SRT Gateway distributes all the feeds to Fox Sports’ executives, producers, and all of the engineering team so they can monitor for quality, timing, and quickly troubleshoot any problems. Brad highlights that the latency is so low that it allows the engineering management team and executives to really be a part of what‘s going on rather than having to watch the race on satellite or cable TV with a delay of 8 to 12 seconds.
“Haivision has allowed us to not only provide robust, high quality video signals for our operations team but also reliable, extremely low latency, low bandwidth video signals so we can efficiently operate and manage our video remotely.”
The workflow has proved very successful to date and will be employed for the remainder of the season which has been accelerated with many more events squeezed into a tighter timeline to account for the time away from racing. From concept to order to on-air, the timeline was just under three weeks and Fox Sports, assisted by Haivision’s professional services team, pulled together all the components, including hardware, networking, and the rebuild of the mobile unit in a matter of days using just a select crew. Now members of the production team can work in the safety of our network centers thanks to the combination of low latency and low bitrate video and audio delivered by the Haivision Makito platform.
This is the first time Fox Sports has used the Haivision SRT Gateway which was backed by great support and guidance from Haivision’s professional services team. “It was an extremely accelerated project to receive the equipment and get it up and running on Haivision’s part with most devices being commissioned in the field.”
The Future is Flexible
Haivision solutions are enabling Fox Sports to be more flexible which is critical for the future.
“There are lots of opportunities out there to continue to work with the best crew in the business and provide the highest quality programming to our viewers. Using products like Haivision’s allows us to do that.”