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2017 Holiday Calendar

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Jan 2
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ESPN Keeps NASCAR Broadcast Operations On Track
Case Studies/Whitepapers


In 2007, NASCAR returned to ESPN after a six season hiatus. With the return of this major sporting event to the premier sports channel, a variety of new production capabilities was needed to bring NASCAR to the screen in a more spectacular and dramatic way than ever. An important part of that equation was the deployment of the cameras and camera systems to capture all the excitement for the television audience.

ESPN commissioned Pittsburgh-based NEP Broadcasting to build a custom fleet of trucks that would include a mobile television studio – dubbed the ESPN Pit Studio – to broadcast NASCAR races. Additionally, the entire studio had to fit within the confines of one tractor-trailer truck. NEP Supershooters LP designed the groundbreaking broadcasting venue which incorporated a significant number of camera robotics systems from Telemetrics Inc., the industry leader in camera control systems.

"We design, manufacture and operate mobile and fixed TV facilities," said Joe Signorino, Senior Project Engineer for NEP. "This is the first time we had done a mobile studio on this scale."

The ESPN Pit Studio is part of a four-trailer mobile fleet specifically for NASCAR coverage. The “A” unit houses the control room and graphics room, the “B” unit contains Production Audio, Video, Recording, Central Electronics and Transmission, while the “C” unit houses the Fiber Optic Head End, Tape Release, Edit, and additional audio rooms for effects mixes. The “D” unit is the actual ESPN Pit Studio.

"After defining the requirements and goals for the production staff, as well as our budget, we began our search for the equipment that would be able to perform the needed tasks within the budgetary and size limitations we had," said Signorino. In addition, the pit studio had to be stable enough for use in a mobile environment and durable enough to travel from one location to the next along with the NASCAR series races.

ESPN had high expectations for their mobile studio, including coverage capabilities with the same kinds of on-air movement and shot angles as would be provided by on-site cameras at the racing venues. Additionally, since many of the races are held in warm weather conditions, there was a concern with equipment which generated too much heat. Finally, there was a need to save on manpower for both budgetary and space reasons. For help with all these issues, NEP turned to Telemetrics.

“We had concerns about using roving camera pedestals because of their size and weight, both of which were issues when designing the pit studio,” said Noubar Stone, Sr. Creative Director, ESPN Creative Services. “As a result, we had decided early on that we wanted a rail-based camera trolley system for the ESPN Pit Studio.”

In order to help ESPN and NEP’s design team make the determinations about which camera robotics systems would best serve the needs of the installation and the application, Telemetrics provided demo equipment for NEP to put into place for experimental purposes. “This generated numerous questions to which Telemetrics quickly replied and the selection process began,” said Signorino. “Having some of the demo pieces in our shop allowed us to work on the ESPN Pit Studio design concerns as well as having hands-on access for measurements and such."

The final design included three identical systems employing Telemetrics remote pan-tilt heads, teleprompters and Grass Valley LDK6000 cameras with Canon Wide Angle Lenses. “The Pan/Tilt heads seem to handle the load fine. We run prompters, motorized lens filter units, etc, on the standard Thomson LDK6000 Hand Held camera bodies with SMPTE fiber backs so it is not a small rig,” said Signorino. “This combination leaves a lot of weight hanging off of the front and rear of the camera.”

Three sections of track are mounted to the floor each with a Telemetrics camera trolley system and Televator™ elevating pedestal, providing a relatively small footprint. The system allows cameras to move smoothly and independently of one another and without transferring any vibrations on-air. The trolley systems, Televator elevating pedestals and cameras are controlled using Telemetrics' advanced CP-STS-S Studio Software System and precision joystick controllers.

The studio automation control system employs a user friendly GUI for ROP controls and hardware interface, and features joystick trim control of pan, tilt, zoom, focus, iris and master pedestal. Up to 160 presets are available in storyboard mode and up to 8000 presets when organized by camera. Multiple screen layouts facilitate ease of operation and a preset video switcher is used for still image capture and preview functions.

The Telemetrics’ TeleGlide Camera Trolley System installed in the ESPN Pit Studio consists of a dual trolley for optimal load stabilization, on a dual rail track system. The system is fully servo controlled for smooth operation with location feedback for preset positioning and motion control. With a trolley speed of 0.5”/sec – 8.5”/sec and a weight of 35 pounds, the system offers a preset accuracy of .03".

The TeleGlide Camera Trolley System is fabricated from light weight aluminum which helps to keep the weight of the overall system to a minimum. Signorino also notes that the TeleGlide system mounted in the ESPN Pit Studio is the first installation where the track system is floor mounted.

According to Stone, the Telemetrics camera robotics systems and control software provide ESPN with the production capabilities they need while reducing manpower required for conventional broadcast operations. “The rail system with motorized elevating pedestals and pan-tilt heads provide us with a variety of camera angles that a single operator can easily control,” he said.

Telemetrics’ Televator motorized elevating camera pedestals provide remote vertical height adjustment up to 18-inches. The units are fully servo controlled with smooth and quiet operation and also feature preset position storage and recall. Affixed to the Televators are the Telemetrics PT-LP-S3 LP Servo Pan/Tilt Heads. These industry workhorses feature smooth slow or high speed “camera operator” like moves, and programmable timed presets.

"Ultimately, our equipment choice was governed by the specific needs of this unique application," said Signorino. "NEP wanted to provide a product that ESPN would be happy with and that we could easily work with and maintain. From the production side of things, we needed to provide the ability to position multiple shots with multiple camera angles, on air moves etc., all while working in a confined area. Telemetrics worked with us and met every need we had."