Vizrt and Reality Check Studios fuel NASCAR HotPass HD

By Andrew Lippe

When NASCAR HotPass debuted on DirecTV last season racing fans were enamored by five additional DirectTV channels which focused on a specific driver throughout a race. This season, NASCAR HotPass is going HD and Vizrt’s rendering engine is playing a big role as a backbone for Reality Check Studios.

Each NASCAR HotPass channel is designed so that graphics and other elements correspond to the team colors of the driver featured on the channel. For example, a channel covering Tony Stewart would have an orange, white and black theme, matching the Home Depot color scheme. The channel also displays the car’s speed and RPM, requiring metadata to constantly be pushed through the Reality Check Studio and Vizrt software.

“The Viz/Engine lets us change the elements within a scene,” says Reality Check Studios Senior Producer, Kevin Dresser. “When a driver wrecks his car we need to switch to a new driver. The engine lets us adjust the backgrounds and change the driver’s number instantaneously.”

Two NEP Supershooter trucks are on hand for the production, with five small pods that include an audio mixer bay, video monitor and other production elements for each channel. Two cameras located above the track, a handheld pit camera, a robotic camera inside the car, and a lipstick camera with a bird’s eye view of the pit area capture the action. Additional camera inputs include a replay shot using an EVS, a “speed shot” from the corner of the track, a shot from the blimp above the track, and the network broadcast feed which is always displayed in the upper right corner of the screen are also available.

“The Viz|Engine decreases hardware space and decreases the number of people needed to cut graphics,” says Dresser. NASCAR HotPass only uses one Viz/Engine for all five channels. “What used to be a 10-person job can be done by three producers and the technical director.” A Grass Valley Kayak switcher into the B Unit to help handle the move to HD.

To make things easy for producers, Reality Check Studio configured user-friendly, 20-inch touch screen interface. “A touch screen helps a technical director do things quickly and it is much easier to learn,” says Dresser.