Indy 500 coverage makes move to full HD via new IMS Productions truck

By Ken Kerschbaumer

This weekend’s Indianapolis 500 will be notable on the track for being the first unified race since 1995 and off the track for being the first end-to-end HD telecast as IMS Productions has revved up a new HD production unit that has already blazed a trail this season. “It’s spectacular,” says Ken Gardner, IMS Productions manager, remote sales-field technical manager.

“On the signature shot from turn one you can now read the numbers on the scoring tower,” adds Dave Gass, IMS Productions senior director of field operations and engineering.

The new 720p native but 1080i switchable truck features eight 46-inch Clarity LCD screens and a virtual monitor wall, a GVG Kalypso four M/E 90-input production switcher; an NVision 288×224 HD router and 224×320 AES audio router (plus a 128×128 analog router); 16 Sony cameras (eight HDC-1000 and eight HDC-1500 cameras); 24 Canon lenses ranging from 22x to 100x; and a Calrec 64-fader Sigma console with Bluefin technology. A B-unit offers EVS XT-2 replay servers, Avid and Apple editing systems, and a Yamaha PM 4000 for audio submix while a C-unit is on hand for the multitude of robocams around the track. Sennheiser, Shure, Beyerdynamic, and Sony mics handle audio duty.

“It’s pretty much the same layout as our last truck but the production and tape area are bigger,” says Gass. “But the audio area is not as big.” Bennett Systems in North Carolina built the new truck and converted the old A unit into the B-unit.

Coverage of the race will involve 59 cameras, 200 crew members and 11 trucks total. A change to the production this year is that NCP will handle the International feed while the IMS unit handles the ESPN coverage. “ESPN liked the new unit so much they want it for their production,” says Gass.

Sportvision will have a trailer for telemetry and graphics, Supershot HD Super KU will be on hand for the Brazilian feed, and BSI will have a trailer on hand for the HD in-car cameras an improvement over last year’s SD camera.

“BSI had to come up with a smaller camera that could fit an aerodynamic housing and also rotate 360 degrees,” says Gass. “Also ground-based HD transmission negates the need to have a helicopter.” Six backup transmission points help get a quality signal back to the compound via fiber.

BSI will also provide 12 HD in-car camera paths, an improvement from 8 SD paths. All cars on the track will have a housing and those not outfitted with a camera will have a dummy weight.

For Gardner the new truck means the ability to compete in the burgeoning HD truck marketplace. “There have been a fair number of inquiries for this fall and a second HD truck is on the horizon,” he says. IMS Productions have been involved with Indiana Pacer games since 1986 and has also been used on Fox football telecasts.

“I think this truck will be well received,” says Gardner. “It brings a lot of firepower to an NBA game and everyone wants a truck that can be set up in a single day.”

While the truck is actually busier in the off-season this weekend marks the high-point of the racing season and, with unified racing, a hoped for return to previous ratings and attention.

“Having our own trucks allows us to maintain control over the product while also giving us a profit center,” says Gass.