August 20, 2022

There are so many feelings that fans miss when watching a race on TV. They don’t see how dramatic changes in altitude are, they don’t wrinkle their noses at the smell of baked brakes, they don’t feel the waves of air scattering around them when a group of cars hits them. exceeds 200 miles per hour.

And those are just the little details you get from sitting trackside. Imagine the feelings the pilots have that the fans will never know.

“More people have parachuted out of planes than ever got into a car and raced,” Andy Jeffers, owner of Sports & Entertainment Media, which coordinates the placement and sale of dash cams, told ESPN. NASCAR.

With traditional stick and ball sports, the action is confined to a relatively small area. Unless you’re watching the home runs land at McCovey Cove during a San Francisco Giants game, you can bet most of the action will take place in the arena.

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In motorsport, however, racers are captured as they cover several miles of circuit at a time. There’s a lot of ground for broadcasters to cover, which means filming from a distance and using wide angles. These tactics give viewers all the action, but being at such a distance, they come at the cost of transmitting the speed the drivers have reached.

“How do you show speed? That’s the hardest part of [broadcasting] any form of motorsport: showing speed,” Jeffers said. “It’s hard to go and talk about a driver, ‘Man, what these guys and girls are doing, it’s unreal! They are on the wire all the time! Oh good? antenna [camera] is great because it shows so much, but it can also look like LA traffic.”

That’s why so many shows work with broadcast partners and broadcast hardware developers like Broadcast Sports International to find unique new ways to get fans in the driver’s seat.

Last season, Formula 1 began experimenting with a camera built into the driver’s helmet. Since 2017, NASCAR has been perfecting the art of capturing video from the driver’s forehead. In MotoGP, the two-wheeled equivalent of F1, the protective leather suits of several riders are now equipped with an integrated shoulder camera.

“It’s really hard to replicate the experience of a Formula 1 car,” Dean Locke, director of broadcast and media for F1, told ESPN. “It’s not just about acceleration, it’s about braking, and until you see these cars in real life, you don’t appreciate it.”

It’s one thing to convey how fast these runners go, it’s another to illustrate the physique they’re subjected to at triple-digit speeds.

“For people who’ve never hopped on a motorcycle, it’s amazing,” Suzuki MotoGP rider Alex Rins said after launching the shoulder cam last November.

As athletes, pilots and runners want to share these experiences with their fans. There’s pride in showing off their body strength when subjected to the kind of g-forces the cast of “Top Gun: Maverick” have become accustomed to throughout their intensive training regimen.

In F1, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was at the forefront of helmet camera development, and his Bell helmet was the first to broadcast video to international audiences of the series from Spa in Belgium last August. .

“I think [the drivers] find it really interesting that they’re able to get the exhilaration of driving these cars in a wider range,” Locke said.

Home viewers aren’t the only ones to benefit from this technology, however.

In NASCAR, some drivers grab whatever helmet camera footage they can find and use it as a learning tool. It helps to have a real-time view of a driver’s inputs, every turn of the wheel or brake stroke, and to see those actions show up in the telemetry data.

“Young drivers love it because it’s a huge tool for them to learn,” Jeffers said. “Old school drivers, how many miles did they do in practice and tire testing?

“These guys came in when the only way to learn anything was through your butt and how your butt felt in the seat of that car. Now, with limited practice, there’s a disadvantage for young guys because they don’t know those tracks or how the tires are going to wear or how the car is going to handle.”

This being the sport at the highest level, however, there are always those who seek to steal a piece of information from a rival and use it to their advantage.

Floor-mounted cameras can be informative in learning how drivers are getting the most out of their brakes, which can be especially helpful on road courses. Ricky Rudd, a 23-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and famous road racing ace who retired after the 2007 season, had no interest in such a camera setup because he wasn’t about to learn to his rivals how to close the gap with him when the tracks went right.

Cameras that give fans a view from the driver’s seat also give rivals insight into vehicle data and information presented to drivers via displays on the steering wheel or dashboard. Several NASCAR teams now hide this data by displaying inaccurate numbers, using internal codes or conversions so that only they know the true meaning of the numbers on the screen.

As camera and broadcast technology continues to advance, the ways in which series will bring their fans closer to the action. The very first helmet camera in NASCAR, worn by Danica Patrick during the 2017 Sonoma Round, consisted of a visor mounting device, a GoPro-style camera, and a power cord. Today, the whole contraption weighs less than an iPhone.

The future of fan immersion isn’t entirely visual, however. Formula 1 is working to improve the audio experience for viewers at home and to find new ways to illustrate the physical forces endured by drivers using biometric data.

“Where can we innovate? Where can we bring fans back into this experience? Biometrics is interesting,” Locke said. “Can we do something around stress levels? G-force readings that we can get from a driver, and compare that to fighter pilots and astronauts because I’m sure it’s very similar.”

No matter how fast these technological developments happen, fans at home on the couch will never have the same experience as those sitting trackside – at least until Smell-O-Vision becomes a reality. Until then, enjoy the dawn of this golden age of experience that runners around the world experience every weekend.