Since 1965, the Indianapolis 500 has been a Memorial Day weekend tradition on ABC.
Each year, new technologies seem to be introduced into sports telecasts that bring the viewer ever closer to the action. This year's broadcast of the Indy 500 is no exception.
The telecast will be hosted by the venerable Brent Musburger, while lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid and analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever call the action from the track. The broadcast is in fact produced by ESPN (ESPN on ABC) and thus will be able to take advantage of the network prodigious production resources.
More than 80 cameras will be used in the production, including at least 10 cars, and likely 12, (out of 33) that will have four onboard cameras per car. For the first time in an IndyCar Series telecast dual-path technology will be used, permitting views from two onboard HD cameras on the same car at the same time. This allows viewers to see both the driver's perspective and the driver driving simultaneously.
In addition, viewers of the ABC telecast will be able to enhance their experience by accessing their choice of live streaming video from the onboard cameras on ESPN3.com. ESPN3 will carry the feeds exclusively through WatchESPN and on Indycar.com to fans subscribe to a eligible television or internet provider. Viewers will be able to choose which driver's onboard cameras they want to watch from among the available cars. ESPN3 also will have replays of the ABC telecast following the event.
Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production says of the added cameras and technology: "We think onboard pictures are something that is compelling for viewers, especially in a telecast like the Indy 500, where we believe more people are watching that race than normally watch other open-wheel competitions. It's a holiday weekend in this country. I know growing up when I was done, after we got done with the barbecue, when the race was on tape delay, it was a tradition in our family to watch the Indy 500."
ESPN will continue its Indianapolis use of "Batcam," a camera that provides unique views running on a cable over pit road and the frontstretch and can move at more than 80 mph. Views and replays will be enhanced by the first Indianapolis 500 use of Ultra Hi Motion cameras located in the short chutes at each end of the 2.5-mile track as well as at the fourth turn exit. These Ultra Hi motion cameras shoot at a frame rate of one thousand frames per second, potentially offering some compelling views for fans and viewers in ultraslow motion of key moments in the race and on the track.
On the Batcam, Feinberg says that in term of location, the camera "will go from turn one all the way down the frontstretch, past the pagoda, past the start/finish line, and it ends up just on the north side headed towards turn four of the suites that are inside the track there."
He also noted some of the uses it may have during the telecast: "We can use it to document pit road because it literally flies over pit road and a portion of the racetrack. We can also use it for coverage as the cars are coming down the frontstretch headed towards turn one. It's an exciting shot, unique to that racetrack, and offers some glorious views of the pageantry of the Indianapolis 500."
Among the features that will be covered in the telecast will be a remembrance of Dan Wheldon, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner who was tragically killed in a racing accident in October. There will also be a feature on JR Hildebrand, who as a rookie was leading race in the final lap last year before smashing into a wall and allowing Wheldon to blow by and win the race.
What drama will unfold during this year's race? Whatever it is, you can be pretty sure you'll be able to see it from every possible angle.