Stock cars won’t be the only thing racing at the Daytona 500 — there will also be some epic drones giving viewers dynamic and incredible shots of the race. We went behind-the-scenes with Mike Davies, senior vice president of field and technical management and operations at Fox Sports, to see how they’re planning on delivering the race like you’ve never seen it before.
Speed, obviously, is a huge part of the Daytona 500, and the new drones Fox Sports is using to capture the race are no exception, reaching speeds over 90 miles per hour. “[These are] racing drones,” Davies says. “Anything you can use to make the cars look as fast as they’re actually going is a big win in our book. It gives that sense of action and dynamics that we were looking for,” he says of the drones.
Of course, you can’t just buy these specialized drones off of Amazon. These drones are total custom builds made by Beverly Hills Aerials. With these specialized drones, Davies and his team were able to get close proximity shots, and can fly close to the ground and around structures.
A headset allows the drone operator to control it in first-person, enabling the pilots to get the best possible shots. “It’s really exhilarating,” Davies says about piloting a drone going 90 miles per hour that is following a car going close to 200 miles per hour.
But it’s not just drones. Fox Sports is also altering some of the cameras used during the NFL season to capture the same type of super-cinematic shots seen during the football season. From a camera named “The Megalodon” to a rig called “The Digi Boom,” NASCAR is set to get shots it’s never been able to get before.
And as one of the first sports to start back up during the pandemic, putting those shots together is a feat of technology, utilizing people all around the country to make a seamless broadcast. “We have a place in L.A. that we call ‘The Vault’ that will be doing replay and our ‘Fox Box.’ We have a place in Pittsburgh that’ll be doing more replay and graphics. And, of course, we have our Charlotte (North Carolina) hub where we’re going to be doing some of our preshow. We’ll actually have some people working at their houses on the live show,” Davies explains.
Fox has combined its creativity with breakout technology to deliver this year’s Daytona 500, and is set to show the race like never before. All the pieces must come together to really tell the stories of the race and the drivers.
“The thing about covering a race that happens on a two-and-a-half-mile track is that there are all these simultaneous storylines that are happening at once,” Davies says. “And what I’m looking forward to is what I always look forward to: To bring all these toys like the drone, the super-slow-motion cameras, the high-resolution cameras, the broadcast analytics … and to see it all come together in a unique way.”