Sunday, May 17, 2009

NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge

Just got back from the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge in Charlotte. Really, really cool event. Tons of pressure to get it perfect, because the show is very tightly coreographed, and so much is happening simultaneously, it would be difficult and time-consuming to go to manual backup. We got it perfect, but I was not without sleepless nights.

The show was live on SPEED for two hours. TV graphics in HD 720P. My AKISPORT CGs performed admirably, the graphics really looked crisp. I designed a cool lower-third animation which blasted the two clocks and two NASCAR door numbers onto the graphic with lightning bolts, and it got on the air a couple of dozen times, which was something I wanted out of the deal.

Had a nice dinner with my friend Trampass and his wife at my favorite Soul Food restaurant, Mert's Heart and Soul.

Check out this photofinish. Almost a dead heat. The two teams weren't actually running against each other, they were running against the clock, in a qualifying round.

Time for car 24: 23.846
Time for car 39: 23.855

Margin of victory: 0.009 (Nine one-thousandths of a second)

39 was later assessed a penalty for this push, so they were docked 3 seconds (for a loose lug nut). So ultimately, it wasn't this close.

The cars are moving very slowly (they are being pushed by the crews, not driven), and the event in indoors in Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, so JimmyBob (operating the Lynx) had to back the speed of the Lynx camera way down, since the lighting isn't that great. The frame rate we were using here was well under 1000 fps, although my Lynx Pro 5000 camera, under ideal lighting, is good for 5,000 fps. Calculating out the various factors, but without having a speed trap or RADAR to know exactly how fast the cars were going at the finish, my figures tell me the margin of victory here was about 1/2 cm.

It's a good thing JimmyBob sighted in the Lynx carefully.

And it's a good thing we replaced all the clown-nose switches just before the event. A redesign of the pit wall enabled the crews to use the clown-nose as a vaulting point. Even though the clown-noses are solid steel, I worry.

The calm before the storm.

Think these guys aren't taking this seriously? Given the financial trouble the teams are experiencing, and the subsequent mergers & consolidations, 1/10 second more or less in this competition may very well be the difference between keeping your job and hitting the bricks.

Very possibly, there's nobody who takes it more seriously than Yours Truly. Sitting with two NASCAR officials.

But then again, perhaps Tony Stewart aka "Smoke" takes it more seriously than I do. Here he's looking at the clocks on the Daktronics displays, trying to figure out exactly what happened. By the way, Smoke won the All-Star Race two days later up at the track.

Floor coordinators Anne Stamper and Michael Verlatti from JHE Productions are taking it pretty seriously, too.

The Skunkware timing team talks things over. The blurry figure in front of the gas cans is Jay Howard, principal of JHE Productions, and the brains behind this entire concept & event.

Locked & loaded in our aloha crew shirts, waiting for the Preliminary Round, which is held before the doors open as a TV rehearsal.

Preparing for Media Day.

Keyboards & laptops, anybody? Actually, we used less equipment in 2009 than in 2008, since the AKISPORT GS2 CGs each do the work of three of the old Matrox CG machines.

Getting Andryroo-san ready over in the TV Graphics department.

Special thanks to Mike Walker Photography for these most excellent pikkies:


Mike W said...

And, you knew I was going to leave a comment! Skunk, thanks for inviting me. It was a blast. Being able to shoot these guys from 3 feet away was a dream.


T-Rav said...

I really need to stay in town one of these years for this event... It looks awesome and extremely stressful. These events always remind me of folks talking about deadlines in their desk jobs... no one knows a deadline until you supporting a live tv event. Either it works or you go home. Well done Skunk!