Fans of the Indianapolis 500 have something extra to get revved up about for the 99th running of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, thanks to 20 HD Panasonic video boards spread around the massive grounds as part of Project 100.
Project 100 is the name given to the technological overhaul at the historic stadium, with the video boards representing the largest and most obvious update but certainly not the only ones.
Panasonic Entertainment Solutions Group also created a new control room and graphics head end along with the construction of a 6-foot-wide, 92-foot-tall LED pylon last fall.
“They had a lot of technology from the late 1990s and early 2000s that was starting to outlive its usefulness so they had to make decisions on how to upgrade,” says Keith Hanak, executive VP for Panasonic’s Entertainment Solutions Group. He describes the speedway owners as “trailblazers” in terms of incorporating video into the fan experience.
Because the speedway is large enough to house the Vatican, Yankee Stadium, the Roman Coliseum, Churchill Downs and much more within its boundaries, the job was a massive undertaking for Hanak and his team.
“The historical relevance and tradition makes it a very special place,” he says.
The large size also led speedway owners to go with a distributed video solution rather than two or three extra-large scoreboards like Panasonic had installed at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in the past.
Because the Indianapolis track isn’t an oval, a solution with two or three large video boards would have meant only about 70 percent of fans would have seen them, says Hanak.
“We want to create a great experience and improve the experience for everyone,” he says. While there’s no single record-breaking board, the 10 million pixels spread across the property are most certainly Guinness-worthy, says Hanak.
Panasonic went with 20 screens around the property, set up so almost all fans can see at least one of them. The total includes seven screens in the area near the start/finish line and the screens range in size from 8 feet tall by 25 feet wide to almost 38 feet tall by 59 feet wide. Other sizes included 22 feet wide by 38 feet tall and 25 feet wide by 42 feet tall.
The boards were fabricated in Panasonic’s facility in Dallas, says Hanak, and the Panasonic team had help from several contractors and partners—including Eastern Signs—in getting them into place.
The work has been “full steam ahead” since January, says Hanak and the team reused some existing structures but built several new ones. The heavy construction began in early May and wrapped up just in time for the 99th Indianapolis 500 on May 24.
To help provide each fan with the best possible race-day experience, Panasonic doubled the size of the previous boards—98% of seat holders will now have a clear, high-definition view. Data is collected and shared in real-time via the Panasonic Dynamic Canvas.
The job includes a greater level of in-stadium connectivity, displaying real-time social media postings and increased access to information, such as out-of-town scores, fantasy updates, more camera angles and HD replays. Each race is staffed by Panasonic employees, who create original and engaging content that can be synchronized on all boards throughout the stadium. That includes tachometer data, braking information and positions of the racers.
“We’re creating a show to properly integrate data, advertising and other content the fans want to see,” says Hanak. “There’s a lot of new capabilities so we’re learning together.” Panasonic and speedway staff have been getting more familiar with the system during pre-race trials, he says.
In addition to debuting their new technology for fans on Indy 500 race day, Hanak and other Panasonic employees will be there to watch Enterprise Sales Group president Jim Doyle ride in the pace car with racing legend Mario Andretti. Hanak and his team are already mulling ways to make the 100th Indy 500 even more spectacular, including 3D renderings and more social media.