Supercars Group runs the Supercars Championship – an Australian touring-car race series that’s widely regarded as one of the best and most entertaining motorsport categories in the world.
Gravity Media has been the Supercars Broadcast Services & Facilities partner for the past eight years and, thanks to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Supercars Technology partner since 2020.
When COVID-19 forced the Supercars Championship to shut down in March 2020, Supercars Group refused to be beaten. In an effort to keep the fans engaged – and the sport alive – they took the racing online, creating Supercars’ first-ever eSports competition.
The Supercars All Stars Eseries launched on 8 April 2020, and comprised 10 rounds of virtual racing that allowed drivers to compete from their homes via the iRacing platform – the world’s leading motorsport racing simulation. The format involved two races per round at traditional Supercars racetracks, as well as guest appearances from a couple of F1 circuits into the mix.
As the Supercars Technology provider, Gravity Media’s Australian operation provided all studio and facilities solutions for the new product.
The Production Centre Sydney was fitted out with a host set and full control room for the Supercars production. We integrated as many as 30 drivers from all over the world (often having to work with consumer-grade internet speeds), with commentators based at The Production Centre Melbourne, and Supercars’ driving-standards observers located on the Gold Coast – all with camera, on-air audio, and a separate communications link. The Production Centre Sydney also took care of streaming the action live across multiple platforms.
Commenting on the setup, Nathan Prendergast, General Manager Television & Content at Supercars Media, said: “We’ve been fortunate that Gravity Media has the tech and facilities to be able to connect our different talent and officials in an isolated, locked-down world. Gravity Media has the bandwidth to connect all these people and then output it to the world both as a traditional TV feed and encoded RTMP stream. It’s a very powerful environment.”
To help ‘humanise’ the coverage, we included as many real faces in the footage as possible during competition. Using the webcams from each driver and placing them in inset boxes while they raced not only showed the effort they were putting in, but also reminded the viewer that a real person was behind the outcome of each race. All driver webcams were available via Zoom, and two scan-converted outputs with driver audio were available on Discord channels.
The coverage philosophy was the same as for normal race coverage, but instead of directing cameras, we directed observers on computers to cover what we needed. We still had a clear idea of how we wanted the coverage to look, and how we integrated the in-car cameras, but eSport demands more work in the lead-up – for example, developing the right angles and creating camera overlays to make sure the race coverage is representative of what viewers would experience in the real world.
What’s more, to ensure the product looked, felt and sounded like a true Supercars broadcast, Supercars Media secured its primary TV-broadcast talent team, including lead commentator Neil Crompton, as well as integrating the Supercars GFX package with Girraphic.
An important final note is that throughout the entire Eseries, all Gravity Media production teams practised COVID-19-safe work precautions, including the use of hand sanitiser, gloves and face-coverings, as well as stringent safe-distancing measures in all work environments.
All 25 Supercars Championship drivers took part in the All Stars Eseries, along with several guest drivers from other race series around the world – including F1’s Lando Norris and Max Verstappen. There was even a special 11th round, involving a mix of drivers and celebrities to help generate interest around the world.
The series was broadcast across a two-hour weekly window on Wednesday nights at 19:00hrs Sydney time. It was aired on Fox Sports, Kayo, TEN Play and Sky Sports New Zealand, and was streamed on Supercars’ Facebook and Twitch channels.
Gravity Media also looked after other streams for Fox Asia, motorsport.com and Red Bull TV, in territories as far away as Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Africa.
“Gravity Media’s ability to access a connected facility, along with the smarts and personnel to assist us in connecting the traditional TV assets like the host studio, the gaming and PC world, and the connectivity between drivers and interstate hosts – all from one venue – has been invaluable. This project was about three months of work in three weeks.” Nathan Prendergast, Supercars Media
“Broadcast skill and motor-racing passion fused to make literally the world’s best virtual racing broadcast product.” Neil Crompton, Supercars Hall of Fame