Northeast Tarrant

Big Hoss commands an army for NASCAR weekend

It takes more than a click of a remote control to run Big Hoss.

“We have an army,” said Michael Rocha, director of content solutions for Panasonic, which built the massive HD video board at Texas Motor Speedway.

For this weekend’s NASCAR extravaganza, including Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 Sprint Cup Series race, 22 people will be working in the Big Hoss control room.

Big Hoss, the world’s largest high-definition video board, should not be confused with a giant-screen TV — a TV has the tuner inside; Big Hoss’ tuner is the control room — and the speedway isn’t treating it like one.

It would have been a lot easier to take a live TV feed and put it on Big Hoss, Rocha said Friday, just after the board went live at 10:30 a.m.

“It’d be a lot less expensive, and it would just take two or three people,” said Rocha, who directs the live event production.

Big Hoss, which takes 12 minutes to turn on, features live video feeds you don’t see on the TV broadcast, social media posts from fans in attendance, canned video entertainment and more.

Eighteen camera feeds from across the speedway come into the control room, which is in the press box above the finish line. The video board, a Panasonic HD LED screen with 4K resolution — called “Ultra HD” — can display 281 trillion colors.

“We’re producing an entertaining show for the people here, to show them the things they can’t see on TV,” said Jaime Carlin, the speedway’s marketing director.

The behind-the-scenes crew has created 60 pieces of original content and is prepared to produce more than 40 hours’ worth of video for a race weekend. But in the event of bad weather, the showtime could be even longer, as was the case at the Duck Commander 500 in April, when rain delayed a “crazy” debut for Big Hoss, Carlin said.

“We learned so much and that we had no idea what we had gotten into,” Carlin said. “It is a gigantic undertaking.”

The production team calls Big Hoss a monster “because it eats so much content,” Carlin said.

Big Hoss’ size isn’t just a tribute to “everything’s bigger in Texas.”

“The video board is that size because the front stretch is three-quarters-of-a-mile long and half a mile away from the front stretch seats, so it has to be big,” Carlin said.

If there’s trouble, it takes technicians six minutes to walk to the top of Big Hoss. They are among the 22 people in the control room, which includes those who manage graphics, replays and social media, as well as directors and on-air talent.

Speedway folks like to brag that Big Hoss is 79 percent larger than the board at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where the Cowboys play Sunday, and it’s only the second video board of its kind at a speedway.

“Right now, this is the envy of professional sports,” Carlin said.

This story was originally published October 31, 2014 9:16 PM.

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