Stage Precision’s SP & Shield Plug-In for Unreal Engine 5 Drive Historic Virtual Lap at Daytona 500

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Florida, USA, August 2023 – A 500-mile-long NASCA cup race, the Daytona 500 is an annual event held at the Daytona International Speedway. This year’s event marked 75 years of NASCAR, and to celebrate this anniversary, the event included a special virtual final lap. Leaders in broadcast mixed reality, The Famous Group were chosen as NASCAR’s preferred partners to bring this ambitious project to life.

“We were asked to recreate 18 historic NASCAR racecars and show them racing in a single lap together on the Daytona racetrack,” explains Erik Beaumont, Head of Mixed Reality at The Famous Group. “The fantasy lap would include a Dale Earnhardt Jr. No.88 car and a Dale Earnhardt Sr. No.3 car, a nod to some of the most important moments in Daytona 500 history.”

Creating a virtual mixed-reality event for live broadcast required careful tracking to ensure the seamless fusion of the imaginary and the real. Stage Precision’s SP data and control management software was identified as a crucial tool for crafting this historic production. The project also marked the first use of Stage Precision’s Shield for Unreal Engine 5 plug-in, specially designed for virtual production and augmented reality applications. “This was our first big project using SP. We had tested it and found it filled a hole in our workflow and toolchain but had yet to use it on a major project,” explains Beaumont. “SP provided us with an extraordinary level of control, making it an indispensable asset for this project.

The Famous Group used SP to ensure the maximum level of control over tracking, timing, and signals and to trigger multiple machines, cameras, and tracking systems within one, easy-to-navigate workflow. “SP gives us tremendous control and general ease of use,” continues Beaumont. “From managing tracking data and timing to camera IO and interfacing with Unreal Engine, SP was the backbone of our production pipeline at Daytona.”

An event of this scale and complexity faced a variety of pressures, primarily the challenge of controlling six cameras across an outdoor area covering several miles. “The flexibility of SP allowed us to manage a bunch of issues that cropped up unexpectedly,” confirms Beaumont. “In other situations, using different software, we might have had serious difficulty getting to the levers we needed to pull in order to solve the issues.”

In addition to SP Software, The Famous Group employed various other technologies, including Unreal Engine with Shield plug-in and SMT tracking, to bring this ground-breaking virtual lap production to life. SP was able to accommodate these different technologies and unify them into one workflow. With SP software driving their creative endeavors, The Famous Group were able to bring the stuff of NASCA fan dreams to life.

The Famous Group is grateful for the assistance from the Stage Precision team throughout this project: “The guidance and expertise of the Stage Precision team were invaluable in ensuring a seamless production,” reflects Beaumont. “The end result was a mixed-reality moment where historic cars, that are now either in museums or don’t exist anymore, raced once again on the prestigious Daytona racetrack – live and in real-time!”

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