TMS unveils largest HD video board

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas Motor Speedway lit up Wednesday night as track officials unveiled the world's largest high-definition LED video board to the public.

Sitting along the track's backstretch, the board -- dubbed "Big Hoss TV" and manufactured by Panasonic -- stands 12 stories high and provides 20,633.34 square feet of HD broadcasting. To put that in perspective, the imagery on the board is 79 percent larger than the huge video board at AT&T Stadium, which will host the Final Four in three weeks. TMS' new structure also eclipses Charlotte Motor Speedway, which held the record for the largest HD board until Wednesday night.

The board will make its NASCAR debut on Sunday, April 6, for the Duck Commander 500. And in keeping with the sponsor of that race, officials scheduled a showing of a new episode "Duck Dynasty" -- with the show's Willie and Korie Robertson in attendance -- on the board on Wednesday night, allowing the public to view it for free.

"With the big screen, you're not going to miss a thing," TMS president Eddie Gossage said. "Our intent, our hope, is that those folks who are thinking about watching on TV will come. There's nothing like attending a live sporting event, but this means you won't miss a thing. To me, this is like the ultimate fan amenity.

"To have the biggest one in the world, this is another one of those everything-is-bigger-in-Texas stories."

For the video board to work, it requires its own control room that is housed adjacent to the timing and scoring booth in the suite level right above the start-finish line. That room has five servers and two switchers that control the feed and the operator will have the ability to choose from 19 different cameras, 16 of which are operated by two production trucks.

The video is broken up into 16 different seconds on the board, which has 40 LED modules measuring 54½ feet by 9½ feet each in 10 rows of four.

It will take a minimum of five people inside the booth to run the board, including a producer, director and technical directors.

Construction crews worked seven days a week for the final five weeks to install the LED modules, wiring, electrical infrastructure, and get the control room ready for Wednesday's launch.

The board is designed to withstand the up to 120 mph wind gusts and hail damage, something that was tested by workers hitting golf balls at the LEDs. And sun glare isn't a concern, because the board doesn't have any glass, like a regular TV would.

So will the huge structure be a distraction for the drivers?

Helio Castroneves, three-time Indy 500 winner, was at TMS on Wednesday and said that he remembers seeing his family shown on the videoboard exiting Turn 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a few laps left in 2009.

"I said, 'This is for real. I've got to focus,'" Castroneves said.

But he doesn't believe it will be an issue at TMS.

"We're going so fast on the back straightaway, it will be hard for us to look," Castroneves said. "This place is so busy that I feel like it's going to be hard for us to take our eyes off the track. Hopefully, when we come back in June, I can see myself in victory circle on the big screen."

NASCAR's Kyle Busch isn't concerned, saying that in a Sprint Cup car it's difficult to see much of anything that's not on the track.

"It's probably a little harder to see than Helio. He has a cockpit and doesn't have a roof over his head," Busch said. "With all the restraints in a Cup car, it's a little difficult to see it. Unless you're under yellow and putting a crick in your neck, it will be hard to see what's happening on the screen."

Gossage said that the screen should also allow the speedway to attract other events that could utilize the visual enhancement. And track officials have discussed running movies on the screen at times as well, something they do at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Gossage and Marcus Smith, SMI president and COO, stressed that fans at the track will see differences between what is shown on the mammoth screen as opposed to watching on TV at home.

"At the track, we're going to focus on what it's like to be in the car," Smith said. "The fan is already here and so we'll go inside the car and you can get an idea of what it feels like to be Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr.. It's an amazing feeling you can only get right here at the track, seeing it and feeling it."