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Panasonic Takes Indy 500 Video Displays to Next Level, Part 2

Show 134, Part 2

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 134-2:

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles wraps up his talk with Keith Hanak, Executive Vice President of AV Solutions for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company, about the installation of new video display screens at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Keith provides details on how each step of the new video screen installation went as well as describing the technology behind the upgrades.

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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Keith Hanak Executive Vice President of AV Solutions for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company North America. Show notes for the podcast are available on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a big new video display upgrade from Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company and Vice President Keith Hanak is back to give us the lowdown on how the installation project went from start to finish. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Keith, it’s great to have you back with us for Part 2 on the Indy Motor Speedway video display upgrade project. One of the more recognizable objects at the speedway has been the scoring pylon and you replaced that as well. Can you tell us about that one? I’ve seen a lot of pictures of it.

I think it’s maybe the most interesting pylon – certainly one of the most iconic in all of motor sports. The fact that it’s actually in the middle of the track is, first of all, an extremely interesting aspect of this. I mean in no other track is it located in a position like that, so size and width and some of the limitations that we had related to when you can work on it and in terms of how far it can protrude outside the area that it was originally in, all of those things created some interesting challenges. So we had some structural reinforcement that we needed to do in order to bring that thing to life. We have several different looks on the pylon that we built graphically; some of them that match the traditional look even though it’s a lot taller and slightly wider. That I know if, I think it’s the only continuous video screen. All the corners are faceted so that the concept is providing continuous video image around the screen as continuous as you can make it given the shape. So from a technical and construction perspective there were several unique elements for this particular pylon that made it a very interesting project to work on and as you know it’s a very iconic element. [Timestamp: 2:25]

Oh, yes. Very recognizable, as much as the bricks across the track. So what’s the first thing you do on a project like this when you’re turned loose on it? What do you get to first?

We always start with the engineering stuff on paper and fortunately with Indy Motor Speedway they have a gentleman there, Kevin Forbes, who’s been their head of engineering and very familiar with the facility, very helpful. He guided us through what was there. We had to make some structural changes to the sign in order to build it. We made a decision to actually rebuild the structure from some point above ground up to the top. We had a very short window to actually do the installation – I think we had about a week – and so we did a lot of the fabrication offsite but local to Indianapolis and then came in and brought the sign to life relatively quickly. [Timestamp: 3:21]

I was going to ask you about the working environment there. That’s a big place and there’s a lot going on. Were your guys able to work wide open and pretty much schedule things the way you wanted to or did you have to coordinate your work with that of a lot of other teams?  

They put us out there during times when we wouldn’t interfere and we were monitored very closely because a lot of the work that we were doing was on the track and that needs to be maintained in pristine condition. So there were a lot of restrictions and limitations just based on where it was located and the time we had to work on it. It turns out that the first event was a motocross event and giving some of the data and time information for that was a little challenging as well. [Timestamp: 4:04]

And I believe you mentioned in Part 1 that you had some existing fiber for signal conveyance to the new video displays and that you just had to update some transmission and receiver hardware at each end.

That is correct. This here was actually the first SMD LED board that we had actually installed at a pylon anywhere in motor sports, so it’s a surface-mount technology which has greater viewing angles and it’s kind of the future of outdoor signage – rear viewing angles, high brightness and better uniformity and better properties in terms of being able to maintain the systems for a longer duration. [Timestamp: 4:47]

So how are the new displays on power? Are they more efficient or since they’re bigger do they need more power? Any sort of power infrastructure changes you had to do for these?

Fortunately with time, a lot of displays, even though they’re larger, we were able to re-use a lot of the existing facility power. So part of that is gained efficiencies in technology, frankly speaking. We also had some real advantages in that even though these signs, some of them will increase three and four times the size they were previously, just with efficiencies over time we were able to pretty much use all the existing power to support the signs in spite of the upgrade. [Timestamp: 5:29]

And I guess you’ve had the opportunity to show this to a few people so far and have you had any comments or feedback from the race teams out there or are they pretty busy at what they’re doing?

We haven’t gotten the feedback necessarily from the race teams, but we have gotten a lot of feedback from the fans and also spectators. We’ve certainly had some of our own folks out there to review the performance of the displays. I think what I consider the biggest improvements are a lot more clarity. More than 10 million pixels are now being used out there across all 20 displays so you’ve got a lot more resolution because there are more the 281 trillion colors that are now displayed across the color palette because of the depth of color, the clarity, the additional brightness. I think there’s a visual improvement. I also think because of the control room equipment there’s improvements in the show and in terms of the amount of information that can be displayed on each of those displays. So all the way around I think there’s been some dramatic improvements to the quality of what fans will be able to see, not just for this event but for all sorts of upcoming events at the speedway. [Timestamp: 6:44]

Well, I know time was short to do this and you have to build in a little extra time just in case something happens. Were there any surprises or unexpected challenges during the installation or in the removal of the old stuff?

On the construction side the advantage that we had was the folks in operations and facilities at the track really knew what they were doing and they helped guide us through the process very well.  I think probably the biggest challenges are on the control room side because you’ve got so many different displays and different sizes, going through adding all these different aspects to what you can do with these displays, I think that was probably the biggest challenge. And it will be an ongoing learning curve, I think, for all of us as we continue to push the limit of what kind of experience we can give the fans with time and practice. [Timestamp: 7:36]

It certainly has to be a real charge for the people operating this new gear and a real sense of power for them to be able to really knock the fans over with this. It has been fantastic to listen to how all of this new display gear was installed. It’s Keith Hanak, Executive Vice President for AV Solutions with the Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company North America and the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway video displays. Thanks for telling us about it, Keith.

We certainly appreciate you giving us the opportunity to share our experience. It was a great opportunity just working with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Kevin and Doug and the entire team at the Speedway. [Timestamp: 8:16]

I know they’re going to enjoy it.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Keith Hanak. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Join us again for the next SVC Podcast.

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