Panasonic Video at the 2015 Indianapolis 500

When a crowd of 300,000 spectators gasps at once, you can almost feel the momentary drop in barometric pressure. When the field of 33 racecars passes by at full speed, you can feel the power in the air and coursing through the ground.

This past Memorial Day weekend, I had the great fortune of seeing the spectacle that boasts the highest attendance of any single sporting event: the Indianapolis 500. The trip was courtesy of Panasonic, which recently acquired the naming rights to the iconic Pagoda that sits on the speedway’s start/finish line.

One of the perks of the trip was this photo op!

Panasonic also replaced the video displays at the track, including the scoring pylon. The new screens are much larger and higher-resolution than what preceded them, allowing the entire crowd to follow the action on-screen and in real time.

Here you can see the Panasonic Pagoda as well as the scoring pylon.

I wasn’t in Indianapolis simply to watch the race. The purpose of the trip was to capture UHD/4K video clips with Panasonic’s Lumix G7 Micro Four Thirds interchangeable-lens camera, which I profiled here. The G7, which ships June 15, has two price points: $800 with a 14-42mm kit lens and $1100 with a 14-140mm kit lens.

The Lumix G7.

The scale and scope of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and the race itself are epic. Thanks to Panasonic‘s involvement, I enjoyed privileged access to the pit area as well as the balconies on the Panasonic Pagoda.

One of the problems with being a spectator at the IMS is the sheer size of the track—it’s impossible to follow all the action with the naked eye. Home viewers have the advantage when it comes to following the race, thanks to coverage provided by helicopters and TV cameras located throughout the track.

The current trend in sports is to bring the living-room experience to the grandstands using large, high-definition video boards. At the IMS, 20 new HD displays provided by Panasonic are up to 4.3 times larger than the displays they replaced, and they offer a clear view of the action to 98% of the audience. The largest boards, at turns one and four as well as above Gasoline Alley, measure 58.8′ x 37.8’—almost as large as a standard IMAX screen!

The challenge for Panasonic was the immensity of the racetrack. The stadium seats over 260,000 people, and the track is 2.5 miles long, which undoubtedly posed tremendous technical challenges when it came to distributing a live video feed in high definition. However, the system worked perfectly, resulting in coordinated gasps and cheers as all those spectators witnessed the action in real time.

During the race, I didn’t have much time to look at the video displays. I was too busy capturing photos and video clips using a G7 equipped with the 14-140mm kit lens. My primary goal was to collect compelling UHD/4K footage for use in upcoming UHDTV reviews.

Here’s a collection of UHD/4K video clips from the trip. The sound comes from the built-in microphones, and I shot all of the footage you see without the help of a tripod, relying instead on the 14-140mm lens’s optical image stabilization and the occasional handrail for stability. Enjoy.

In the garage with the Panasonic-sponsored Indycar, on the day before the race.

The High Octane Drumline performs a percussive piece for the Indy 500 crowd.

Practice makes perfect. Rehearsing pit stops prior to the big race.

All the cars came in for a pit stop due to a yellow flag. I was in the right place at the right time.

Racing action at the 99th running of the Indy 500.