How an iPad Speeds Reporting from NASCAR's Pit Row

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Dave Burns has been covering stock car racing from pit road for seventeen years, including spending the past twelve covering NASCAR's premiere Sprint Cup Series. These days he's a Pit Reporter for ESPN, covering Nationwide and Sprint Cup practices, qualifying, and races, all over the course of a single weekend -- every weekend -- for months at a time.




Working the pit lane means dealing with dozens of teams, drivers, mechanics, and more; all while keeping viewers informed across hours of live programming. When he started covering NASCAR for NBC in 2001, Burns developed a sophisticated note-taking system that "catered to our programming, the way my brain worked, and portability." He started with half-sized legal pads and advanced to custom-bound pads that he would print and bind at home. He has since accumulated hundreds of binders filled with information.

"I have boxes and boxes of notepads that impressed the crew chiefs and race engineers every time," Burns said. Enviously, the teams would ask "Who does that for you?" Burns response? "I do, with a laser printer and a big ol' stapler!"



One of Burns' old notebooks
When the iPad was released in 2010, Burns instantly saw the potential. He could digitize his notepads, drop the pen and paper, and carry all his reference material with him to every race. After addressing concerns about size; durability; using it outside in the bright summer sun; and, perhaps most importantly, which apps to use; Burns arrived at his perfect setup:

For taking notes, both hand-written and typed, he uses Note Taker HD, a $4.99 iPad app [App Store]. "Note Taker HD has gone through a couple of valuable updates and has been rock solid all the way. I appreciate the "output" feature which allows me to save or email myself a copy of the weekends' work."

For downloading and storing statistics as well as the weekly NASCAR Media Guide, he found the $1.99 app Simply PDF works best [App Store]. "Simply PDF has been solid as well, never balking at NASCAR's 100+ page per weekend update books. In addition, I permanently store 1-page race results for Nationwide and Sprint Cup, for every event, dating back to 2004."

Originally, Burns used the Boxwave Active Field Case to carry and protect the iPad, but discovered that because it covered the entire iPad, it overheated in the sun. Burns says the first time it happened, he "calmly shut it down and scrambled for pen and paper."

To avoid more heat-related complications, he switched to the FreeOneHand iPad holder and avoids holding the iPad in direct sunlight for too long. It has since "endured countless days out in the 90 degree heat of summer." He uses Boxwave's ClearTouch anti-glare screen protector to cut screen glare.
I upgraded to the iPad 2 over the winter for the weight break and camera, and all has gone smoothly in 2012. I no longer bring my MacBook Air on the road, and am thrilled that the TSA doesn't require that the iPad be removed from my carry on! Using the iPad for what I do has proven to be efficient and entertaining. And, as usual for an Apple product, IT JUST WORKS. I've had to put a baggie over it a time or two in a rain situation, but other than that it absolutely does the job.

And once again the crew chiefs and engineers ask, "who does that for you?"
Burns developed his system personally, using his own iPad, and says that iPad use isn't widespread among the on-air talent at ESPN. "Almost every pit reporter developed a system that fits their way of thinking," Burns said. "As a pit reporter on television, you cue up a lot of things to say in your brain, but as the action on the track moves, so must your story."

He said that with his paper notepads, he would constantly be flipping back and forth from a "driver page" with prewritten story notes to a "race tracking page" where he jots down details mid-race. He says that he runs into the same problem on the iPad and he has needed to train himself to remember the tricks that get him from app to app, and this "may be a process that would distract others rather than help them." He says that ESPN isn't requiring reporters to work a certain way, as these note taking systems are extremely personal.

Most importantly, so far as Burns is concerned, the system "really works" for him. Side effects, such as saving resources by not needing to print hundreds of pages each week, are a benefit, but weren't his primary motivation. "I can do a lot of things on the fly and easily incorporate items into my notes." Having a connection to the Internet helps too. Burns uses the personal hotspot feature on an Android phone on Sprint because, being a prime NASCAR sponsor, they have the best coverage at the track.




He shared a sample PDF to show the kind of notes he takes. This is from the Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 this past weekend at Iowa Speedway. It includes the race tracking system he developed, post-race NASCAR stats pasted in for future reference, and individual pages for the drivers he covered during the race.

Burns does have some visions for the future. He'd love to add live race timing and scoring, as well as the ability to scan driver's radio frequencies. He currently has a radio scanner hooked up to a Bluetooth transmitter attached to the back to the iPad. "NASCAR keeps close control of their timing and scoring," Burns noted, but they haven't provided that to mobile users except for an app that Sprint, as a primary sponsor, provides to their customers. That app is Android-only at the moment, but is coming to Sprint iPhone owners later this year.

"I may not want it," Burns noted. "I don't know if I want my note-taking iPad tied up with scanning frequencies or showing a screen of scoring" or a live ESPN video feed. That said, he would "always like to try."

This weekend, he'll be covering the NASCAR Nationwide race live from the pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coverage of qualifying begins at 11AM Eastern on ESPN, with the race beginning at 2:30PM Eastern on ABC.

Article Link: How an iPad Speeds Reporting from NASCAR's Pit Row
 

Rocketman

macrumors 603
Right now apps are present one at a time. If Apple or a third party were to make an app that allows more than one app to be active at once, such as a top and bottom or side by side window or a 4 square window, the problem this guy identified going from app to app for simultaneous need data would be overcome.

Rocketman
 
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Ciclismo

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2010
819
52
Germany
If someone ever tells me that the iPad is "just a toy for facebooking" again, I'll smack them with this story.
 
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macmastersam

macrumors 6502a
Sep 14, 2011
515
0
Essex, england
i suppose tablets and ipads are a neater way of holding your notes.. none of this looking closely to them because you can't read it, and less clutter as well. very interesting, and another way in which people use thier ipads. neat.
 
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Drunken Master

macrumors 65816
Jul 19, 2011
1,060
0
Hope he has an anti-glare screen protector, otherwise he ain't seein' **** on an iPad out in the sun with cheapo glasses on.
 
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AppleGuesser

macrumors regular
May 1, 2012
234
37
Macon, GA
Just another story of what tablets are doing in the world nowdays, especially the iPad. Very cool although NASCAR, ehhh, not so much :D
 
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blubyu

macrumors member
Feb 10, 2010
92
0
Hope he has an anti-glare screen protector, otherwise he ain't seein' **** on an iPad out in the sun with cheapo glasses on.
So glad you actually took the time to read the story before you made your comment. Thanks for playing.
 
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shinobi-81

macrumors 6502
Apr 11, 2012
341
1
How does it speed up reporting? Does the reporter speak faster when using an iPad, or is it just more convenient for doing such tasks?
 
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smoledman

macrumors 68000
Oct 17, 2011
1,912
314
This is how Apple will grow the iPad further, associating with other big American brands like NASCAR.

"The new iPad - the official tablet of NASCAR"

----------

Right now apps are present one at a time. If Apple or a third party were to make an app that allows more than one app to be active at once, such as a top and bottom or side by side window or a 4 square window, the problem this guy identified going from app to app for simultaneous need data would be overcome.

Rocketman
Windows 8 supports this. Imagine having 2 apps side by side. The left side is telemetry and the ride side is the main content for the race.
 
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ckelley

macrumors regular
Aug 25, 2003
130
171
Austin, TX
This shows how one guy uses the iPad to help him broadcast a sport (whether you call it one or not) that is all about speed and having information right then and there.

I was at the Darlington race a few weeks ago for work as the company I work for sponsors a car in the Nationwide series and saw him, but didn't see him with an iPad. The guys for MRN Radio are all over the place as well, lots of them with notepads and other materials, where a device like an iPad could store all that without them shuffling everything around. Pit row is organized chaos, devices like the iPad could really help. I also saw some teams utilizing Mac Mini Servers in their pit boxes and other Apple devices for live replay video of their pit stops, showing where they could improve timings. Where hundredths of seconds matter in this sport, shaving off milliseconds could mean victory.

I'd love if MacRumors would do this with other sports and teams, I know the NHL, NBA and MLB all use iPads (not every team though) to help the players during shifts/periods/innings, showing different camera angles and other things that the other team or certain players are doing that maybe they didn't see, hoping to gain a competitive advantage over the other.
 
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macthetiger85

macrumors regular
Apr 28, 2007
125
0
Baton Rouge, LA
Hope he has an anti-glare screen protector, otherwise he ain't seein' **** on an iPad out in the sun with cheapo glasses on.
From original article:

<<He uses Boxwave's ClearTouch anti-glare screen protector to cut screen glare.>>

I love your sig - especially since you've been down voted by many (including myself.) It's not so much cause you're wrong, just because YOU DIDN'T READ THE ARTICLE YOU'RE COMMENTING ABOUT! :rolleyes:
 
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AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,801
8,665
Austin, TX
This just seems like a no brainer use for the iPad. There are a number of applications where this makes sense. This application might also benefit from a stylus we were talking about a few threads back.
 
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SaaGua

macrumors member
Apr 22, 2010
61
0
90+ degree weather... How the hell does he stand wearing that long thick jacket???

I'm about to faint from heat exhaustion just looking at that picture...
 
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alphaod

macrumors Core
Feb 9, 2008
22,167
1,212
NYC
He's not the only one who have used iPads for reporting. BBC has been using iPads for their F1 coverage for the past couple years among other broadcasters.
 
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Rocketman

macrumors 603
Windows 8 supports this. Imagine having 2 apps side by side. The left side is telemetry and the ride side is the main content for the race.
I find myself researching in a window or three and editing in a window or two on the Mac all the time. When iOS got copy and paste that was a real major update. If iOS won't get windowing, maybe it will get tabs. That would be a value-add for productivity users.

The other day I was using Safari on the iPhone and wanted to switch to another window I was just in and tried to swipe it. That didn't work, but maybe it should.

I still think it also needs multi-homing, that is to say logged onto two distinct web services at one time with rules as to what service to use for what apps or tiers or speeds of data. It's sad we don't simply have all you can eat bandwidth everywhere, but we don't.

Rocketman

Woo hoo first post. Except I don't even care. :(
 
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Consultant

macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
13,293
15
90+ degree weather... How the hell does he stand wearing that long thick jacket???

I'm about to faint from heat exhaustion just looking at that picture...
Probably made with fireproof material
 
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blow45

macrumors 68000
Jan 18, 2011
1,576
0
Hope he has an anti-glare screen protector, otherwise he ain't seein' **** on an iPad out in the sun with cheapo glasses on.
Yeah are they s***ing us? Does he have bionic eyes or something? No one can view **** on the iPad under sunlight...
 
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blow45

macrumors 68000
Jan 18, 2011
1,576
0
From original article:

<<He uses Boxwave's ClearTouch anti-glare screen protector to cut screen glare.>>

I love your sig - especially since you've been down voted by many (including myself.) It's not so much cause you're wrong, just because YOU DIDN'T READ THE ARTICLE YOU'RE COMMENTING ABOUT! :rolleyes:
The article should have specified this on the title. People are allowed to skim though you know? It's not some read to the last word dictatorship here, and it's very logical for someone to wonder this because the iPad is indeed **** under sunlight, what with no oled or eink. If people want o tout the iPad for any use they should preample what accessory they need to make it workable. Because sunlight is not one of the pros of iPad, it's actually one of its great deficiencies where other products such as oled screens from Samsung or eink from others outshine it. Are we allowed to say this here are as in the poor screen qc and the yellow tinges of the new iPad, once we do, we ll get attacked?

If I say iPad used to write 1000 page novel, and within the article tucked away somewhere is ...with Bluetooth keyboard by so and so... It's not the readers error for skimming through, it's the writers error for misrepresenting the news.

So in this case it should have been how an iPad with an anti glare filter speeds reporting etc. etc. Because an iPad without it can't speed nothing, but it can delay everything, because it can't even be read.
 
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ScottishDuck

macrumors 6502a
Feb 17, 2010
558
187
Argyll, Scotland
Let me take some notes.

The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
The car is turning left.
...
Someone turned left best and won.
 
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macthetiger85

macrumors regular
Apr 28, 2007
125
0
Baton Rouge, LA
The article should have specified this on the title. People are allowed to skim though you know? It's not some read to the last word dictatorship here, and it's very logical for someone to wonder this because the iPad is indeed **** under sunlight, what with no oled or eink.
You're absolutely right. I actually had the same thought. How did he deal with the glare. So I looked for it and there it was after a 5 second glance at the article. Then I went back and read the whole thing. Thanks macrumors for the journalism. As a professional, I'm always looking for ideas for new apps on what other professionals use.

Your post mentioning eink and oled makes me think you're just using this angry post to complain about apple's screen options. Let's stay on topic shall we?

By the way, macrumors could make the whole article the title that way everything is covered. But it's probably not too practicle. I could be wrong thou. ;)
 
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