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Auto TrackDay Monthly had the opportunity for a question and answer session with Weston Pawlowski Owner, RaceRender LLC.  

Michael Allen

                                                                                      

 

TrackAddictHD & RaceRender Developer/Driver

 

Weston Pawlowski is the developer of the smart phone application TrackAddict HD and of the video editing software program RaceRender. RaceRender was recently updated to include helpful wizards to guide users step-by-step in creating their own professional looking track videos with data overlays.  Pawlowski  provided the sample video above so give it a test run.

  

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Track Driver and App Developer Q & A

 

Q.  What led you to develop Track Addict HD and Racerender?

A.  RaceRender and TrackAddict HD were really both created to satisfy my own needs and desires as a driver.  In short, I just wanted to make cool videos of my race track adventures, and the idea of it being profitable was sort of an afterthought.

I had been recording video at autocross and track events since back in 2003, but always wanted to do a bit more with it.  I then started racing Porsche 944’s in 2007, and we wanted to make some videos to promote and grow the class.  So, there I was with footage from a bunch of different cars, plus one data system, and somehow I needed to combine that all together into one video.  I spent hundreds of dollars in a mostly fruitless effort to find consumer video software that could handle multiple cameras.  I ended up getting a bit fed up, so I just wrote some simple software to do what we wanted.  That quickly grew into a much larger project as I wanted to do a bit more with each new video, such as data overlays.  As other drivers saw the videos I was making, several were sort of pleading with me to start selling the software, particularly for its data overlay capabilities.  So, after an enormous amount of additional work, it went on to become RaceRender, which became available for sale in January of 2009, and has continued to evolve ever since.

TrackAddict HD was also inspired by frustration that no one had made a good app like that for the iPhone.  After the iPhone 4 came out in mid-2010, with high-def video recording and an improved GPS, it seemed obvious that there would be a track day app to unleash its potential as an integrated video+data solution.  I just found myself waiting and waiting for this to become a reality.  There were a few attempts, but many seemed to be pop-up developers who just released one version and then walked away, and they didn’t appear to work all that well either.  I only knew of one that even came close, but even it had some big drawbacks at the time.  I realized that it was up to me to make the app that I wanted, so in early 2011, I bought a Mac and joined Apple’s iPhone developer program.  It was possible to largely utilize what I had already developed for RaceRender, and after a few months and a lot of driving around in circles to fine-tune the lap timing algorithm, the first version of TrackAddict HD was released on the iOS App Store in December of 2011.  It too, has evolved quite a bit since then, as new ideas have popped up during its use, and from user feedback.

 

Q.  How can they help a track day/high performance driving experience participant?

A.  In addition to being able to promote yourself and impress your friends with the videos that RaceRender and TrackAddict HD both produce, they also give you the ability to take an objective look back at your driving and your vehicle’s performance.

Both include GPS lap timing and video capabilities, so not only can you know which lap was your best, but you can also go to that lap and watch the video of it to see why.  As drivers, our memory can get a little fuzzy after doing many laps in a session, so it’s really helpful to have both video and data to show us just how well we were hitting our apexes, which line we took, what our corner exit speeds were, how deep we’re braking, and so on.

RaceRender is also really good at visualizing a wide variety of data, which can be helpful for vehicle performance diagnostics, when paired with a good data logger.  For example, if my engine is cutting out at 5200 RPM, I might want to see if any other sensors, like mass air flow, were giving any clues when that happens.  Or, maybe my coolant temperature was spiking and I want to see the video to know if that was only happening when I was in the draft of another car.  Depending on the vehicle, TrackAddict HD can be enhanced with an OBD-II interface to record that kind of data too, but that’s just one of many options for supplying data to RaceRender.

 

racerender4 440x292cQ.  What distinguishes your data logger from others?

A.  TrackAddict HD for iOS is quick and easy to use, and incredibly inexpensive for what it does, being that it runs on the iPhone that the user already has.  It’s also very well reviewed, with the “Pro” version currently sitting at 4.5 out of 5 stars in the App Store.

I know all too well that drivers simply don’t have the time or desire to be fumbling around with their equipment when they’re about to go out on track.  So, in most cases, you can just tell TrackAddict HD which track you’re at (it offers a menu based on your GPS location), press the Record button, and then start driving.  It won’t start recording until your vehicle is moving, so that you don’t waste your storage space recording you sitting in grid, but you can choose to override this and start recording sooner if you like.  If it doesn’t already have a start/finish location set for the track you’re at, you can just press an on-screen button when you cross that start line the first time, and then it will remember that for the future.  Your current, best, and predicted lap times will then be shown on screen while you drive, and then you can review your laps, GPS telemetry, and video afterward as well.

Obviously there will be a difference between a smartphone and dedicated data acquisition hardware, but it’s really hard to argue with the value of an app that only costs a few dollars, and there is a free version available too.  I’d certainly put it up for comparison against any other iPhone track day app out there, and when you combine it with add-on hardware options like a high-precision GPS or an OBD-II interface, it can do even more amazing things that we have been more accustomed to seeing from just the expensive data systems.

 

Q.  What are your data logger’s key features?

A.  Quick and easy setup

     GPS lap timing & display, with predictive lap timing capability

     High-Definition video with several data overlay options

     Lap analysis and comparison

     Works on road courses, autocross and rally courses, and drag racing

     OBD-II interface compatibility (for both data logging and a live monitor screen)

     Compatibility with affordable high-precision GPS add-ons, like the Dual XGPS160

     Works well as a standalone app, or with RaceRender

 

Q.  What distinguishes your video editing software from others?

A.  In a word, versatility.  RaceRender wants to work with the equipment that you already have, so it accepts video files from many different cameras, and data from more data systems than I’m probably even aware of, and then it lets you do quite a lot with both.  It runs on both Windows and Mac OS X, as well.

From the very start, RaceRender has supported using multiple cameras for things like picture-in-picture and switching between camera angles, but now we’re also seeing plenty of cameras split their footage into several files to keep each from exceeding 4 GB.  RaceRender easily accommodates that situation with its input join feature, allowing multiple video clips to sequentially act as one.  It also makes it easy to adjust for cameras that were mounted upside-down, or that need additional picture, crop / zoom, or rotation adjustments.

The data overlays can be quickly rearranged by the user, or be resized, colored differently, or have a number of other options customized, especially in the Ultimate Edition.  While it is of course catered to the motorsports community, RaceRender has been shown to be useful for an even broader range of activities like cycling, running, sailing, aviation, and many other uses where you’ll find people using action cameras.

 

Q.  What are RaceRender’s key features?

A.  Customizable data overlays on your video

     Works with the popular action cameras and plenty of others

     Accepts data from many GPS loggers, motorsports data systems, smartphone apps, etc.

     Offers camera rotation, digital zoom / cropping, and picture adjustments

     Can determine lap times for data files that don’t provide their own lap information

     Strong support for using multiple cameras

     Available for both Windows and Mac OS X

     Includes a YouTube uploader

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Q.  Racerender 3 just came out.  What are its new features?

A.  RaceRender 3’s biggest objective was to offer a great all-around user experience, so there are many new enhancements, both big and small.  RaceRender 3 is much more helpful in guiding users from start to finish for most common projects, while retaining all of the powerful features of RaceRender 2, and adding several more.  Most noticeable are the new Project Setup Wizard to take the guesswork out of completing your project, more intuitive user interfaces, and of course the new and improved data overlay options.  It’s also easier than ever to add more data displays, including displays for auxiliary or less common data channels, because the Display Object Toolbox now shows a visual menu of the styles available and lets you select the data field to use, right there on that screen.  There are more powerful video and data input synchronization tools as well.  For GPS data recorded at a recognized race track, it can even automatically set the start/finish point and calculate lap times, if your data file didn’t provide that info. 

 

Q.  Will you have a data logger for Androids at any time?

A.  Anything is possible, but it hasn’t made sense to do it so far.  There are already several good apps for Android, several of which create files that work with RaceRender too.  From a creative point of view, it wouldn’t seem to really fill any gap in that market, like TrackAddict HD did for the iPhone.

 

Q.  What would you recommend to Android users as far as a data logging application?

A.  The most popular have been aLapRecorder HD, RaceChrono, Torque, and TrackMaster.  Torque is incredibly popular for OBD-II data logging, but is perhaps the most different of the four, as the others can be more suited to track days.

 

Q.  What is your view on the role of data and video for driver improvement and self-coaching?

A.  I don’t know of anything more objective than cold hard data and video.  I can play it over and over again, and it’s the same story every time, unlike our own memory which becomes less clear.  It’s a lot easier to spot things in video replays than trying to think back and remember what you did, and having data can really help quantify what that video is showing you.

Even within the same track session, we’re not going to necessarily remember what we did differently on each lap, and how that matched up to our better or worse lap times.  It’s much better to have a recording of it that we can go back and inspect, and share with others to get their feedback too.

Drivers who are in the more advanced run groups, and especially race groups, tend to be less likely to have a driving coach or mentor riding with them, but a common trait of the best drivers is that they still strive to continue learning and improving.  Having video and data on your car can sometimes be better than having an expert passenger.

 

 

 

 

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