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You'd think they don't like money // A rant about the lack of Formula One video available to fans

Published by Daniel Shires

Did you enjoy the Senna movie? I bet you did, went down smooth didn't it? Not only was it emotional and touching, it showcased some of the most amazing footage from Formula 1's 'golden generation' in spectacular quality. It was so good it made me go home, slip into something more comfortable and reminisce with my old season reviews in stunning high definition.

Except... wait, that didn't actually happen.

Why the lie? Indulge me. Since 1980 an official F1 review has been released each winter to round up the action, excitement and inevitable controversy, providing perfect Boxing Day viewing over a cold turkey sandwich. Since 2003, they've been available on DVD and before that your granddad's choice, VHS.

So imagine you're a young F1 fan, getting into the sport after the amazing 2010 season and now wanting to learn some history, you'll just pop in a DVD of the 1989 season won't you?

Sadly no, as that particular DVD doesn't exist. In the world's most technologically advanced sport, the only way to see its history is poor quality clips on YouTube, or by getting historical yourself and dusting off some tired, antiquated old video tapes...

By now, you probably get the feeling I'm speaking from experience; well tip of the cap to you sir, you're right. I find the fact that F1 doesn’t provide easy access to it's history totally astounding. So last summer I decided that as Bernie was unlikely to re-release these videos on DVD any time soon, the only thing I could consider would be 'format shifting' them from VHS, in the same way you would a CD to your iPod for personal use.

After scouring charity shops for a VHS player, I picked up a kit that said it would make transferring old tapes 'easy' and began the epic process of recording them to my PC. After more than 30 hours work over a couple of weeks, the result was poor, but honestly the best I had expected. My girlfriend and I sat down to watch Damon Hill's 1996 championship victory and slowly the horror that is out of sync audio and video began to emerge... Gerhard Berger looked like he belonged in a badly dubbed kung-fu film. I checked all the others to find they were all exactly the same.

Unable to live with this I cried like a small child, then, after composing myself, set about working out what had gone wrong. I should explain that whilst I'm a confident computer user, video editing and restoration was totally new to me, so many hours of work were required. I tried programme after programme, each causing more problems than the last solved. Ready to give up, I remembered my grandfather's saying 'you can fix anything with money' and decided to give a different video capture device a go... success!

All the footage I'd worked so hard to save was right there on the big screen

I was delighted, well, until three months later when I saw Senna. All the footage I'd worked so hard to save was right there on the big screen in high definition... and it looked amazing. This led to the question I'd asked myself many times during this process, why couldn't the F1 reviews be re-released on contemporary formats? The fact is, people are generally happy to re-buy media when an improved format is released; just look at Nintendo, they've happily sold consumers the same thing over and over again since the 1980's!

Whilst I'm sure the official point of view will be put down to licensing, I'm convinced millions of F1 fans would love to be able to again own and watch this classic footage currently locked away on age-old VHS tapes.

Joe Saward has repeatedly pointed out how F1 fails to market itself properly and I think this is a prime example. When I watched the Senna film recently, a dad had brought his young son, as they left, the boy asked “do you have any DVDs of Senna, Dad?” to which the father replied “no, they don't make them and I got rid of my old tapes years ago”. Aside from poor quality internet clips, how can that boy see more footage of his newest hero?

A company that knows how to properly lean on its history is WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). WWE (formerly WWF) uses its history is as a marketing tool, so new fans immediately have recognition for products featuring 'legendary' faces. They release multiple DVDs on an almost weekly basis, featuring current events, biographies of their athletes past and present, plus countdowns of 'greatest moments'. When WWE took over their rivals World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, the only asset they truly coveted was their respective tape libraries as WWE knew the value of being able to re-release them in the future.

You want a complete Hulk Hogan Anthology? You got it. History of the WWE Championship? Of course. The Story of Wrestlemania? Here you go, take two for your trouble.

But what about F1? Okay, Michael Schumacher's Greatest Victories? Nope. The 50 Greatest Overtakes of All Time? Sorry. The Story of Alain Prost? Negative.

FOM is sitting on an absolute goldmine at its tape library at Biggin Hill, it's frankly begging to be remastered, packed in a racecar shaped boxset and given to the F1 fan in your life this Christmas.




  • It's Bernie's fault, though he is missing a trick cos there's certainly money to be made here

    Well put though, you have a very good point

  • I've always wondered why it is that the archives are so restricted and hidden away with F1. It's just such a massive waste when as has been pointed out there's so much potential to work with. It's completely pathetic how controlled the footage of F1 is too from FOM - like that Murray Walker documentary being refused to be put on the iPlayer because of the f1 footage and stuff. Just ruins it for everyone else how restrictive Bernie is with f1 footage.

    Really interesting comparison too with the WWE stuff. They do indeed have an absolute mountain of footage and stuff to work with but even if you watched it as a kid and haven't seen it for years you could probably head out and find the perfect DVD for you of that time you watched it. Vince Mcmahon has pretty much hit the nail on the head with offering what people want to see and the money he must make from it is is astromical. Why F1 doesn't do something like that is beyond me, or just offer some kind of archive access for a fee to let you watch classic races and stuff or just see what you can find for individual drivers. It'd be something worth paying for. Bernie does love his money after all.

    I bet bernie has a betamax at home.

  • I bet bernie has a betamax at home.

    I think he has a man that hand cranks a projector

  • I get quite a bit of stick as a Spurs fan because of their tendency to release DVD's about literally everything. Case in point, this 1-0 win over Chelsea: shop.tottenhamhot…helsea-dvd/36765/ It was a dreadful match, but I've got no doubt whatsoever that some Spurs fans went to the store and bought it, and it probably makes Spurs a nice little profit.

    So I agree, I don't see why Bernie and the FOM don't fancy it, it'll make them a nice bucket load of money. Classic races maybe (just putting it out there, maybe the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, heck I'll settle for the 2003 American Grand Prix if we had to push it), countdown stuff Channel 4 tend to love, maybe with some bloke you have never heard of before and probably won't hear of again.

    It is just too sensible to pass on really.

  • They missed a trick when the 60th Anniversary came round.

    Maybe when DVD/Blu-Ray/Download sales and rentals of the Senna Movie are through the roof, they might seize on the opportunity

  • Very interesting comparison with the WWE. UFC DVDs are very similar, you can seem to get all events they've ever produced on DVD as well.

    The F1 season reviews are there since 1982. In fact I own VHS reviews of 1998 to 2002, even though I haven't got a video player now, I refuse to throw them out until DVDs are released. It surely can't be that hard to convert them from VHS to DVD, throw them into stores at £10 a pop.

  • This has been a complaint of mine for many years. F1 ignores its history and has no idea how to market itself. How often do you see a piece on the history of a track in the build up to a race? Hardly ever. F1 is missing huge market sectors but many people on the inside still mindlessly chant about what a great job Bernie has done for F1 because they compare where it was 30 years ago and where it is now. The changes in the rest of the world over the past 3 decades have passed by unnoticed.

    I read a shocking fact the other day. F1's global television income is lower than that of the Turkish football league. When was the last time anyone sat down to watch a Turkish league game. The sooner Bernie goes and someone with a clue gets their hands on F1 the sooner the fans will get what they want and the sport will earn what it is capable of earning.

  • Maybe when DVD/Blu-Ray/Download sales and rentals of the Senna Movie are through the roof, they might seize on the opportunity

    I agree. I think it'll 'do a shawshank' and be huge on DVD by Christmas

  • How often do you see a piece on the history of a track in the build up to a race?

    The only one that springs to mind is from Steve Machett's Chalk Talk on Spa last year

    SpeedTV ferchrissakes!

  • Bernie believes the rarity of material makes it more valuable and if he released the archive it would somehow be worth less. The only way that makes sense is if you sell the company that owns the archive then it is worth more of the archive has not been marketed and unfortunately that is the situation we are in. It reminds me of an episode of Only Fool and Horses where Del boy buys a batch tinned food and Rodney opens one to find it is rotten. Del tells him "these tins are not for eating they are for trading. No-one is meant to eat them" So it is with the F1 archive.

  • Excellent post, really good points. It is senseless not to convert the existing reviews to current formats, whether that's DVD, Blu-Ray, or why not have it streamable on f1.com for a small fee? Do all three. Ker-ching!

    And get working with Brunswick to do the pre-1980 versions as well.

    I hadn't even considered the 'special editions' that could be made, that's brilliant.

    On top of that they should be making more (free) web video, and making it as accessible as possible.

  • Bernie believes the rarity of material makes it more valuable and if he released the archive it would somehow be worth less. The only way that makes sense is if you sell the company that owns the archive then it is worth more of the archive has not been marketed and unfortunately that is the situation we are in. It reminds me of an episode of Only Fool and Horses where Del boy buys a batch tinned food and Rodney opens one to find it is rotten. Del tells him "these tins are not for eating they are for trading. No-one is meant to eat them" So it is with the F1 archive.

    Well a brand is only worth money if people are interested in it....

  • The Story of Alain Prost?

    I've been saying for years, the lack of a retrospective on Prost's career has absolutely startled me. Apart from some 45 minute cable channel TV bits made just after he retired, there's been zero exploitation of the Prost name (or "brand", but I hate that word - anyway...).

    Regarding DVD's, I think that might be a lost cause at this stage (as with most physical products), but there's no reason why they cannot be released as a digital product on Formula1.com for example.

  • 've been saying for years, the lack of a retrospective on Prost's career has absolutely startled me. Apart from some 45 minute cable channel TV bits made just after he retired, there's been zero exploitation of the Prost name

    I wonder if that's Alain's choice?

  • I wonder if that's Alain's choice?

    No idea, but taking into account that there are no video biogs (that I know about) of Lauda, Rosberg, Piquet Sr (etc...) leads me to believe that FOM never bothered

  • I grew up watching Prost, Senna, Mansell, et al. Waking in the wee hours of Sunday mornings to watch (and listen) the spectacle of ultimate racing. I would love to see the old races of Alesi and Senna & all the others. I have looked and have found no legal offering or official offering. Most people would be amazed at the racing that took place back then! It was an age of brilliance from the construction to the quality of drivers and personalities. Waaaay more interesting than standard engines and press managers. It was raw and honest.

  • Monty Python had a similar issue to FOM that they kept having to issue takedown notices to YouTube because of copyright infringement. Until somebody actually asked the remaining pythons about the issue and they came up with the idea that they would go the other way and licence all of their content in ok quality on YouTube and allow you to click through to buy the DVD that the clip you just watched was on. When they did this their DVD sales went up by 16,000% that's not a typo...

    www.guardian.co.u…on-dvd-sales-soar

    Come on Bernie... That's actual money.

  • When they did this their DVD sales went up by 16,000% that's not a typo...

    woah.

  • great post daniel. cannot disagree with anything, except i'd like series available for renting from itunes.

    i'm not going to watch the story of the 1990 season very often, so renting would be ideal. currently i think we pay £6 for a high-def, 90 minute movie. if bernie could pitch f1 content around that price, that would be bliss. he couldn't fail to make money from that.

  • Thanks for all the feedback and comment everyone; glad this is something a lot of people agree needs to be brought up to date. I think I latched onto DVD because of the way WWE do it, but lets face facts there are so many different ways content can be delivered now, anything would be better than the 20 or so VHS tapes i'll have stacked in the corner of my room until the end of time...

    I've actually posed the question to FOTA for the Fan Forum today; they always say they want to bring the way F1 is presented to fans up to date so would love to get their view on it.

  • I remembered my grandfather's saying 'you can fix anything with money' and decided to give a different video capture device a go... success!

    Mind me asking what you ended up throwing money at? I have loads of VHS (and worse, 8mm Hi8) I'd like to convert to Digital...

    Ta

  • I'm still trying to work out why full seasons aren't released. I saw a quick grab of the season review from last year and it wasn't that great. It lost large chunks of meaning from what happened.

    There would be a reasonable market to have all 19 2011 races on blu-ray (qualifying + race) with the press conferences too and it wouldn't be hard to add other extras, possibly supplied by the teams as they're doing a lot of their own videos these days. That would mean 19 discs and a rather expensive set (call it AU$500 as a round number). But I'd rather fork out large chunks of money for that than a 1-2 hour review of the entire season. It would also be simple to backtrack almost 10 years onto blu-ray plus then further back with limited quality.

    It's more money in your pocket, Bernie.

    (that comment should be good incentive)

  • It's a pity that the only thing that is available for the VHS years are poorly dubbed versions on the web. A lot of people must have downloaded them - I wonder how many lost sales that accounted to? One only has to look at the interest in the BBC's "Classic Grand Prix" Series to see how popular thwy are. Shame the BBC tie their own hands in that respect as well...

  • MalteseFalconX I'd recommend the Compro VideoMate C100. It's a PCI card, so you'll have to open your PC to fit it, but it works like a charm once you get your head round it. I'd recommend not using the bundled software, for some reason it doesn't pick up the audio; I use a free programme called Virtual VCR.

    I'm writing a workflow for a friend of mine who's wanting to pick up one for his video collection, if you decide to get one I can forward it over to you if you like?

  • I think that people over estimate the demand for historic footage, and underestimate the cost of making it available.

    This is going back a few years, but I spoke to someone from Duke Video who said it wasn't economically viable for them to remaster their back catalogue of F1 reviews on to DVD. The additional expense of digitalising the footage, combined with rights issues with FOM would have been astronomical.

    If you want to use F1 footage it costs somewhere in the region of £6,000 per minute up to 40 minutes. Anything over that costs up to £30,000 per minute.

    Daylight robbery, but that's Bernie for you.

  • Daylight robbery, but that's Bernie for you.

    But isn't this like saying Bernie can't sell it because he's set the price too high?

    Bernie is on both sides of this equation, surely he can bargain with himself?

  • Just saying, I have manually backed-up every season review I collected (1980-the first DVD release) on VHS to DVD using my Toshiba PVR/DVD/VHS combi. I definitely feel your pain - am so glad I now have back-ups, just-in-case. They are condensed to fit on single-layer DVD-size or two.

    Was also gutted at the pre-1980 series DVDs I bought by Duke - utterly awful. Does anyone have race/season footage from before that?

    If anyone wants to talk, I can begin a membership for PM?

  • Great article, and something i hadn't considered. Am thinking the point raised.here is one if.the many reasons newscorp want to.take over

  • I too am gutted that they've never been released on DVD. can't quite believe it still hasn't happened...

  • Hi guys.

    I run a small forum called F1 Nostalgia and was wondering if theirs any collectors that would like to join us there.

    Were a bunch of collectors that trade and exchange Formula 1 footage from 1950 onwards.

    If your interested please mail me @ f1nostalgia@gmail.com

    Mansell - Admin @ F1Nostalgia.com

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