Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Formula One and high definition // The future of TV broadcasting, and it looks good

Published by James

Formula One seems to be the last sport to embrace High Definition. In America Nascar is broadcast in the format and MotoGP is being broadcast in HD this year with them looking into using 3D technology in the future. In the UK there are now numerous High Definition channels, Sky Sports broadcast their content across 4 HD channels, with the BBC and ITV making moves to embrace HD. The World Cup this year has been broadcast in HD and in the UK at least by 2012 it is hoped that everyone in the UK will be able to watch the Olympics in HD.

Formula 1 Management (FOM) provide broadcasters, such as the BBC, with the live pictures and as much as the broadcasters want HD it is down to whether FOM uses HD cameras or not. Earlier this year the BBC confirmed that Formula One was being filmed in HD this year but that FOM were not making the feed available to them:

The events are being filmed in HD (as far as we know) but they are not made available by F1 to broadcasters in HD.

- Danielle Nagler, the BBC’s head of HD

Bernie Ecclestone has argued that the broadcasters need to have the desire to have HD coverage and at the same time be sure there are enough viewers who will be able to watch it to make it worthwhile. Now I don't know about all the broadcasters (of which there are many) but in the UK the BBC have been in discussions with FOM this year pushing for a HD feed. On the viewers front, the F1 fans survey carried out by the Formula One Teams Association resulted in 70% of fans who took part calling for it. It would seem the demand is there and that demand will only get larger the longer FOM hold off.

The following YouTube videos were captured by a fan at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2009 using a HD camera, which even if you are not watching in HD still looks very impressive.

On the topic of HD in F1, AUTOSPORT ran an article in which Andrew Barratt, LG's vice president of marketing and global sponsorship, mentioned that the technology needed improvement after problems with vibrations were experienced through the Monaco tunnel when HD cameras were trilled last year.

F1 is probably the most technologically complex sport in the world to shoot. The environments in which they are shooting make it very complex and very difficult

- Andrew Barratt, LG's vice president of marketing and global sponsorship

This seems like a reasonable reason as to why HD has not arrived completely, Formula 1 is unlike a lot of other sports in the world so conventional cameras used elsewhere might not be ideal and the idea of cutting between HD and SD cameras is not something anyone wants. However there must be a solution to the vibration problem and if it is a question of money then it comes down to Bernie to cough up and make it happen, something that sadly doesn't occur to often.

During the Canadian Grand Prix experiments took place with new 3D cameras for on track action as well as on board footage which prompted speculation that FOM might jump from standard definition to 3D. Whilst it shows that they are experimenting with technology, the cost of 3D capable televisions are expensive and in the current economic climate I can't imagine many people will go for it especially if they have a HD capable television. When you consider Ecclestone's argument that there needs to be enough viewers for HD I can't imagine there are enough viewers to even consider 3D coverage.

Lee McKenzie mentioned on Twitter sometime ago that FOM could start offering it to broadcasters for the 2011 season. However recently Bernie Ecclestone has said that High Definition won’t be available until 2012, which is a season and a half away. For a sport that prides itself on having the best technology advancements it is taking an awfully long time to do what many sports and television shows did some years ago.