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Formula One Goes High Definition

This week FOM, the Formula One Management company run by Bernie Ecclestone, has announced it will be providing native High Definition Formula One coverage for the very first time.  This heralds the entrance of the sport into the super clear broadcast territory.

High Definition television has been available for some time now in the United Kingdom, initially with the Sky satellite service, and then later with both Cable and free to air boxes and solutions.  HD is said to reach over 25% of homes in the UK alone.  Europe is playing catch up to the United States of America however, who have had a super high definition broadcast for many years.

While the UK is playing catch up to the USA, F1 is playing catch up to other sports.  Soccer, Cricket and American Football are just three sports which are all regularly broadcast in the clear definition, which provides a stunning amount of clarity over a normal SD broadcast.  For some reason, despite being one of the most commercially driven sports in the world, F1 was slow on the uptake to HD.  That commercial edge is somewhat surprising.

It has to be assumed, that part of the reason why soccer made it onto HD so quickly was this commercialism.  Consumers drove the change.  With the number of advertisers on F1 cars and around the tracks, one would assume they would be “chomping at the bit” to get it into the greater clarity viewing.  But alas not, and 11 years into the 21st century will be the first time we get to see it.

Perhaps it is the investment into equipment that FOM were struggling with.  After all, the number of cameras needed for a decent HD broadcast at an F1 circuit would be huge.  And think of all of the cameras on the cars too, one can only presume micro HD cameras will be installed for the new season.  Indeed some are now calling for F1 to go the whole hog and invest into 3D coverage.  While a lovely concept for the novel new viewing of television, there are an unbelievable number of pitfalls and problems surrounding the ability to broadcast such things – the technology really isn’t there yet.

Camera's on the cars will have to be improved

Bernie Ecclestone had always said HD would only come to F1 when the broadcasters really demanded it.  “I said to the broadcasters, are you going to get more viewers, will more people watch F1 because it is HD or will less people watch it because it isn’t? They really need to have a check and see who has got the right televisions.

“I don’t think the average public realise that it is not the television, they have to have something to receive it as well. It is like producing a colour signal when people only have black-and-white sets.”

The decision however seems a good one.  With both television companies and fans applauding the decision.  Forums, and the popular micro-blogging service Twitter have been full of praise for the move.  Some viewers have written that they will now be investing in HD receiving equipment in order to watch the new service.  People without the ability to view HD should also see some improvement in the standard definition coverage, with BBC saying that their British SD channel viewers will receive a downscaled edition of the HD feed.

Brian Sullivan, CEO of Sky Germany, said: “The broadcast of Formula 1 in true HD is something that millions of racing fans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have yearned for.”  Meanwhile, Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD in Britain said “It’s fantastic news that FOM has decided to green light HD broadcasts, and we’re looking forward to sharing with the fans all the races in all their detail on BBC One HD and BBC HD.”

Reporters under spotlight: Everything will be in greater quality improving the viewer experience

So far, confirmed broadcasters of HD F1 are:

  • BBC – Britain
  • Sky – Germany, Austria & Switzerland
  • Network Ten: One HD – Australia
  • Speed – USA
  • Globo – Brazil


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