Watching F1 in the cinema

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Silverstone, 2007Formula 1 made its big-screen live debut last weekend – 30 Vue cinemas showed the British Grand Prix live.

I wasn’t able to go because I was at the race but my brother did. With F1 in the Cinemas rolling out across the country for the rest of his season, here’s what he told me about it.

The big selling point of F1 in Cinemas is that you get to watch the race in high definition. It’s not clear whether they use a ‘true’ high def feed, or a standard image that’s been up-scaled to look better, but the end result is far better than you get watching it at home.

Plus, it’s on an enormous screen and the surround sound booms – it’s an immersive experience, if a little surreal.

Almost as good is the picture quality is the fact that there aren’t any adverts. One blogger recently estimated that ITV miss up to a quarter of an hour of the race due to adverts, and it’s great not to keep missing chunks of up to two laps.

It does not share the same commentary team as ITV – the race analysis is supplied by Andrew Marriott (Eurosport) and Johnathan Palmer (ex-F1 driver, Motor Sport Vision boss and, of course, Murray Walker’s commentating partner for four years.

They do a fair job, but lacked the insightful comments of ITV’s Martin Brundle, and there were rather too many remarks encouraging us to appreciate what we were seeing and hearing on the high-def surround sound coverage.

Now we come to the big question – the price. Is it worth ??15 a ticket?

Well, you do get an official race programme, which costs ??10 a pop at the race track. Vue also throw in a soft drink of your choice and popcorn.

It’s still a lot to pay to watch a programme that airs for free on the TV. And you can’t necessarily see the live timing screens unless there’s a wireless connection at your local cinema and you have a laptop.

But the family ticket price – ??30 for two adults and two children – is not a bad deal.

I can’t imagine there’ll be much demand for this once F1 is being broadcast in high definition on television.

Which leads to a worrying question. Are they actually planning to show F1 in HD in the near future, or is this as good as we’ll get for the time being?

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