Is 3D or Ultra HD the future of F1 broadcasting?

Debates and pollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2012Sky broke new ground yesterday by offering the first ever live F1 broadcast in 3D, of the F1 test session at the Circuit de Catalunya.

F1’s adoption of high definition broadcasts took a long time to arrive. For several years, fans asked when F1 would go HD, only to be disappointed.

Is there a similar appetite developing for F1 coverage in 3D? Or is the next stage in high definition coverage the real future of F1 broadcasting?


Digital 3D films have been on show in cinemas for several years. And there are subscription television services, such as Sky in the UK, which offer 3D broadcasts.

But the technology has struggled to win mainstream popularity. Sales of 3D television sets have disappointed as consumers have been unimpressed by the picture quality and by the need to wear special glasses to view it.

I had a chance to watch some of Sky’s footage today. While the 3D worked well for close-ups of cars in the pit lane and some other angles, it added less to shots of the cars in motion.

Ultra HD

The next step in high definition broadcasts is Ultra HD. While 1080p HD – the current standard – provides a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the Ultra HD format defined in October promises resolutions from 3,840 x 2,160 (4K) to 7,680 ? 4,320 (8K).

These will offer vastly more detailed, colourful and realistic images. But the technology is still in its early stages: the first Ultra HD television sets have price tags which look like they belong on cars and finding the bandwidth to supply the vast amount of data needed is a major challenge.

However Ultra HD is making its first steps towards the living rooms of the world. Japan has revealed plans to broadcast some of the 2014 World Cup, which takes place in Brazil, in 4K resolution via satellite.

Over to you

One technology is available now, the other is some way off. But which broadcasting format are you most interested in for Formula One coverage?

Have you watched any of the current F1 test broadcasts in 3D? Is there any need to improve on current HD broadcasts?

Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Which broadcasting technology are you most interested in for F1?

  • 3D (5%)
  • Ultra HD (79%)
  • Neither (17%)

Total Voters: 230

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90 comments on “Is 3D or Ultra HD the future of F1 broadcasting?”

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  1. Ultra-HD for me, although not until it’s priced like the current HD.

    3D will risk inducing motion sickness, currently requires stupid glasses (and ‘subscription upsells’ for the same content) and the technology on the cars/track-side is too big and cumbersome. Can you imagine Adrian Newey & co. not getting the hump if the FOM cameras suddenly doubled in size to compensate for the additional lense(s)?

    1. UHD is way overrated, to take advantage of it you need screen sizes of at least 60″ and be seated closer than what’s comfortable, the jump in quality from HD to UHD is nowhere near what the jump was from standard to high def, in my opinion is just another marketing ploy from TV manufacturers I mean whats the point in selling them if there’s no content to start with.

      1. At the moment, it’s obvious that both 3D and UHD are useless for F1. The first, because of the current technology and the limitations due to the fast nature of the sport and the camera angles used, the latter because UHD is still in development and there is no H.265 standard set yet.
        IMHO we’ll get UHD F1 in some 6+ years.

    2. Lorem IPsum
      2nd March 2013, 8:09

      Priced like the current HD? what country are you in? The cheapest option to get F1 in HD over here would be a Sky subscription for 40 EUR/month (the cheapest package that includes F1) + an extra 10 EUR for the HD option. It’s such a shame we pay the highest TV license fees worldwide and get no quality programming whatsoever whilst other countries get F1 in HD without commercials for free (looking at you, Austria) …

  2. As you have mentioned before, Keith, 3D only works for some shots, the glasses are uncomfortable and give a lot of people headaches due to eye strain.
    I watched about half an hour yesterday at a neighbours and wasn’t very impressed. I was more impressed that they had turned up and were broadcasting these testing days, even if it was for limited period.

    1. @w-k the WORST thing in current 3D technology is that people that wears glasses have to use TWO pair of glasses at the same time, and it’s impossible…

      It’s so annoying :(

      1. And to make it even more worse some people that wear glasses can’t watch 3D at all. Someone like me. When i try to watch something in 3D nothing happens. It just looks like any other movie in 3D. It’s really weird and annoying in fact. So Ultra-HD was my obvious vote here.

      2. It’ll be three when those Google goggles are launched (or whatever their augmented-reality glasses things are called)…

  3. Ultra HD. I don’t mind 3D in the cinema, but the glasses for home 3D TVs are horrendously uncomfortable and the prices are silly, whereas as HD TV has proved the prices drop relatively quickly.

    3D TV is a bit of a betamax situation, IMO.

    For the younger readers of the site, ask your parents what a Betamax is. ;)

    1. @Bendana I asked my Daddy what a Betamax was, and he said it was “like a VHS tape”.

      What’s a “VHS tape”?…

      1. …I have never felt older than I do right now.

        1. It’s like a music casette tape, but bigger and for video ;)

        2. Just to rub it in, “Dark Side of the Moon” was released 40 years ago.

          1. Thanks for making me feel really old with thr DSotM reference!

            Ultra HD sounds like the best once prices come down

      2. Wow – I’m only 17 and I remember VHS!

        1. As I recall Betamax was actually the technical and visually better system of the two (Betamax and VHS), but VHS won because most of the porn videos were launched in this format;-) No, I don’t know why VHS won, but to watch a VHS movie now really sucks compared to DVD and if You compare with Blue Ray its horrifying. But that said the user interface of the VHS was absolutely fantastic: You just pushed the moviecassette into the machine, pushed the play button and then You were good to go. You didn’t have to spend more than 2 minutes going through menus and lots of keypresses before You had the movie running. And the late Super VHS machines even rewinded the tape automatically. And You could program the machine to record a movie or TV broadcast, either while You were watching something else or when You were not at home. But with the lousy image quality of course it had to be pensioned.

          1. That is the only thing video tape player may have had going for it vs. a modern equivalent. Insert media, press play.

            Rewind is of course redundant with a random access disk or digital media. Most media players will also automatically play the main programme when the disk (or media) is inserted or selected.
            If you are having to wade through menus to get there then you are doing something wrong.

            Nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia but it has a habit of distorting the truth (much like a VHS video recording!)

          2. Except when you rented one from Blockbuster (remember those?) and the last person didn’t rewind it.

  4. 3D is a gimmick that only works in certain situations (ie gaming). Movies in 3D have their cool moments but overall, the picture looses far too much clarity. Once we can get HD 3D without having to wear glasses, perhaps it’s worth reviewing but for now, ultra-HD is the only way forward.

    It’ll be a good few years before it’s affordable though.

  5. All TVs will eventually go down the route of 4K in much the same way that they did for HD (1080p).

    3D is a gimmick. It’s great for schlocky films, sports events (such as F1 and football), and video games, but as retail analysts have shown, not many people are willing to spend extra on expensive TV sets for things they only do sporadically.

  6. I’d settle for free standard digital coverage of all races.

    1. I wish F1 would offer races in the iTunes Store, easy revenue for them. I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

  7. The future of broadcasting should be internet. People watch TV shows online, and don’t need to wait until the local channel gets that new episode that was originally shown 3 weeks ago anymore.

    I mean, I think web-based broadcasting will eventually replace TVs, people will use their computer to watch anything. Most of us already do that with streaming, so that’s the way it should go. It’d reach a much wider audience too.

    Plus it could be much more interactive.

    As for 3D, well, I don’t know. I’ve seen a couple of movies in 3D and sometimes it’s “too much” or “too little”. For live-action films, most of the times you get the feeling that it’s a pointless thing, and you paid a much more expensive ticket for nothing in return. It’ll probably be the same for the telly. It’d be much better to improve quality, rather than add the gimmicks and “confusion” of 3D.

    1. Agreed, FOM’s current internet policy is stuck in the last century.
      The NBA has it’s League Pass system, V8 Supercar broadcast Bathurst direct to YouTube last year and is trialling their own system this year. F1 is supposed to be about bleeding edge tech, but in terms of broadcast F1 doesn’t even come close.

      Search F1 and you can hardly find any decent footage of recent races, and anything that makes it online invariably is taken down shortly “under copyright of FOM”. Most other sports have official channels, for example I could even watch highlights of Australia’s tour matches in India on the Cricket Australia YouTube channel.

      FOM I’d not taking advantage of any of the existing tools available, even the mediocre race edits are only on’s propriety video player.

      FOM have a massive library of F1 video, they also like making money. I see very few reasons why they shouldn’t be making recent races available on demand and making their historical races available too. They could charge a subscription fee to access it, or just have advertising I really don’t care. It’s incredibly frustrating to have no legitimate way to access F1 races on demand.

      FOM took years to come to the HD party, so I can’t see them moving on 3D or 4k anytime soon, but I do think they should be looking at ways to improve their on demand video services

      1. @plushpile exactly.

        I’ve been very critical of the way F1 misses the internet completely. Their live timing is probably the single thing they offer and you want. The rest is really really bad. The video player sucks, the race edits are boring and take years to load and the whole website is a disaster that should offer much much more, or at least have an option for certain things to be paid.

        Online streaming should be a “must have”… and not to mention historical footage in good quality.

        1. The video player sucks, the race edits are boring and take years to load and the whole website is a disaster that should offer much much more,

          So much in agreement w/ you…Sigh.

          1. Yep, agreed again

    2. @fer-no65 As much as we’d all like to have F1 broadcasted on the internet I’m afraid right now it is too much of a step backwards in terms of quality, when you give the choice to someone to watch F1 in a small window on your computer browser or in a 50″ HD TV, I know what I would choose.
      Unfortunately internet broadcasting (of sports at least) will not be very commonplace until it can match the TV in every aspect: availability, content, quality, price, etc and for that we may have to wait a couple more years.

      1. With 4G You can easily broadcast a HD signal on the internet. And peoples TV and internet surfing merges – the screen is used for both purposes.
        If I should make a choice between having a TV broadcast signal and internet, the TV signal would lose, even if I would get the full package.

      2. @mantresx I watch it on a 21” screen and it looks just fine. Not HD (because my connection cannot handle it… though Argentinian brandwidth is one of the worse in the world) but it looks close to what it looks on the telly.

        As for availability, content, quality, price… that all depends on F1 alone. Availability is much more widespread than satelite TV or cable. Content? what else do you want? you have twitter, F1Fanatic… quality? comes along with price. I’ve been watching from illegal streams for 2 years now and I’d gladly pay a bit for a quality, stable, reliable stream.

        And I bet a lot of people would do the same.

        1. “Not HD because my connection cannot handle it”
          @fer-no65 You hit the nail in the head there, how many people in the world actually have a fast and reliable internet connection enough to be on par with even a standard TV broadcast?
          But don’t worry Internet TV will happen sooner rather than later, we just have to hope someone other than Bernie is in charge by then.

          1. @mantresx well, I have 1 Mbps and I manage standard resolution more than well enough.

            I bet people around the globe (specially europeans) have better connections.

            I doubt that’s the problem, anyway. That’s improving consistently. Buying a whole new TV because you need UHD or 3D is way more expensive, and probably the same people that don’t have speedy internet cannot buy that sort of telly.

            I for one don’t have a massive flatscreen TV in my house. And I can’t pay for HD TV.

      3. I don’t have any trouble watching streamed HD, TV through the Video editing card I have which has HDMI i/p, on my computer. I do have two monitors so can watch on one full screeen HD and use the other for all the other things like live timing etc. and use Skype to talk with my son who also watches on his computer.

      4. @mantresx given the choice between a 50′ HD display and my iPhone screen I’d chose the 50′ every time. But I also live in the real world and can’t always be home for all the races.
        I’m fortunate enough to live in Australia where I can live stream the race to my phone from Channel Ten’s website – an option I’ve used multiple times.
        But what happens if I can’t logon to the race until 15 mins late, do I have to miss the most interesting part, or should I be able to stay off twitter and be a able to watch the race time shifted back 15 mins?

    3. Well said. I don’t really care for either of the listed technologies, but better online streaming would be welcomed.

      On the smaller screens I use for computing, I can’t really tell a difference between a nice stream (“nice” being critical) and a TV… but I haven’t seen one on a large TV, on account of not owning one.

    4. Exactly. I don’t even have a HD TV, much less a Ultra HD one. What we need is a legal high quality streaming. If ones internet connection is bad one can always use a lower quality stream.

  8. UHD I think. 3D image occurred to be tiring for viewers and in long-term doesn’t seem to have future (especially video game industry admits it). Whereas even higher resolution of image gives more detailed, more lively experience and when average homesteads acquire TV’s capable of UHD display, then this format might be the preferred one. The arrival of next-generation gaming consoles and availability of UHD broadcasts and home-video materials will speed up the change of equipment, similarly to what happened with HD when supply of HD material fueled the demand for HD displays.

  9. What I have heard is that with a 8k you won’t need the extra 3D thechnology, because the picture is so sharp and looks as itself to be three dimensional.. therefore ultraHD

    1. 3D is about perspective, you can’t gain perspective change through 2D.

      Besides, to get any benefit from 8k HD you would need at least a 6ft TV (or sit so close to the TV that it makes it pointless).

  10. As i have said today in the F1F live blog, i have been lucky enough to test top-of-the-line TV’s from Samsung, LG and Panasonic as a part of my job (training employees in our store chains to sell consumer electronics), therefore i was able to watch both passive and active 3D footage in both CCFL and LED LCD’s and Plasma screens.

    Honestly, all of them suck. All of them. For a person that don’t wear glasses yet saying that passive 3D glasses are more comfortable than active 3D glasses is like saying that malaria is the more comfortable disease than ebola (for those not in on the subject – passive glasses use anaglyph film to distribute different images to both eyes, while active glasses use batteries to dim the shutters that block both your eyes 30 times a second each). There are glasses-free tv’s, but today their sweet spot is so narrow that even one person struggles to maintain position to reach any kind of visible effect, at the expense of having blurry, dreary image anywhere bar the center of the screen.

    Even if you spend entire week fine-tuning your living room to find the best sweet spot for achieving the real 3D depth, your brain adjusts and after some 30 minutes of watching completely ignores the added effect.

    And then there’s the topic of subject. To get the most out of 3D you have to watch a lot of scenes with huge perspective difference, eg. sharply-detailed car in front of a distant, blurry background. We don’t see a lot of that in F1. In fact most of the footage we see comes from aerial shots with cars glued to the asphalt, so there’s no possibility of reaching any natural 3D effect. Plus you get darker overall image (through glasses’ philters), and nearly every 3D TV suffers from terrible crosstalk when handling motion – a bad thing for such dynamic sport.

    Luckily the market seems to be fading away from conventional 3D, where the mid range models for 2013 start shedding this superfluous technology.

    Yes, in my opinion UHD is the way to go. Some say that you won’t even see the difference (since 40in HD TV’s of today reach 300 ppi – maximum discernable by human eye – when watched from 1.6 meters), but you will. Simply having more pixels mean more details can be reproduced, like the fabric of clothes or glittering of damp asphalt. This all contributes to breaking the visible glass barrier that your eyes see so that you know you’re watching TV footage instead of the real thing. Immersible, detailed image with real (i mean real, more or less 100% of the sRGB palette, more than that distorts the colours) eye-popping colours watched in a right conditions will provide a more natural 3D effect than a retina-destroying glasses.

    1. @randy, nice explanation, could you confirm (or deny) that TV broadcast only 720P HD, for 1080P you need a source like Blu Ray, that is the case in the USA and I think Au. and the rest of the world, I have had for about 8 years a 61″ HD (720) TV, and the picture is excellent and large enough in my living room. To take advantage of UHD you would need a home theatre with a screen size of 3m./10′ + but as you need to move further away from a screen this size to comfortably view the whole screen at once it is better suited to “Sports bars” and the like than home TV.

      1. In the UK, it’s 1080i @ 50 fps over satellite for main stream channels (BBC, Sky, etc). Some of the smaller channels use lower rates to reduce costs.

      2. I can absolutely confirm that your TV provider probably outputs 1080i.

        Just kidding. As far as i know FOM outputs 50fps 1080p uncompressed stream to the TV providers, which generates mind-altering transfer of more than 300 megabytes per second (!). Your set-top-box would explode or shoot itself upon recieving such a huge amount of data. TV providers have to compress it in order to be able to fit into their broadcast capabilities. No over-the-air 1080p TV stream exists as for today.

        The most common practice of slimming the stream by half is interlacing, which works by separating each odd an even line of picture and splitting them into two separate frames. They are then displayed alternatively to produce what you see on your TV. This is called 1080i and it’s common today.

        There may be a bit of a ****-up with our digital infrastructure which may hamper today’s high definition bonanza. As digital tv has spread and 4G networks roll out, their allocated bandwidth overlaps disrupting the TV signal for households living near 4G telecomunication towers. The problem is so serious that it may involve as much as 2.3 million households in the UK, and UK government has launched mitigation program to limit the disruption.

        There’s not only bad news, at least if you’re a terrorist. Apparently the LTE network in entire city can be disrupted using a laptop and $600 radio transmitter, with which you can successfully disrupt the sync channel between BTS and mobile devices (it uses up only about 1% of the available bandwith, so it’s not that hard afaik), thus breaking the connection.

        Sorry for going a bit off topic, i just wanted to show that we may have to wait a bit longer for another jump in picture quality. And it’s getting rather interesting.

  11. Ultra HD is the future of F1. 3D is technically just a gimmick to set up the introduction of lower priced 4K TV sets, not necessarily something that I think should have resources put into it. Ultra HD however, is designed for sport. Formula 1 probably won’t adopt it initially, but as demand drives up and broadcasters want it then we will see it.

  12. Ultra HD looks really promising. Sharper tv images and as with current HD TVs, the panels will be used for pc monitors too. i think higher resolution monitors and TVs can only be a good thing.

  13. I can only watch something in 3D every now and then & even then it takes some time to get used to. I only ever see 3D at the cinema and doesn’t really impress me. I remember when everyone made a big deal about how Avatar was spectacular in 3D, but all I saw was a few flower petals appear to come out the screen. The future should be Ultra HD.

  14. Like HD, Ultra HD will eventually come to everything, it’s simply the next set up in broadcastable resolutions and the kit to handle it.

    3D I really feel has been a damp squib. It hasn’t taken off and has remained a bit of an expensive niche. I know I won’t be at all interested in 3D technology until there’s a full 3D holographic models being projected onto the coffee table in the middle of my living room. Until then, pseudo 3d via expensive polarised glasses and double images? nah, no thanks.

    1. Pretty much this. What is it car designers like to say, evolution not revolution? :)

  15. I got to see some of Sky’s 3D footage yesterday & while the shot looking down the straght at turn 1 & some of the stuff in the pits looked quite good, Other shots were quite poor. The low angles which required quick panning to follow the cars were especially poor & thats the sort of shot most commonly used in F1 & also the sort of shot that gives the best sensation of speed.

    Not seen any UltraHD stuff but have heard from people who have that its a lot more impressive & impressive to watch than 3D.

  16. Out of the two above technologies, definitely ‘UltraHD’ will be more prominent in F1. It possesses no downsides to ‘1080p HD’ apart from extra bandwidth required and most importantly it is a passive technology. 3D requires those awful glasses which cost about £80 per person; also wearing those over regular glasses can be uncomfortable. Induced nausea or sickness also goes in the negative column for 3D. Furthermore, there is no 3D standard, most of the technology is proprietary, meaning my 3D glasses wouldn’t necessarily work on your 3DTV if I brought them to use.

    3D is also too intrusive and obtrusive for my liking. When I’m watching a car heading down the pit straight on its last lap in Q3, I want to be screaming “Oh, it looks like he’s heading for pole” rather than “Oh, it looks like he’s heading for ME!!!!” Given the brusque usage of DRS and Pirelli tyres in contemporary F1, were the FIA to employ 3D cameras, I am sure we would be subjected to a plethora of car-looks-like-it’s-going-to-drive-into-my-living-room shots.

    3D is also divisive; it changes the manner in which one films something. Whereas HD/SD (or HD/UltraHD in the future) is simply enhanced viewing vs. regular viewing, watching a programmed filmed for 3D in regular HD means you see unusual camera angles which are visually mundane. [I can’t remember the programme I was watching, but it was literally 3 people walking in front and behind each other for about a minute in order to illustrate the different layers of 3D, I couldn’t help but think how boring this scene would have been in regular HD]

    The future of F1 viewing, however, doesn’t lie in either of these technologies but rather the internet. F1 is positively antediluvian in its use of the internet. A good seven or eight times out of ten times I go looking for F1 footage online, I come across ‘This video has been taken down due to a copyright request from Formula One Management’. That’s not good enough. There is next to no legal online footage of Formula One available. There are 20 events per year, compared to 380 in the Premier League (120ish televised); thousands of basketball matches – the point being that F1 has to shine its light that much brighter to get mainstream attention. Saying that we can not view a grand prix in its entirety the day after its televised (unless a channel randomly decides to throw on a repeat weeks or months later) is no longer good enough. For better or worse, we are now a what-we-want when-we-want society.

    If my rant sounds quixotic, I would ask that you take a moment to go to Youtube and see the ‘NBA’ page. I subscribed to them and had to unsubscribe because they were filling up my subscriptions page with too many videos! They upload more than 50 videos a week. Now I just go the page every couple of days and feast on the free banquet of videos they have supplied me. It has piqued my interest in the NBA to the point where I may get a league pass (£100) next season in order to be able to watch all the full games online. Obviously F1 wouldn’t be able to have that many videos up per week, but is a YouTube presence too much to ask? More or less, 11 days out of every fortnight during the season, the sport is inactive; what better way to keep F1 in the public conscience by releasing 5 min videos every 2 or 3 days which show different aspects of the previous grand prix; different interviews and classic grands prix. The key would be that it would be open worldwide (unlike BBC’s iterations) and would be able to reach markets that would otherwise be unattainable.

    I have no doubt that the lowered overall viewership is because more and more people are accessing their content ‘on the seven seas’. I am a firm believer that for media content – music, videos, television, books et cetera – either you make use of the Internet or the Internet makes use of you. F1 desperately needs an online presence with free content and a subscription service so we can have access to every race of the season (including days after its been broadcast) without having to deal with television subscriptions. If someone can’t wake up/stay up crazy hours of the night (depending where on the planet they live) they should have a means of watching it at their convenience online, without having to resort to nefarious methods of doing so.

    1. @kodongo – dang dude, well said. i live in the USA and the SPEEDTV F1 coverage last season was so bad that I simply went to Darmeth and torrented every practice session, quali and race to watch either BBC or SKY (and often times in HD). I GLADLY would’ve payed for the privilege of downloading/viewing either SKY or BBC’s season-long coverage via the ‘net, but…^^^^everything you said above.


  17. Got some more info on who’s doing what at this test.

    As I said yesterday its a 100% sky effort in terms of equipment, However leading upto the test they did get technical input from FOM in terms of how to place things like microphones to get the best 5.1 audio separation & where best to place the transmitters/receivers for the wireless camera signals.

    As far as personnel go, All there cameras are been operated by Sky staff with experience shooting in 3D, The extreme high shot towards the end of the lap is a 2D/HD camera due to the 3D effect not working with long distance shots.

    They did look at trying to use 3D in-car cameras, But no team agreed to let them use one as it would interfere with there data collection.
    FOM have a 3D in-car which they used to get footage through 2009 although it isn’t a live camera as I gather it was 2 GoPro cameras running in 3D config within a larger version of the standard FOM camera mount.

  18. Its almost funny how badly the 3D is doing in the poll. But it would be surprising if otherwise.

    3D video technologies has been around since when? 60s, 50s? It has enjoyed short periods of increase in popularity over the years, as some of the technologies change. But at the end of the day it is just “somthing to see” and then forget and move on. It becomes boring and tiring and annoying if you were to watch it for more than an hour or so. An hour does not even cover race build up.

    And at the end of the day, it is not true 3D, it is just an optical trick or an illusion. If this vote would be done many, many, many years from now, when the resolution of videos and television will have surpassed the point where on even a very big screen a human could not tell if it increased further, and the 3D prospects would promise some kind of holographic realistic, true 3D, then and only then the future of F1 or any other type of broadcasting would be 3D. IMO

  19. Ultra HD for me, 3D is a novelty that will soon wear off.

  20. As lonng as racers race, I don’t care if its SuperUltraAmazing HD or an old 14 inches TV. I can get my chair closer to the TV :P

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