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

Debates and polls

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?

  1. Kodongo (@kodongo) said on 1st March 2013, 15:31

    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.

    • Joe Papp (@joepa) said on 1st March 2013, 21:48

      @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.


  2. GT_Racer said on 1st March 2013, 15:35

    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.

  3. mateuss (@mateuss) said on 1st March 2013, 15:48

    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

  4. robk23 (@robk23) said on 1st March 2013, 15:49

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

  5. 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

  6. Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 1st March 2013, 16:00

    3D is nothing more then a gimmick that has been popping it’s ugly head up every few years since the late 1800s & it still hasn’t caught on because of various reasons (#1 being the fact that you usually have to wear stupid glasses).

    4K is the future but just like the switch to the current HD format it’s going to take a good 10 years or so til it’s fully saturated the mass market. The PS5 & Xbox4 that come out in about 8 years will probaly offer native 4K support and that is around the time that most of the mass market will be able to afford a decent size 4K display.

  7. Lauri (@f1lauri) said on 1st March 2013, 16:00

    Ultra HD in reality is probably 10 years away. Why? Because FullHD resolution fulfills almost all the needs. Most households think that 50-60″ TV is too big. But FullHD resolution is more than enough for that size TV considering average viewing distance. So there is no need for UltraHD. Todays movie and commercial production is closer to FullHD than to UltraHD. And at the moment there isn’t even UltraHD capable video player. Even SONY for its UltraHD screen presentation had to use PC computer with special graphics card – cause you don’t have better solution. Today there are couple of UltraHD capable screens and cameras. You need A LOT of technology for live TV broadcast that is UltraHD capable – cameras, mixers, recording and playback (EVS), video monitors, uplinks-downlinks etc. I can’t see where’s the economical reasoning to pay for all this?! Most local TV channels in the world are still in Standard Definition!

    3D is dead again, for 3rd or 4th or 5th time already. It won’t be widley used because it adds too little to the viewing experience, but producing 3D is quite a lot more difficult and expensive! Yes, there was a time (Avatar etc) when people were willing to pay few extra Euros to see a movie in 3D, but even that has ended now.

    The real question for F1 is – when can we view it officially online – pay per view/race or buy season ticket to watch all the races online. 720p HD would be great, FullHD even not needed. 3D and UltraHD is not a topic for this or couple of next years.

    • GT_Racer said on 1st March 2013, 20:18

      The real question for F1 is – when can we view it officially online – pay per view/race or buy season ticket to watch all the races online.

      When the broadcasters stop paying for exclusive contracts.

      With the contracts as they are, Even if FOM ran a live streaming service online it would be blocked in the UK as Sky/BBC have an exclusive deal preventing F1 been available from anyone but them in the UK. Most, If not all broadcasters world-wide have this sort of clause.
      Same with archive races, Broadcasters pay FOM for that footage so don’t like it been available elsewhere as that makes them paying for archive material pointless.

      The series which run online streaming tend to be those who either don’t have the exposure F1 does so needs to find ways of getting extra viewers or because there actually paying the broadcasters to show there races.

  8. Yoshisune (@yobo01) said on 1st March 2013, 16:31

    I think that Ultra HD is the natural evolution. It seems to be quite far, though. It’s an expensive technology and the fact that you should have at least a 50″ TV to see the difference can’t be overlooked. It will take time, but I’m sure it will become popular.

    3D is probably not going to make it (again). I don’t know how it works in the UK, but here in Italy you have to pay 5 €/month if you want to have 3D. I have a 3D TV and I think it’s not worth it. I’ve watched some movies and I’ve played some games in 3D and I think it does not add a lot to the overall experience. It looks cool, especially in games, but do I want to pay more and wear two pair of glasses while I watch F1? No, I don’t.

    Besides, glasses are not a big deal in movies and games, but when I watch F1 I usually have a smartphone to check twitter or a laptop to follow the session live on this site and the live timing on the official website. It’s impossible to do all these things properly with 3D glasses.

  9. Mads (@mads) said on 1st March 2013, 17:03

    While I don’t think that UHD is needed, really, I think it is the only route forward. 3D might be good for some shots, but it can be horrible in the next. But more importantly you cannot casually watch 3D tv while cooking, or writing an essay for school. Whatever. You have to sit down watch it square in front of the TV with those stupid glasses and everything and watch the whole thing. And for people who usually wear glasses it makes even less sense.
    3D is for the cinema where people go, watch a movie, and then go home. It works there. But I just don’t see that it will work properly at home. Especially not for live TV. Couple that with the gigantic establishment costs of broadcasting in 3D, then no. Don’t do it.
    UHD isn’t something that I think they should put much effort into either. Just wait until the UHD filming equipment has become more of a normality and that UHD tv’s are a common thing it homes across the world. It would be nice to have, but I don’t see the need to make any real push for it. It will arrive at some point.

  10. JS (@js) said on 1st March 2013, 17:13

    It’s a bit weird, isn’t it? My opinion is that is you want a realistic image, then just go to a race: it probably costs less than a Supra Digital 5D HD TV (not talking about the needed bandwidth, which will fail to be there every other day…).

    A few years ago, in the country where I stay, everybody had a working TV. Now, everything turned digital, people keep paying for more and more tech needed to get the 150 channels (most of which in a language they do not understand), it’s out of order every more often than not and, in addition, most shows moved to pay channels (e.g. all soccer and Formula 1 broadcasts).

    Do like me: put your TV in the trash, follow F1 Fanatic and live timing, go to races when you can: there the passion is palpable ! (pretty sure your Super Digital 5D HD TV won’t get any close to it.)

  11. JS (@js) said on 1st March 2013, 17:15

    The second ‘is’ is an ‘if’ and there’s a lost ‘every’ in the second paragraph: sorry for the typos! (Don’t know how to edit).

  12. Alec Glen (@alec-glen) said on 1st March 2013, 17:43

    1080p would be a good start and we wouldn’t need to buy a new tv for that.

    I think better camera work would also help as the shots we get seem to be exactly the same as they were 20 years ago just in higher def. The Monaco camera angles are awful, it’s literally advertising board to advertising board without even getting cars in focus at times.

  13. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 1st March 2013, 18:10

    I just wait for the chip in my head, letting me fight it out with Hamilton while I feel all sensations and smell the rubber…

  14. sato113 (@sato113) said on 1st March 2013, 18:36

    epic comment on that facebook link:
    ‘I just don’t understand 3D! I mean if you want 3D F1, go to the race.’

  15. sato113 (@sato113) said on 1st March 2013, 18:37

    Oh yeah and I say Ulltra HD over 3D. but if 3D didnt require glasses or cause eyestrain then maybe. how about a hologram style image?

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