It has been known for some time that FOM and Bernie have been experimenting with 3D coverage, but for various reasons it has taken a while to come to fruition. We in the Sett were therefore curious, and somewhat excited, to be invited to London’s swanky Groucho Club by Sky Sports F1 to check out coverage of the final 2013 Barcelona test in glorious 3D and to meet with Sky Sports F1 Analyst, Anthony Davidson.
My initial impression of the coverage was mixed, with some shots looking fantastic and making me feel like I was in the rainy Spanish countryside, and other’s nearly indistinguishable from regular HD coverage. It seemed to me that when the cameras follow the car from above looking down at the track, or when they are close up with little background or foreground to focus upon, the 3D element isn’t effective. However, when we zoom to a wider shot – looking down the main straight in Barcelona for example, 3D brings the circuit to life. Please note my wording there; circuit.
The biggest impact of the coverage is the way the track appears to the viewer. No longer is Barcelona a slightly boring test ring – it’s a racing circuit with hills and camber and gravel traps and all sorts. It looks like a real place, that real Formula 1 cars might drive – and even enjoy. The 3D coverage in the pits was good also, with the garages gaining depth – pitstops were excellent. The elongated brow on Felipe Massa’s cap, or Mark Webber’s double chin… not so much.
So is it any good?
It’s excellent at times, but the sport would need to reconsider the way in which it is filmed. Traditional helicopter shots from above would have to go, but watching the cars roar through Eau Rouge or the streets of Monaco in 3D would be something else. I would also love to see on-board 3D cameras, but have since been told that this is not only very heavy, but also very difficult due to the alignment of the cameras.
Whilst donning our rather cool 3D specs, we had a chat with Sky’s Director of 3D John Cassy, and put some of your questions to him.
Badger GP (BGP): Why are Sky investing so much into 3D, and specifically Formula 1 in 3D?
John Cassy (JC): As a company we’ve always been great believers in innovation, offering customers more choice in how they watch their television, offering them as much variety for big events as possible. We’ve done that with Digital TV, HD TV and now 3D. It’s as much about progress as anything.
BGP: Is the service going to cost any extra to Sky subscribers?
JC: The way 3D works at the moment is that it is free of charge, but to qualify for it you need to be on certain packages. To get this you would need Sky Sports and HD [subscriptions].
BGP: Will this service be available for Virgin Media customers?
JC: At the moment Virgin have their own 3D service, so we’re not currently talking to them about this.
BGP: Whilst there are no concrete plans to broadcast a race in 3D, but what races would you like to see broadcast in 3D this year?
JC: This is a one-off experiment so that’s as far as I can go with it. It’s all hypothetical. FOM have been wonderful to work with on this project, and we’re very grateful for them allowing to enable this to happen. The question for them is about other broadcasters.
If you’re curious as to how Sky Sports’ 3D F1 coverage works, Ted Kravitz did a nice little segment at the beginning of his Day 3 Barcelona notebook, which can be seen below.