Alain Prost, Monaco, 2016

FOM TV coverage not good enough – Prost

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In the round-up: Alain Prost says Formula One Management’s television coverage fails to convey the spectacle of grand prix racing after watching broadcasts from Baku.

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Is the Isle of Man TT motorbike race a reasonable benchmark for safety in motor racing?

The Isle of Man’s death rate has not improved since the 60s, and there have only been two deathless years there since the war, one of which because the races were cancelled (2001, foot-and-mouth).

Yes, the TT is for very brave risk-takers and it is impressive, but it’s simply not representative of motor racing as a whole. It used to be, which is part of the charm, but it’s not “core” to the sport anymore. It’s not relevant to be compared with anything else out there, because there are so many alternatives which make obituaries at least unlikely.

And drivers who don’t want to grieve after every event, take those daredevil risks and most people who genuinely “don’t want drivers to die” head for those.

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  • 54 comments on “FOM TV coverage not good enough – Prost”

    1. i was watching some old footage some days ago and i was thinking the same: most of the “slowness” of the cars comes from a very POOR direction of cameras! some static shots that doesn’t do any favour to the cars, and from really far away. The professor hitted a nail on the head with that one..

      1. Agree, and taking Baku as an example of bad broadcast, there was a static camera on the inside barrier of turn 19 and the shot was amazing, the cars looked so fast, dangerous and sounded loud but I only saw the shot twice during the race.

        1. Agree. However it’s awesome to see this camera angle back. Very old school. Pity it only seems to be on Hamilton’s car at the moment.

          1. MG421982 (@)
            23rd June 2016, 12:35

            I’ve seen it for the 1st time this year on a HAAS car, so there’re more cars to sport the camera in that very position.

          2. Here, here, there was a moment on that cam in Hamiltons car, where he had to swerve a little bit for some reason and it looked so much more dramatic than if the camera was up high. Loving that cam

        2. Some shots of Baku were terrific, others, most, are basic FOM work. I like how the FOM has brought back that head high side cockpit view and I like how the Monaco directors brought back the classic overhead shot of Monaco, the rest can’t be praised. I think there were some constraints to camera positioning anyway my problem was the difficulty in understanding where is where, the race is new but it was easier to follow the race onboard than to float from strange camera to strange camera.

        3. @mijail Exactly. While watching the race I was thinking “these shot are amazing. How come they only shows for a half a second every 30 laps?”. Still trying to figure that out but I guess it’s not surprising.

        4. Whilst I agree with Prost, it is a funny race to make that comment because Baku was the first race in a long while we actually saw any static cameras at all. I can see the next FOM meeting going like this. “Prost says the coverage was boring, must have been those static cameras… let’s get rid of them.” :)

      2. Prost is right, when i watched the onboard shots of Senna and Prost’s qualifying laps in 1990 Spanish GP, the effect of speed was amazing!

        FOM should consider positioning the cameras better, both onboard and trackside.

      3. Agree with Prost 100%. The only thing in recent years that comes close to conveying the true feel is the visor cams. Unfortunately we won’t get that anytime soon because the footage looks too raw to broadcast for FOM, even tho it took them way to long to deliver HD content.

        As far as track side views go, until we can rid broadcasts of the disgusting virtual ads we will always have horrible camera positions for these.

      4. True that.
        Another aspect is that the cars are a lot more stable at high speeds – although a new speed record was broken last race. 10/20 years ago the cars were very nervous on straights, bouncing around.

      5. Michael Brown (@)
        23rd June 2016, 16:01

        The poor direction of the cameras comes from their obligation to keep advertisements in the shot. This became most apparent in the Canadian Grand Prix this year.

      6. I agree. The TV coverage is mediocre at best. FOM ought to contract the job to a proper production company. While they’re at it, offering live streaming, with various options for views and coverage, as they do for Le Mans, and MotoGP, would be a smart idea.

        But maybe F1’s stakeholders don’t care that they’ve lost a third of their audience. Maybe we’re just the dumb money – the cow that can be milked.

    2. I read the Prost interview earlier on, and I felt very much in disagreement with him. No doubt it could be better, but as their coverage goes I felt it was one of the stronger races. Many of their angles (especially in the last sector) did appear incredibly fast. On board views are exactly the same as they’ve always been. Not the best for action but great for seeing the driver and car at work.

      On an unrelated note, the race in Baku was in an incredibly stunning setting. Sunshine, sea, trees, old mixed with modern. Why would Bernie want to make it a night race? I had a feeling this would come up at some point. With Singapore it works well, but it’s a gimmick that shouldn’t be overused. Also, why does he suggest it for every street race that takes place?

      The impression I’ve got from the Baku race is that the promoters and organisers did a very good job in the end. Everybody within F1 seemed very pleased with the overall event. The only problem is they didn’t even fill 14,000 spectator seats (less than pretty much anywhere else), in the middle of a city. Whether it’s because it was the first race, time will tell, but that is not a good sign.

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        23rd June 2016, 0:32

        Yeah @strontium the whole charm of the venue came from the novelty of the modern tech going around the old castle. If they make it a night race and light up the castle with powerful spotlights or whatever, it will just end up looking modern and will pack way less of a punch, and will in turn make Singapore less special to boot. Bad call.

      2. I thought the coverage was much better than normal. I got to see Manor, Sauber, and McLaren cars, and I got a sense of how fast F1 cars went compared to normal road cars.
        He said he was watching the on board camera feed. My experience is it is much more a specialist feed than one intended for ordinary fans. I wouldn’t recommend it for those who don’t follow F1. The regular broadcast is intended for the ordinary viewer, it has the expert commentary, interviews with drivers who have retired from the race, replays of crashes and overtakes, etc.

      3. @strontium I agree with you, in particular with the last sector, breathtaking. I take Pat’s point, Singapore is looking more and more underwhelming, it’s true that Abu Dhabi is bland but Singapore has so much potential yet delivers so little on great scenic spectacle.

      4. Was wondering the exact same thing about making this race a night race. The scenery is beautiful, let it show!

        Next he’ll be looking to make Monaco a night race. (big giant winky inserted here)

          1. The FOM coverage is fine. It really is the least of F1’s concerns. It was a boring race but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Track really stood out to me as something different and memorable. I don’t think the GP2 fiasco helped. I felt the F1 lot took it easy and drove at 90% with the exception of Perez.

      5. During the race Crofty said the stands were “packed”. He also thinks anyone taking a look up the inside is “making a move”.

    3. I don’t understand why we don’t have split screens, pit stop on a smaller screen while watching action on the main screen.

      1. We trialed that about a decade ago (Think it may have been during one of the early races in 2005) & got some negative feedback about it from broadcasters so it was a direction that we decided against going down.

        1. @gt-racer @t3x i will like too see a split screen between pits and track when one driver is trying to undercut or overcut.

      2. Yeah the V8 Supercars coverage often has split screens for pit action and race action; personally I don’t mind it, but only if the on-track action is good enough to warrant it.

    4. Michael Brown (@)
      23rd June 2016, 1:06

      I agre with what Prost says, particularly the noise.

      Since 2914, the cars haven’t been enjoyable to listen to on TV. There’s nothing wrong with how the cars themselves sound, because footage taken by fans makes the cars sound better than what I hear on TV.

      It seems like FOM hasn’t bothered to change the configuration of the microphones to fit the lower-pitched V6s from the high-pitched V8s. Since 2014, the commentators easily drown out the engines. I genuinely like the sound of the cars, but a camera on the car itself picks up worse sound than somebody filming the race with their phone.

      On to the cameras themselves, I have to agree 100% being a recent viewer (since 2011). The trackside cameras put a priority on the advertising rather than the cars. Note that the vast majority of shots will not deviate from showing the advertisements. Look at Canada 2016. The cameras prioritized the Heineken adverts, most notably the “If you drive, never drink,” message.

      The cameras on the cars: they never shake these days, which was the intention, but combined with how little drivers push thanks to the tires requiring so much management, it doesn’t make watching an F1 car being driven look spectacular.

      That said, the camera at the fast two turns before the pit straight was in a great position. It was close to the cars, and it was at the track’s fastest two turns.

      1. @mbr-9 The sound that you hear on TV is more down to the way the individual broadcasters are mixing them into there commentary rather than the way FOM are producing it.

        You can see this by looking at some of the footage taken from the feeds that broadcasters don’t insert their own audio into such as the highlights feed & various in-car camera feeds.

        The volume & overall audio quality on those are a lot better than what we hear on the TV after the broadcasters have mixed there own commentary over the top of it.

        1. You seem to be in the loop :)

          My broadcaster (Netherlands) only puts out a PCM signal. Are you aware if FOM delivers it in Dolby Digital 5.1? If so, would you notice the difference?

          1. @hanswes FOM send out the audio in 5.1 currently although I believe there looking at 7.1 to go along with the move to 4k ultra HD.

            Since 2009 the audio for the in-car cameras has been stereo (Something nobody else is doing) with a mic in the side-pod on both sides of the car. Thats actually again something you don’t seem to pick up through whatever the broadcasters do to it but if you watch the dedicated in-car feeds you will hear it as the cars go over kurbs etc…

        2. Michael Brown (@)
          23rd June 2016, 16:19

          I’ve overlooked those. On Dailymotion, you can find onboard highlights with natural sound. I prefer to just turn up the volume and listen to these.

          I’d rather the option to watch F1 races love with no commentary, because they still haven the figured out that they talk over the cars.

      2. The lack of shaking is due to the wide angle lens.

        In Canada, Grosjeans on board camera was a narrow angle lens and this footage from his car felt fast and shaky. Hamitons car was fitted with this in Baku practice session (maybe the race I forget).

        Don’t be confused though, these cars are as stiff as ever and shake quite violently.

        1. I thought it was because FOM used cameras that a) used image stabilisation technology and b) were anchored to the roll hoop or other fixed points of the chassis.

          When doing other filming, the FOM cameras aren’t available so the teams use things like GoPros, which always shake. Even that test 4K video on the Ferrari had noticeable wobble.

          1. @optimaximal Its a bit of everything mentioned, Image stabilisation systems are used, The camera mounting points are better & the type of lenses used do have an effect.
            Most motorsport categories moved to wider angle lenses because they give a better FOV & also because they give a far better impression of speed. Narrower lenses pick up the bumps & vibrations a bit more but they tend to slow things down a bit.

            Back in the 80s/90s the cameras used on F1 cars did use narrower angle lenses but we started moving towards wider lenses in 1997/1998 for the reasons I already stated.
            Narrow lens-
            Wider lens-

            Going back to the way the cameras are mounted. In the late 80s/90-92 they tended to be mounted to the engine cover as it was a single piece which wrapped around the driver so the whole units were shaking/vibrating a lot with the bodywork. Then from 1993 onward you started seeing them mounted on the roll structure which doesn’t shake around like the bodywork does & you also had improvements in the way teams built the cars which resulted in the bodywork flaxing & shaking a lot less which also cuts down on movements picked up by the in-car cameras.

        2. Michael Brown (@)
          23rd June 2016, 16:21

          Just looking at the driver’s head shows that the cars are still violent. It’s not conveyed by the camera due to the aim of getting a clearer shot.

      3. Yeah watching Senna’s famous Monaco quali lap is so breathtaking because of the violence of the car is conveyed through the camera shaking.

        Modern racing games often add camera shake to make it feel like you’re going fast.

        If it’s all smoothed out all the time, it loses its spectacle.

    5. Michael Brown (@)
      23rd June 2016, 1:08

      Curse this iPad keyboard

      1. for a moment i’ve got scared that we will still be arguing about engines noises in some 9 centurys into the future!

    6. Well what can they do when they have nothing good to cover !

      Seriously the only part of the race I enjoyed was Perez chasing Kimi towards the end of race , though there was nothing spectacular about the overtake it was fun to watch.

      Improve the racing, coverage will follow.

      1. I fully agree… To me this race has been the worst of the year, by a long way… I can’t understand why so many like it, when so many complain about the lack of action at Monaco and Baku was even less action packed…

        The track may be challenging to the drivers and certainly a the GP2 was a pretty good race (except the silly number of laps behind the safety car after the lap 19 incident)…

    7. One of the problems FOM had in terms of the trackside cameras at Baku was that it was a new circuit & they didn’t have as much time to setup as they usually would have due to it been so close to Montreal. It been a street circuit didn’t help either as again that takes away from some of the usual pre-event preparation.

      I also gather there were some restrictions put in place in terms of what they could film, They were apparently told they were not able to film any footage of certain buildings so they had to try & get cameras setup to not pan in those directions & this is also why some of the aerial coverage was a bit wobbly with abrupt pans & cuts.

      Under normal conditions on a permanent circuit you will get somebody from FOM out to scout possible camera locations, & with the usual 2-3 week gap between races they have plenty of time to go out get everything setup & then move cameras around if necessary to get better shots.
      One of the problems with a street circuit is that there usually not setup until close to the start of the event so its impossible to do the usual pre-event preparation & with only a few days between Montreal & Baku it was a rush to get everything setup in time so there wasn’t any time to really get everything right before the start of the weekend as they usually would.

      This is also why you saw some angles change with new one’s added over the course of the event. They added some static cameras on wall’s in places on Saturday evening & Sunday morning which is stuff they usually wouldn’t be doing.

      1. As to other venues, A lot of them go back to the f1 digital+ days. Some new angles have been added since then, Some have been tweaked & some are the same. Back then the camera angles & overall camerawork were both praised & used to point at how much better it was compared to the stuff the local broadcasters were doing for the world feed.

        Often overlooked is that when that service closed at the end of 2002 the local broadcasters actually started using most of those angles themselves to try & better there own coverage. FOM then adopted many of those angles again when they started to take over the world feed.

        1. @gt-racer I always enjoy your insights on the broadcasting side of the sport. Thanks for sharing!

      2. I wondered frequently why they kept using that long shot looking back down the main straight from turn one.

        Yes, it made sense watching the cars reach the line for qualifying, but the distance, lack of lateral movement (being a straight) and dull environment made the cars look slow… Every time they used it in the race (often to try and show passes) it was just boring.

        1. THIS, and when the cars were about half distance on the straight, they all appeared grey color, did anybody notice that? From the shadow or I don’t know what

    8. FlyingLobster27
      23rd June 2016, 8:21

      Wow, my rant got COTD! XD Thanks, @keithcollantine! Seeing how often the “four-a-year” Isle of Man gets cited so positively in the current debate on safety and danger in motor sport, that response has been on my mind for a while.

    9. The problem with coverage now is that it’s so good. It’s almost crazy to say but if you look back at the 80s and early 90s footage it’s really quite bad. The cameramen can’t quite keep up with the cars, it’s always cutting quickly back and forth from one battle to another. It’s really frantic and it gives the impression that the race is frantic with loads going on – whereas often there was less going on than there is today. Nowadays the coverage is so good, the camera work so good, the directors so good it makes the coverage look really smooth and the race look quite pedestrian.

    10. The biggest elephant not on camera is the quaint ‘top down’ broadcast style – invented in a previous century, when people were apparently too stupid to pick their own shots and required a director and commentators mediate every experience for them.

      In the 21st century, technology can provide multiple streams/cameras on demand. We could choose to follow the on-track battle or advertising signage that appeals to us in the moment. In contrast to the dictatorial coverage by FOM, the multiple live streams from Le Mans are much more engaging. And much more enjoyable than Bernie’s one channel to rule them all.

      Imagine online F1 streaming services where the viewer selects the action to watch – without blathering idiots spoiling the sound and action of F1 racing. Or if wanted, could select blather and banter streams. While F1 has developed amazing 50%+ efficient engines and sub 2 second pitstops, the coverage is still covered in leather helmets, arbitrary celebrity cutaways and unwanted (ad) drum breaks.

      Would FOM and Bernie ever allow such a democratic system for F1 coverage? No. The little dictator only lets us see what he wants us to through the lazy eyes of his big media deals.

      F1: the pinnacle of auto racing technology and the money-trench of hackneyed, spoon-fed media coverage.

    11. I have a query concerning the quote from Todt
      “We can say maybe that the cars are too complicated. But we have just concluded a 24-hour race (at Le Mans) with cars that are more and more complicated.”
      Does anyone know if the the amount or content of radio traffic is restricted in WEC as it is now in F1?

    12. So other tracks must learn from boring race, with loose drains and flying shopping bags….and also Bernie wants Canada, Italy and Germany removed… so I guess it`s the quality of “black cash” that matters anyway, surely in Baku its no problem…

    13. “I’d like to see a 7pm start. We’ll find out, they’re looking at it.” – Actually, 8 pm would be a better time to start the race as the sunset time in Baku in June varies from 8:05 pm to 8:15 pm, so, therefore, it would start shortly before the sunset, but with a 7 pm start time the race would be almost over by the time of the sunset, so it would still almost entirely be a daylight race.

    14. Luke Harrison
      23rd June 2016, 21:20

      Was there not limitations to what could be seen in Baku as well?

      Like, no camera shots that showed the Royal Residence? That would have hamstrung FOM some what.

    15. Make baku a night race, and you have miniture golf…

    16. I watched 1990 Prost Jerez quali lap, it is avaliable free on Youtube.

      You see a man at work, camera is shaking, engine is screaming, brakes are locking, dramatic lap is unfolding.

      How much speed modern production techniques remove from us? Cameras are stable as hell, following the car, making it seem slow.

      When I watch a race with my grandpa he is unimpressed. Gotta explain to him they are reaching 360 kph. But camera is not showing.

      Baku main straight seemed like a stil shot of a car running down 200m of track slowly. They should bring in some new angles, where cameras do not follow the cars.

      Onboard cameras should shake more. Why are engines so quiet onboard? Can they not simply raise the volume a bit?

      A lot to be desired in short.

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