Last time, I talked about how Formula One Management could promote their classic archive content via the physical release of the Official Season Reviews, in a remastered form with new extra features on Blu-Ray discs. Today, I’m going to talk about how FOM could promote their archive content online, this time in the form of full sessions & races (rather than the highlights as seen in the Official Season Reviews) available through a dedicated online portal.
As I’ve mentioned previously, FOM’s archive contains masses of raw footage, both from finished productions to footage shot from individual cameras. As a result, at the very least they have the world feed for at least the qualifying and races for all Grands Prix since 1981, and from 1997 to 2002, all 6 or 8 F1 Digital+ feeds (as UK viewers gained exclusive Studio and a dedicated Highlights channel when their F1 Digital service launched for its only season in 2002) for each session during those years. As the world feed is produced without commentary (so that local broadcasters such as the BBC, NBC, RTL etc. can pipe their own commentary in at their end), the world feed would exist in a commentary-free form. Formula One Management also have commentary in a variety of languages, from a variety of broadcasters, not just on Television. For example while they would have BBC commentary featuring Murray Walker and James Hunt, they may also have little-heard live radio commentary from Simon Taylor for example. This is where I believe in lays an advantage.
In my previous post, I advocated remastering and making new transfers (regardless of their original format) of the individual elements that made up the classic season reviews for release on blu-ray. When streaming on demand over the internet however, this is less of a draw and would probably be a waste of time for full seasons spanning over 30 years, although it may depend on the quality of the material currently available.
That issue aside, an ideal solution would be to offer all classic seasons on demand, as much sessions as they are available, providing at least some form of English commentary remains. The commentary is an area which I feel could be exploited more. Providing FOM can get international rights sorted out for the different commentary streams, it would be lovely to be able to have a choice of English Language commentary teams (BBC TV, BBC Radio, Eurosport, ESPN for example during the 90s). So many of us simply hear Murray Walker and James Hunt now, and while no disrespect to them of course, it would be fascinating to hear the other little-known commentators, such as Simon Taylor on BBC Radio 5 Live during the mid 90s, and I feel it would give many different insights and perspectives towards the action happening on screen. As well as this, there should be a no-commentary/ambient option available for any purists. Of course, the user will be able to switch between all these audio tracks at will throughout the video.
That’s audio covered, now onto video. During the mid-90s (before F1 Digital was launched), while the World Feed itself was produced by a local broadcaster at each race, FOM themselves handled all onboard content, producing a separate Onboard feed, which the local director would cut into whenever he wanted to show some onboard action on the world feed. As a result of this, much of the live onboard footage in those seasons remains unseen, as the full onboard feed was only seen by those producing the footage, and never shown publicly. If such footage remains, it would be fantastic to see that alongside the World Feed, and in sync with each other of course.
Finally, onto F1 Digital. This ran from 1997 to 2002 on various services in Europe (with various commentary teams) and featured 5 Channels, the “Super-Signal” (essentially a souped-up version of the World Feed, with its own direction, angles & graphics & the feed which the commentators commentated on), a “Track A” feed (focusing on the front-runners), a “Track B” feed (focusing on runners further down the order), a “Pit Lane” feed, showing footage from the pitlane, plus interviews conducted by Nick Daman among others, and drawings of technical changes throughout the season, alongside a highlights loop every 20 minutes. A “Data” channel showed live footage from the timing screens. Finally, there was a dedicated onboard feed. For 2002, UK viewers got an additional exclusive “Studio” or “Master” channel, which was fronted by Matt Lorenzo among others, which featured live discussion and analysis throughout the sessions, and exclusive cutaways and interviews from Peter Windsor among others. Finally an additional exclusive dedicated highlights channel was added, bringing the total up to 8 for UK viewers.
Unfortunately, very little of this service is available aside from poor quality VHS recordings. The interactive nature of the service meant that unless you had 6 – 8 VHS players and the same number of digiboxes, you were never going to record all channels simultaneously!
The choice of channels was originally controlled via a “Red Button” style interactive app, shown here (plus you could full-screen each channel if you wanted to watch an individual one rather than see them all in a grid):
F1 Digital+ 2002 UK Menu
Such an interface could easily be implemented as a web app nowadays, and Web Apps such as the F1 on Zume service have proved that you can watch sessions on-demand through multiple video feeds (each with their own audio track), in sync with each other, so technically it is possible, especially as the 8 feeds are available in standard definition. Showing the standard analogue World Feed alongside would also give the optimum amount of coverage available.
In keeping with my recommendations of including multiple commentary tracks, these would all remain with the F1 Digital sessions, as from 1997 to 2001, there was no official English commentary team for the Digital service, as no English channel took it until 2002, when it was launched on Sky in the UK). Plus, during 2002 on the Track A & B Channels, commentary sometimes used audio from the “Studio” channel, rather than the session commentary on the “Super Signal”, and as a result, the user may want a choice what to listen to when he’s watching a particular channel.
Anyway, those are my ideas of how FOM could promote classic F1 sessions on demand, via the use of multiple commentary track where available, and the re-creating the F1 Digital service online.