Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

The British F1 Grand Prix and BBC coverage

As has been said by the commentators, after a lamentable performance at the World Cup and a not-entirely satisfactory performance at Wimbledon, to have two British F1 champions racing at the British F1 Grand Prix was another opportunity for the sport-loving public.
The BBC provided us with great coverage as ever. For the first for me, I really wanted to watch all three practice sessions, partly because I knew that McLaren were bringing new upgrades for their cars and I wanted to see the testing. Now that the teams aren’t allowed to do any “off race” testing, the only opportunity they get to try out new parts is during the practice sessions.
The BBC broadcast the practice sessions through the interactive functionality of the various digital platforms. I get Sky and Freeview at home. With Sky, you cannot record the interactive video streams. You can, however, with Freeview. This was important to me as I wasn’t always going to be able to watch the sessions live and although the BBC make the recordings available on iPlayer, there can be a delay and I would have ended up watching it on a computer rather than the TV.
Freeview – through Windows Media Center, of course – to the rescue. The video streams are broadcast on a separate Freeview channel, 301 in the case of the BBC and, since the BBC kindly provide EPG data for that channel, it was a very straightforward operation to add the three practice sessions to the list of recordings. Furthermore, with Media Center as with most PVRs, you can start to watch a recording even if it hasn’t finished, which means that you don’t have to wait for the end of the recording before you start. Thank goodness for technology winning over the VCR!
One of the nice things I enjoy about watching TV through Windows Media Center is that it does do a really good job of upscaling SD content for display onto the plasma screen.
A new bit of coverage from the BBC for this race was a map of the course showing the positions of each and every driver. This is a great innovation but I felt it was let down in two ways:
  1. It was a video stream rather than a web page displaying live objects on the course. As such, the quality was slightly blurry and it wasn’t possible to resize it.
  2. Despite being labelled as “live”, the display lagged behind “live” by many seconds. As a result, it wasn’t really possible to use it in the way envisaged by the BBC, e.g. to predict where a pitting driver might come back out onto the course.
Another improvement I would make to it would be to clearly mark where the pit entry and exit is. Without that, it makes it even harder to figure out where a returning driver will appear.
For all that, though, this was a nice offering and one I hope will continue to develop in the future.
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