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Sky’s F1 3D test is a one-off glimpse of an exciting future: video

If you’re an Formula One fan with a 3D TV and access to Sky 3D, you should watch Sky’s 3D footage from the remaining Barcelona test sessions on March 1 and March 2, because 3D F1 won’t be coming to a screen near you soon.

That was the message from Sky as we were invited to a world first live screening of the pre-season F1 in 3D.

The experiment has been set up by Sky alongside F1’s own 2D HD broadcast operation at the Circuit de Catalunya, and it’s exclusive to Sky and its Italian sister service, but surprisingly, not Sky Deutschland in F1-crazy Germany.

Most surprisingly, it’s a one-off with no plans to be repeated during the 2013 season, let alone to join the other 14 sports Sky covers regularly in 3D.

The first 3D session had some standout 3D moments: a view down the start/finish straight where the cars pop-up over a rise; pit stops where 3D helps you to pull apart the fast-moving crew changing tyres; and a few hair-razing spins and slides on the cold, wet track.*

It will leave F1 fans keen to see a full race where the starts will leap into life and overtaking gain added drama – but Mr Ecclestone will doubtless want more money before he sanctions a 3D upgrade.

Trackside 3D today, in-car tomorrow?

Sky and their tech partners, Telegenic, have taken 12 3D cameras to Barcelona, covering the pits, behind-the-scenes reports and strategic locations around the track.

There are two Sony wireless cameras roaming the pits and one Panasonic wired camera for static reports, plus eight full-size 3D cameras around the track. A final camera is mounted on the pit wall for an extreme wide-angle long view that pops out of the screen.

There’s an additional camera mounted high up, nicknamed the ‘beauty cam’, but this is only 2D because long distances flatten out 3D effects.

That’s apparent from some of the ground-level shots as well, where a single car in the distance is just, well, a single car in the distance – although slightly toy-like to my eyes.

One vital part of the F1 TV experience missing from the Barcelona test is the on-board camera.

Sky tech expert Chris Johns assured me that this isn’t a technology problem: Go Pro produces compact 3D cameras which are light enough for F1, but the teams would have to field a new camera pod, with a different weight to the existing HD camera.

Testing is as serious an F1 event as any race, and any changes have to go through team approval and technical review before they’re strapped onto the cars.

* The author would like to add that he’s been generally unimpressed by 3D TV to date.


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