Formula 1 has always been at the forefront of broadcast technology, constantly upgrading its resolution from standard definition to High Definition, then to real HD, and finally to 4K ultra-high definition in 2017.
Now, in partnership with Tata Communications, its Official Broadcast Connectivity Provider, Formula 1 is taking the first steps towards integrating 8K broadcasting, which is expected to become the new industry standard.
The transition to 8K broadcasting will provide images with four times the sharpness of the current F1 broadcasts. While the current resolution quality is already impressive, Formula 1 is determined to further enhance the picture quality.
Dhaval Ponda, the Vice President and Global Head of Media & Entertainment Business at Tata Communications, believes that 8K is the inevitable future of broadcasting. He notes that audiences worldwide have become accustomed to 4K content in recent years, raising the standard, especially among younger viewers.
Ponda is confident that the industry’s shift towards 8K is progressing smoothly and is inevitable, given the current generation’s familiarity with 4K quality. He expects 8K to provide even more intricate detail and superior quality.
Although some Formula 1 fans may be satisfied with the current broadcast quality, Ponda emphasizes that 8K represents a significant upgrade. He recalls the notable improvements witnessed during the transitions from HD to Full HD, and then to 4K, which brought more depth and detail to the viewing experience.
Ponda anticipates that 8K will capture an extraordinary level of detail, making imagery, such as ocean racing competitions, incredibly vivid.
To achieve the shift to 8K broadcasts in Formula 1, Ponda outlines three critical stages.
The first stage involves establishing a robust digital infrastructure, supported by significant investment in next-generation technologies. This investment is not only for immediate needs but also for long-term development.
The second stage involves collaborating with technology partners to create a comprehensive 8K ecosystem. Ponda emphasizes that this change requires the cooperation of various companies, including technology partners, major sports broadcasters, and sports federations, to deliver this new experience to audiences worldwide.
The third and crucial stage involves making 8K screens affordable for consumers. Ponda believes that consumer-friendly pricing is essential for widespread adoption, considering the high cost of current technology.
In addition to enhancing image quality, reducing broadcast lag is another important focus. Currently, spectators at the circuit experience a 1.5-second latency when watching trackside screens, while home viewers experience a delay of six to seven seconds from the moment images are captured by FOM’s camera operators.
Tata Communications is exploring ways to minimize this delay, aiming for TV images to be as close to live as possible. This involves improving hardware and computing power, as well as investing in edge-based infrastructure.
The goal is to reduce the lag to a point where, if one were standing near a sports venue, the event would appear on the screen almost simultaneously with the live crowd’s reaction. This advancement in edge-based digital infrastructure is expected to contribute significantly to achieving near-real-time broadcasting.
Another challenge is synchronizing various forms of media during Formula 1 broadcasts. Currently, there is a disconnect between TV visuals, radio commentary, and data on digital devices.
Efforts are underway, in collaboration with leading digital players, to synchronize these different elements, ensuring a unified viewing experience across multiple screens. This synchronized video consumption approach is expected to resolve the current frustrations associated with out-of-sync content in Formula 1 broadcasting.