F1 will start testing HDR broadcasts later this year

Mike Wheatley

Formula One has revealed that it’s planning to carry out its first High Dynamic Range tests broadcasts later in the year, saying it sees the technology as the next major advance in live broadcasting.


The plans were revealed by F1 director of media rights Ian Holmes during an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com. Holmes told that publication that he sees HDR as the next step in broadcasting, and is placing a higher priority on that than 8K resolution.

HDR has of course become increasingly popular in sports programming over the past year or so, including in BT Sport’s Premier League football broadcasts. Sky has yet to broadcast its first sports coverage in HDR, but is said to be working towards getting “extensive HDR infrastructure” in place by the middle of thus year.

For its part, 8K has also made some breakthroughs. In the U.S., a number of NFL football games and NASCAR races have been broadcast in 8K resolution, and Japan’s NHK is expected to broadcast the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 8K too. But F1 is fully focused on implementing HDR first of all, Holmes told Motorsport.com.

In essence, HDR is a technology that enables greater contrast than was previously possible, due to the limitations of older broadcasting and display technologies. HDR content removes those limitations by providing extra information about its brightness and colour across a much wider range than previously. HDR capable displays read that information in order to show a more accurate picture on screen from a wider gamut of colour and brightness. So it means that very dark or very bright objects on the screen can be shown more realistically. In other words, HDR TVs can be darker, brighter and also display more shades of every colour in between, with deeper and more vivid greens and reds, for example, helping to clarify much finer details within the content.

Holmes told Motorsport.com that he believes HDR is “very effective for fast-moving objects”, which makes it a perfect fit for F1’s motorcars, which are the fastest racing cars in the world.

“We will be conducting tests this year, and that for us I think is potentially the next stage of an offering,” Holmes said.

Still, he said that HDR may not become a standard feature in F1 broadcasts for some time, noting that its plans are partly dependent on how popular HDR televisions are.

“We’ve also got to look at who could take it. If we had a feed tomorrow, there would be very few people who could take it,” he told Motorsport.com “The other thing is sometimes you produce this wonderful technology, and the broadcasters have the ability [to show it], but people’s devices are not capable of taking it.”

Holmes’ comments will in any way excite F1 fans as the motor sport has traditionally been quick to embrace new broadcast and TV technologies. It has offered broadcasts of F1 races in 4K resolution since 2017 for example, when the tech was relatively nascent and such TVs were far less commonplace than they are now.

That’s not to say F1 has no plans for 8K at all. When asked about using 8K cameras, Holmes told Motorsport.com that F1 is “looking at the development of that side of the technology”.

Just last week Formula One announced a major technical upgrade for its F1 TV service, adding support for 1080p50 streaming. It also said it has plans to launch support for Apple’s AirPlay and Google’s Chromecast soon, with support for Apple TV, Android TV and FireTV apps to come later in the year.