F1 steers future sustainable broadcasting with innovative Remote Operations

Formula 1 continues to lead the way in sports broadcasting, becoming the first sports production with a UHD Remote operation deployed globally, fast-tracking a long-term sustainability project to meet the health and safety requirements presented by COVID-19.

As the global pandemic continues to change the world we live in, we’ve had to adapt to the unpredictable landscape and consider new ways of working as we returned to racing for the rescheduled 2020 season. 

Providing a more innovative and efficient broadcasting output was a key feature of our wider sustainability plan, as we looked to reduce resource and global emissions. Due to the extreme travel restrictions imposed by COVID, this became a priority for change. In just eight weeks, Formula 1 accelerated delivery of a plan to introduce Remote Operations that was scheduled to take two years.

For decades F1 has led the world of sports broadcasting, pushing the boundaries of technical and design innovation and pioneering technologies such as on-board cameras, live graphics, helicopter cameras and Ultra-High Definition.  

At every race we deploy over 470 pieces of equipment, including 90 cameras, 147 microphones and 50 miles of cable, capturing over 430 hours of live TV per season. As a result, the F1 Broadcast Centre, the biggest and most complex transportable facility of its kind, is at the heart of our business and provided live action to 471m unique viewers around the world last season. 

However, as 2020 has been a year of constant change in the sport, the Remote Operations strategy has been transformative to the way we work.  We have transitioned from using a single, circuit-based Broadcast Centre, into a smaller Event Technical Centre, which is roughly half the size, and Remote Technical Centre (back in the UK). We have reduced travelling staff by 36% and freight by a third, eliminating around 70 tonnes of freight being taken to every race, making a step-change impact on our logistics emissions over a whole season. 

ETC – Event Technical Centre 

The Event Technical Centre (ETC) is deployed onsite at every race event and acquires content, data and feeds which are sent back to the Remote Technical Centre (RTC) in the UK. The ETC also employs an extra layer of back-up connectivity to ensure critical services, such as the International Feed and telemetry, can continue uninterrupted should there be a failure on the main link back to the RTC. 

We have reduced the size of the ETC from 12 technical containers to three, and the footprint has been reduced from 50m by 15m, to 25m by 15m. The ETC has dedicated Production, Audio and Network & Compression containers which connects the acquisition, processing and contribution of F1 broadcast feeds. 

RTC – Remote Technical Centre

The Remote Technical Centre (RTC) is based in our Media & Technology Centre in Kent, which is home to an average of 165 personnel over race weekend, including engineers and producers. 

The majority of the processing and publishing systems have moved from the ETC at the race, to the RTC at the Media & Technology Centre, including replays, remote racking and colour correction of all broadcast cameras. 

In the RTC we run over 150 bespoke software systems comprising in excess of 4 million lines of code on 1268 computers cores equating to approximately 4700GHz of processing power, 4.5TB of RAM and around 150TB of storage. The set-up houses 2160 units of equipment, 415 monitors for 53 operational positions, each with an intercom panel and personal headset.

Delivering such a significant change in a sport where every millisecond counts is not undertaken lightly and relies on the power of partnerships and a relentless focus on technical and design innovation. 

As F1 has done many times in the past, the latest innovations have set new standard of remote broadcast operations in sport, creating a solid, and more sustainable, platform for others to follow in the future.