How a gyro camera became latest F1’s latest TV innovation

Technology never stands still for the Formula 1 teams, and the same goes for the organisation that broadcasts the races around the world.

How a gyro camera became latest F1’s latest TV innovation

F1's TV department is always looking for new angles and fresh shots. This year has seen the return of the pedal cam two decades after the last experiment, while the Dutch GP opened up an opportunity to try something different in order to give a better impression of how steep the banked corners really are.

The shot was only seen briefly on Saturday and Sunday at Zandvoort, and only on the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. However, the first F1 outing for a gyro stabilising camera was judged to be a success as the shot tilted when the Spaniard ran around the banking.

“Just look at this new camera we’re trying,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who happened to be in the Sky F1 commentary box when the shot appeared in FP3. “I think it’s important for us to try to transmit the sense of speed, the sense of what is really on the track.”

The man responsible for the pictures we see transmitted from the cars is F1’s head of onboard Steve Smith, who has been doing the job for over three decades.

“Stefano and Ross [Brawn] are keen to bring innovation in, new stuff to show that we're not standing still, and moving forwards,” says Smith.

“And so this year we introduced the pedal shot. Eventually we want the 360 camera able to transmit live off the car. Currently it is an independent unit, which records into the actual unit, and then we download the footage afterwards, and then that's used for social media.

“It is our eventual hope that you watch the international feed on TV, supplementing that with an iPad or your phone for watching a 360 camera."

 

F1 is always open to feedback from fans, but it’s not easy to keep everyone happy.

"I think what happens sometimes is people see something and they write in and say why don't you do that in F1?," says Smith. "And the biggest thing for us is single camera shooting.

“For example, Martin Brundle did a feature on Sky in a Ferrari at Fiorano a couple of years ago. He went out in the car, and they loaded it with GoPros. He did two laps, with three or four different shots. They brought him in, they moved those shots to somewhere else on the car, he did another two laps.

“Then he came in, they removed all the cameras. There were another two laps, and they cut it all together so you can't see any cameras. But it's 10 different shots. It doesn't do us any favours, because then someone says why can't we see that in a grand prix?”

The clear inspiration for the gyro camera F1 tried at Zandvoort was MotoGP.

“Someone wrote and said it would be great if we could see how the banking looks. If you see the car normally, the car's attitude stays with the track

“It's not like a bike, a bike leans over 68 degrees. And that's really impressive. What the bikes do is great stuff. And we found a camera which did the job.”

The gyro camera is the same as those used in MotoGP, and indeed it was sourced from series organiser Dorna. As always with such innovations the next job was to get it on a car.

“We try to do it covertly so it doesn't upset people,” says Smith. “If you go to a team and you say we'd love to try this, the first thing they say is how much does it weigh, is there an aerodynamic penalty, are our main competitors using it? And if you say no, they say well, we're not going to run it either!

“Also what we find is if we have special shots, teams feel like they're losing exposure. And because it's not in its infancy anymore onboard cameras are used to do driver analysis, there are lots of things they use the footage for. So if you use an unusual shot, they're not getting the roll hoop camera, and they like that shot.

“However, we do have the ability to dual stream cameras, so we can transmit two signals simultaneously. We don't do it so much now, but we've been dual streaming the pedal shot.”

The new gyro camera fits into the usual pod on the nose, and there is no weight penalty. Ferrari thus agreed to run it on Sainz’s car in Zandvoort. After some experimentation on Friday it was quietly slipped into the broadcast on Saturday, and then briefly in the race.

“To be honest, if we couldn't have tested it for Zandvoort, it’s a bit of a chocolate teapot,” says Smith. "Because you can't take to Monza and test it, because it's flat! And so we pushed like crazy.

“And if I'm brutally honest, there were a few imperfections in the shot. But we spoke about it, and we decided that this was our last opportunity to do it. We felt that sending it out, the good outweighed the bad."

The new shot went down well, and Smith received some instant feedback: "As soon as it went live to air I could feel my phone vibrating in my pocket, messages were just coming in. Wow, that's good!”

camera detail on Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75

camera detail on Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75

Photo by: Adam Cooper

The question now is where else can the gyro camera be useful? It was tried briefly in practice in Monza on top of Lando Norris’s McLaren, with the general idea to see how it would react on kerbs and so on, but the shots were not broadcast.

Undulating tracks like Suzuka and Austin could also be interesting options, but at the moment there are no firm plans.

Meanwhile, F1 continues to innovate. For Austin one can expect to see a roll hoop view with an overhead pedal shot superimposed on the front of the chassis like an X-ray image, showing the driver’s feet at work. The aim is always to provide something that fans can enjoy.

"I hate to say it, because it was me that installed it, but Ayrton Senna's Monaco pole lap of 1990, everyone uses that as an iconic piece of footage," says Smith. "But you're not comparing eggs with eggs. That's the V10, a manual gearbox, and it's Ayrton Senna.

“When you see that lap on YouTube 50% of what people take as vibration is actually break up, because we used to transmit from the car to helicopter, now it transmits from the car to sites around the circuit.

"This gyro camera has the ability to reduce the stabilisation. And so what we may do is experiment with it. I've spent 30 years of my life trying to make them stable. And now some people would like to see them less stable!"

shares
comments
De Vries confirms Marko talks but F1 future "beyond my control"
Previous article

De Vries confirms Marko talks but F1 future "beyond my control"

Next article

Red Bull: "Massive ask" to win all remaining F1 2022 races

Red Bull: "Massive ask" to win all remaining F1 2022 races
The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants Plus

The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants

OPINION: Mercedes endured its worst season of the hybrid Formula 1 era, but was mercifully spared its first winless campaign in over a decade late on. It has owned up to the mistakes it made which led to its troubled W13. And while its task to return to title-challenging contention is not small, its 2022 season seems more like a blip than the beginning of a downward spiral.

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star Plus

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy Plus

How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Plus

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Plus

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Plus

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats Plus

How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats

The 2022 Formula 1 season will be remembered as a record book rewriting Max Verstappen masterclass, a completely different challenge to his maiden world championship last year, and a clear sign he is still raising his own level. But where does it stack up against the all-time great F1 campaigns?

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2022 Formula 1 season came to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit, where the battle for second in the standings was decided, the wins in a season record extended and a retiring four-time world champion bowed out on a high. Here's how we rated the drivers

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022