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The greatest car chase in the world

James Howard | 16:46 UK time, Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The first Grand Prix is over and the wires have been burning with emails flying back and forth late at night between developers, product managers and editorial on the weekends action. A few late nights for everyone but we feel it has been worth it to get the live experience as smooth as possible for users of the site.

'Live on the web' is an important part of Sport and we wanted to develop some of the work that was around the Olympics last year for the new F1 season.

Rolling out our dynamic text updates was a crucial part of the project (no need to manually refresh the page and helps save all those f5 buttonsand prevent RSI) and we will be looking at rolling this out across the rest of our live sport coverage.

Live Video (for the UK user) now means multiple streams and Higher Quality Video. From our intial stats for video usage can see that:

• Users watched our new high quality live streams for much longer than standard quality streams - with an average of 37 mins for main race coverage
• Sport video and audio (excl. live streams) got as many unique users as the opening day of the Olympics (incl. live streams)
• Live coverage for the race grabbed approx. 183,000 AV requests - higher than the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain (approx. 169,000)
• Hiqh quality video accounted for 1 in 5 AV requests in practice and qualifying and 1 in 7 on race day

which is pretty good for a first weekend. Hopefully people will give them a go and I am expecting some offices to come to a standstill on Friday afternoons when the F1 circus hits the European time zones. Live practice over lunch. Excellent.

Around most sporting events there are a massive number of feeds that have to be dealt with - mostly around sport statistics - and we wanted to push them a little bit more this time. The leaderboard is updated regularly by the sport editorial team and further enhances the live page - data, text and video.

From the rest of the Beeb we are using feeds from weather (a crucial part of a Grand Prix weekend), iplayer, programmes and search terms to try and reflect all of the content the BBC are doing on race weekends.

The circuit guides have been a real collaborative effort with an external company - concentrating on the 3D anaimations and in-car video synched with Mark Webber's commentary. We will add a more in depth blog covering technical and product issues on this.

As a small trial we also wanted to look at making broadcast data available in formats that users may find useful (ical, Outlook, google calendar etc). One of my colleagues, Tom Scott, trialled some feeds around programme info and it is something we will be looking at around sport.

Our trial seems to have gone well, with hundreds of feedback emails asking for the whole season (we just trialled Australia) suggesting other events we could look at (The Lions! Football!) and on which browsers / apps it didn't work.

There was also some immediate feedback on the presentation of the F1 coverage overall on Twitter - amazing how many people in the UK seem to follow sport on laptop and TV at the same time.

We will be making ongoing changes to the Sport site in the next few months looking specifically around navigation and the build up to the new football league season that will present some other challenges around video.

Today we have launched the first stage of this with a footer on the site which displays an A-Z list of all the sports that are covered on the Sport website. We will be making additions and changes to the navigation as we move towards a more flexible model.


  • 1. At 4:36pm on 03 Apr 2009, The Phazer wrote:

    Any chance of a catch up window for the red button F1 content on the Sports site?


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  • 2. At 5:53pm on 04 Apr 2009, Christopher wrote:

    I have to congratulate the Beeb on their F1 coverage - I saw the site evolving over the first weekend, and it's now really good. A massive breadth of content, loads of video content to flesh out the reports (it's great to see all of the available multimedia leveraged on the web site)... And the new features, such as the Flash Track Guides are officially a Very Cool Thing. Being able to toggle between a 3D flythrough at your own pace, or Mark Webber commentating over a flyer on the same track, is a very enjoyable way to waste a few minutes.

    The aggregated video and audio content makes it far easier to see all the various tidbits of media without having to scour around for it, and all the other stuff just adds more to the initial stories and reports.

    My only criticisms: make the banner at the top of every F1 page clickable to return you to the front page of the BBC F1 portal - a big omission from a usability standpoint! But when the only thing people are complaing about is that they can't click the top banner image to go back to the front page, I think on the whole the BBC F1 webteam are doing pretty well. Can't wait to see what goodies arrive in the next few weeks for us F1 fans!

    @The_Phazer - as it's been explained to me on the Backstage mailing list, the red button content is harder to capture and digitise because of the way it's broadcast. I guess it's because they use standard receivers hooked up to the digitising equipment to capture the audio and video, and the red button features (as interactive extras) aren't as easily tuned into by the automated systems.

    John O'Donovan explained it thus:

    "It's more of a problem with access to the media and the different workflow around Red Button which means content coming through this route (especially live) is not so easy to record and deliver to iPlayer.

    You will find these programmes on the Sport Site and there are plans to allow these to appear in iPlayer."

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  • 3. At 6:00pm on 04 Apr 2009, Christopher wrote:

    Just thought of one other thing that'd be totally ace - multi-camera, full length replays of the race (or even a live equivalent to the red button interactive options). I had great fun last weekend toggling between the main feed, the in-car and main and the various audio soundtracks. No Commentary was a great inclusion to really get a good listen to those wonderful V10s!

    It might be a massive job to make all that available (and in-sync) with just a Flash player for the live broadcast, but given how well the other mixed-media interactive features have been executed, I wouldn't put it past the interactive team to be able to produce a capable player. To allow the viewer to effectively become their own producer for the length of the race, picking the camera angles and audio commentary, would be great fun (and highly engaging).

    Not everybody can experience all the red button interactive features during the live race, so to have some of those multi-angles and alternative commentaries available again for on-demand replays would be an excellent addition.

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  • 4. At 2:23pm on 24 Apr 2009, sexteta wrote:

    Your about link is bust:


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