News round-up: Whisper Films win award; Channel 4 to air motor racing documentaries

It has been a little quiet lately, but there have been a few snippets worth reporting on, as Whisper Films have picked up awards for their Formula 1 coverage and FOM have made small innovations to their TV product.

Whisper Films win award
Whisper Films’ Formula 1 production has earned the respect of plaudits, coming away from the AIB (Association for International Broadcasting) Awards as victor in the Sport category. Specifically, their production of Channel 4’s Spanish Grand Prix was commended. The judging panel said that their coverage, specifically surrounding the Spanish Grand Prix, had “translated to a great experience for the viewer.”

Outside of their Channel 4 coverage, Whisper have continued to produce Formula 1 documentaries this year, notably a 30-minute documentary covering Mercedes following the Spanish Grand Prix entitled ‘Two Weeks to Win’ and a 60-minute documentary for Red Bull’s TV station looking at the history of the pit stop in motor racing. Sky Sports aired the Mercedes documentary a few weeks ago, but it demonstrates how much content Whisper is producing now.

Winning the Channel 4 production contract showed that Whisper meant business, and they have since recruited people from Sky and BBC to bolster their team. Like I’ve said before, I hope Whisper produces Sky’s Formula 1 coverage from 2019 onwards, simply because their team is bringing together the best from multiple different sides.

Channel 4 to air three motor racing documentaries in Abu Dhabi build-up
Whilst Whisper Films produce Channel 4’s main Formula 1 programming, two other production companies have produced two new documentaries that will air on Channel 4 in the lead up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. ‘0 to 60mph: Britain’s Fastest Kids’, produced by Finestripe Productions, tracks three families as their youngsters chase their Formula 1 dream.

Meanwhile, Philip Glenister and Ant Anstead try to restore the Lotus Elite, which was designed by Colin Chapman. The documentary builds up to the Tourist Trophy classic car event at Silverstone, where Glenister and Anstead hope to race the restored Lotus Elite. The show, entitled ‘The Lost Lotus: Restoring a Race Car’, is produced by Love Productions.

The two 60-minute documentaries will air back to back from 19:00 on Sunday 20th November on Channel 4. A third programme, an in-depth interview with Mark Webber, will air on Saturday 26th November at 11:25 between the Abu Dhabi practice and qualifying sessions.

FOM evolutions on offer in Mexico
There were a few new graphics on offer during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend. Notably, new graphics were shown during the formation lap tracking the gap between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the 2016 season has progressed. During the race, graphics were used in replay segments to identify cars easier for the various turn one incidents.

Alongside this, FOM have experimented with having guests speaking to drivers’ during the formation lap and warm down lap. Following the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session, Johnny Herbert spoke to Nico Rosberg over the radio whilst Juan Montoya chatted to Esteban Guttierez prior to the Mexican Grand Prix.

It is nice to see Formula One Management (FOM) making changes and refining their offering. As always though with FOM it feels that they experiment with something only to ditch it a few weeks later. Innovations such as line comparison and thermal cameras for whatever reason were dropped a long time ago, yet virtual advertising is kept.

I mention line comparison in light of the recent addition to Dorna’s MotoGP coverage. The Malaysian MotoGP saw a brilliant comparison aired between four of MotoGP’s leading riders at the turn 15 hairpin, showing the different apex’s that are taken. Unlike FOM, Dorna (most of the time) keep and run with their innovations whereas FOM haphazardly drop them for no apparent reason.

As I’ve mentioned previously, FOM’s entire product and direction needs a strategic re-think in order to bring some of the ‘rawness’ back to Formula 1, it feels like their television coverage has stagnated in recent years, a trend which needs to be reversed. Team radio helps, as Sebastian Vettel demonstrated in Mexico but that is only one piece of the wider puzzle.

Meanwhile over at Sky
We should see Sky Sports’ Christmas schedule filter through soon. With a lot of attention on Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill with their recent book releases, it was interesting to note that a 60-minute documentary was actually planned on Herbert in 2014 but shelved. This filtered through to Sky’s Christmas schedules that year but never materialised. Whilst incredibly disappointing, this leads me onto the next point about Hill.

Twitter users would have seen a lot of coverage on Hill returning to the Williams FW18 at Silverstone. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but I really hope that this forms part of a wider 1996 one-hour long programme instead of a five-minute snippet. I think it will be the latter, but Sky need to commit to Formula 1 more given that they are taking the sport on exclusively from 2019, and with that in mind I hope Sky to deliver on a longer edit for the Hill segment.

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One thought on “News round-up: Whisper Films win award; Channel 4 to air motor racing documentaries

  1. It’s a shame to see Sky’s F1 schedule diminishing on an annual basis. Looking back over the last few years, the difference with this year’s original programming is huge. Programmes such as The F1 Show, F1 Legends, Tales from the Vault, Architects of F1, Weekend in Words, Weekend in Stills… are nowhere to be seen. Even the Classic Races selections are very poor and tired now(the same races are being replayed too regularly, and I don’t think we’ve more than a handful (if any), ‘new’ ones appear this year. It’s clear Sky are dumbing down their coverage to save costs, and the value of money for Sky is now very poor. Hopefully they will be able to justify a much larger budget when they have exclusive coverage from 2019.

    I remember back to Abu Dhabi 2014 with the Sand Buggy race, in particular the longer cut of that released over the Christmas period of that year. This was brilliant TV but has got me thinking… Why don’t Sky hire a kart track for an afternoon, invite a few d list celebs / F1 personalities and give the race the ‘Sky F1 Treatment’ (Simon hosting, Crofty & Brundle commentary, Ted wandering trackside, Rachel / Natalie do interviews, with detailed analysis pre and post race analysis from Ant / PdR on the Skypad). Put together a 1.5 – 2 hour programme with good build up and reaction and air through the winter break. I can’t imagine this would dent the budget greatly, but I think would make great TV. It would need to be a bit tongue-in-cheek to work though!

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