I Don’t Even Know What I’m Talking About. Number 15: Type !play To Get Your Marble On The Track.

Hello and welcome to a long overdue IDEKWITA where I just waffle for 10 minutes and then vanish for a few months. There won’t be too much Coronavirus talk here (promise) instead I’m going to talk about what I think of F1 TV after getting a free month of it. Racing marbles on stream and a few other things (possibly) that’s annoyed me over the last few weeks. This is just a filler because I can’t review the 1992 F1 season review video because I need to be at my mum and dad’s for that and due to some virus or other.. That ain’t happening so you’ve got to suffer my non formal ranting style instead OK? good!

So lets begin with this..

I got an e-mail (yes I still use them get over it) from Formula One which is a bit unusual to begin with until I recall that I am actually a member of the F1 supporters association and have been for a while now. They sent me a code with which I can redeem whenever I see fit a months free F1 TV. Now at this point I know what you’re thinking. “Steven, we are in a pandemic and there’s no sport on right now why are you taking them up on this?” Well one thing to come out of the hype of F1 TV is the archive section which contains footage of every race from Long Beach 1981 (which was the first championship race after what became FOM took over) and the 2020 pre season test.

Sounds good but there are flaws as well as good points so lets go over them here. Starting with all the good points (this is purely personal by the way I’m certain that what I find good you may not and visa-versa)

I’m going to focus on the archive section here, and the first thing to note is that their archive is huge. It goes as far back at the time of writing to Long Beach 1981. There are either extended highlights which up to the 1997 season is more or less what you would have seen on the BBC Grand Prix highlights programme with Murray Walker and James Hunt’s commentary. Or the full race which is pretty self explanatory as to what that is (although there are some interesting things to note about that which I’ll come to in a moment) and something called “in review” which I initially thought would be what was put into the official end of season review videos but actually isn’t and I’ll explain that in a moment too.

Lets start though with the highlights

As you can see I’m currently watching the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix highlights It’s about half an hour long which is about the same as the highlights that appeared in the BBC programme Grand Prix (so similar in fact they ARE the highlights) But I want to draw your attention at this stage to the audio options. The word “English” refers to the commentary that I mentioned in this case Murray Walker and James Hunt from the BBC. And FX. That is to say the original broadcast background but with no commentary. This is of huge interest to me as I’m fascinated by the technical aspects of F1 coverage from the 1980s and 90s when it was all local TV and innovations were being brought to the fore on a regular basis. The introduction of live on board cameras for instance (Germany 1985) or the first time stereo sound appeared in a Grand Prix broadcast for local viewers (which I THINK is Japan 1989 although it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that 1988 may have been as well)

There are a fair few races where highlights are used instead of the full race as a kind of make up for not having the full race available. With the same commentary that you will have heard on the BBC at the time.

Now I wasn’t going to list the races but because I’ll get the inevitable messages I will list the races where you can view the BBC Grand Prix highlights video (race only) remember these are NOT full races (I’ll get to those later)

This is at the time of writing (at the end of May 2020)

1981.. San Marino, Monaco (extended), Spain, Italy,

1982.. Brazil, Long Beach, San Marino, Belgium, Detroit, Germany, Austria,

1983.. San Marino, Detroit, Austria, South Africa

1984.. Monaco (this one surprised me somewhat as I thought this is one that would be shown in full) Detroit, Austria, Portugal. It’s worth noting at this point that there are no full races from 1984 available (YET)

1985.. Portugal, San Marino, Monaco, France, (again no full races from 1985 either) In the time it’s taken me to write this the highlights for the 1985 Dutch Gran Prix have been added.

1986.. Brazil, Spain, Germany, Hungary,

1987.. France, Portugal, Spain, Japan.

1988.. Hungary, Japan.

1989.. Canada, Australia.

1990.. Phoenix, San Marino, Mexico, Japan.

1991.. Brazil, Italy, Spain (amazingly not the full race) Australia.

1992.. Monaco (again not the full race which was somewhat of a surprise) Britain (the earliest race on F1 TV to be in stereo sound), Germany, Australia

1993.. Brazil, Europe (Donington), Monaco, Britain, Italy, Portugal, Japan.

1994.. Spain, Germany, Australia.

1995.. None. This was a huge surprise but there are full races available

1996.. Portugal only.

That’s where the extended highlights stop, exactly when the BBC contract ended worth noting that all the above races have 2 audio options. English commentary or no commentary just the ambient broadcast sound at the time.

Now the thing that makes no sense to me.. There’s another option called “in review” which I thought would simply be the races as they appeared in the end of season review videos which I’ve started reviewing. But no these are specially recorded ones. This one for the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix like all the in review playbacks from 1981 actually have Murray Walker commentary in them but it’s not the original commentary it’s specially recorded which is unusual in itself as it’s Murray on his own with no James Hunt. So it’s like watching a Grand Prix highlights programme from 1979 (pre Hunt) The other thing that gets me is that this video of the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix in review is (like the rest of 1981) nearly an hour long almost twice the “extended” highlights videos. Which makes one ask the question as to why you would even want to watch the original Grand Prix highlights programme in the first place? This trend continues in 1982 except this time they lack the Murray Walker commentary. In 1982 the commentary is done by Simon Taylor. It’s also worth noting that the pictures for the early “in review” videos are all taken from the world feed so what you’re getting that’s extra is a mystery. Like with the Grand Prix highlights videos there are audio options for English commentary and sound effects and the audio options apply right through to the 2001 in review videos.

The video and commentary format continue for 1983 but for 1984 the in review videos are reduced in length. The review video for Brazil is just 10 minutes long and the videos also contain footage shot from the FOCA TV cameramen. We also have a more past tense commentary from 1985. Then from 1989 onwards we see an increase in the length of videos to around half an hour again with a very good mix of world feed and FOCA camera footage with extra on boards from 1989 onwards (1989 has Bob Constanduros narration). Then from 1992 onwards Andy Smith takes over narration duties. Then a reduction back to 10 minutes from 1993 onwards.

Then for 1997–2001 we get an interesting occurrence. In 1997 F1 digital plus was enjoying it’s first full season of coverage. I won’t go too much into what it was here (I’ll do that in another article) But the end of season reviews used almost exclusively footage from the service. However at this time there were 2 end of season reviews and the second versions used the terrestrial feed only. I was hoping for some F1 digital plus coverage on F1 TV but it simply doesn’t happen and instead we get terrestrial coverage only. I’ll look more closely at these second versions of F1 season reviews in a future article.

From 2002 on wards the in review section turns into just that. Each race as it appeared in the end of season review videos. This presents a problem for the 2003 season. San Marino for that year as an example lasts just 4 minutes and these videos now lack the multi audio option as well. The in review videos continue mirroring the end of season reviews all the way up to the 2017 season then for 2018 on wards the in review videos are replaced with “the race in 30” which as the title suggests is the race in 30 minutes highlights form. Good points about this. Every race is actually covered but it’s no substitute for either the BBC Grand Prix or ITV highlights.

Then there are the full race options. The example above is from the 1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix. The full race is very self explanatory it’s the full world feed broadcast. Simple as that. There is just one audio option initially and that is the English commentary which is done by Murray Walker with James Hunt, Jonathan Palmer or Martin Brundle depending on which year it is and then of course after Murray retired James Allen and Martin Brundle take over the commentary in fact it’s whatever commentary was broadcast on British TV at the time. For races from 2012 onwards it’s the Sky Sports F1 commentary from each race.

The one slight issue is that for the 1980s races in full the commentary doesn’t quite cover the full race. Mainly because back in the day Grandstand which was the flagship BBC weekend sports programe covered F1 as part of it’s Sunday programme. Not a problem normally but it did mean that they used to break away from the race to update viewers on the cricket scores or whatever so the commentary does go a little quiet for a few moments on occasion. Some races do have multiple audio options however mostly between FX and English but there are plans to add more languages to the latter day live races in the future.

Live races on F1 TV at the time of writing include..

1981.. Britain. Las Vegas.

1982.. Monaco only (with multi audio, When I write multi audio i mean English commentary with an additional FX audio track)

1983.. Italy (multi audio)

1984.. No full races.

1985.. No full races.

1986.. Britain. (No commentary for a portion of the race in particular the second start and the 25 laps or so afterwards) Australia. EDIT: The British GP commentary has now been restored.

1987.. Britain, Austria,

1988.. Monaco, Britain, Italy (the commentary for Italy changes approximately two thirds of the way into the race from Murray Walker and James Hunt to a Bob Costanduros commentary. So you don’t get Murray Walkers reaction to Senna’s spin and Ferrari’s one two finish.)

1989.. Brazil, Hungary (raw world feed so some replays that Murray and James describe are not shown so they talk off camera a lot) Japan. For the Japanese Grand Prix Fuji TV broadcast the live race in stereo sound for their local audience. Sadly F1 TV doesn’t have that sound track available. Every Japanese Grand Prix from this point onwards was broadcast locally in 2 channel stereo sound.

1990.. Australia only

1991.. Phoenix (commentary by Richard Nicholls and John Watson) also available in FX audio only. Australia is classed as highlights but is pretty much the full 16 laps.

1992.. Hungary only.

1993.. Australia (multi audio)

1994.. Britain, Japan.

1995.. Canada. Britain, Belgium, Italy, Pacific.

1996.. Monaco, Spain,

1997.. Monaco (multi audio), Canada (multi audio), Germany, Hungary, Japan (multi audio), European (the sound for this is poor quality in places and in other areas commentary is missing, this is thought to be because ITV lost a part of the live tape and had to be reconstructed using other sources)

1998.. Australia, Canada, Hungary (multi audio), Belgium, Japan (multi audio)

1999.. Every race apart from San Marino is in full, With multi audio (English commentary and FX) options available for Brazil, Monaco, Spain, Canada, Britain, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Japan.

This makes 1999 the most complete season so far.

2000.. Spain (FX and German with no English commentary), France (English, German and FX), Germany, Belgium (English, German and FX), Japan.

2001.. Australia (multi audio) Malaysia, Brazil (English German, FX) Austria, Monaco (multi audio), Italy (multi audio)

2002.. Australia (FX and German) Malaysia, European (multi audio),

(From this point onwards 2 audio options means English and FX and 3 audio options means English, German and FX audio options)

2003.. Australia (3 audio options) Malaysia (3 audio options), Brazil, Austria (2 audio options) Monaco (2 audio options), Britain (3 audio options) Hungary,

2004.. (These races now have 4 audio options with the addition of Spanish commentary alongside English, German and FX). Bahrain, USA, France, Belgium, Brazil.

2005.. Bahrain (2 audio options), San Marino (4 audio options) Monaco (4 audio options) European (4 audio options) Canada (4 audio options), USA (2 audio options) Germany (2 audio options) Japan (4 audio options)

2006.. Bahrain (4 audio options) Canada (2 audio options) Hungary (4 audio options) Turkey (4 audio options) China (4 audio options) Brazil (4 audio options)

2007.. Canada, USA, European, Japan, Brazil (all races have 4 audio options)

2008.. Canada, Britain, (both with 4 audio options) Belgium, Italy, and Brazil have 5 audio options with the addition of a French language commentary

2009.. Every race is available in full except for China and Britain.. Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and Turkey have 2 audio options, all other races have 3 or more audio options with different language commentary

2010 is the first season to have every race in full. With every race having multiple commentary sound tracks in English, German, Spanish, and FX.

2011.. Every race except for Australia and Singapore.

2012.. Every race except for Italy with all races in multi commentary audio.

2013 onwards. Every race is available.

2018 and 2019 races have every track session available including all the practice sessions and qualifying for F1 F2 F3 and even the Porsche supercup. The F1 races have multiple options for on board cameras on playback so you can watch races with any driver you wish.

Lets move on to other good points.

You can’t really tell from here but the picture quality in each race and the playback quality are both superb. I use my television’s internet browser and it’s totally smooth and looks great. The sound quality from what races I’ve watched is also superb and both elements (commentary and background) are very crisp and clear.

However there are some issues, aside of course from the obvious fact that the archive while it has footage of every single race from 1981 to 2020 still doesn’t have full highlights or the full races of every season, I encountered some technical gremlins. For starters the races for 2018 and 2019 don’t play back on my TV’s internet browser. Possibly due to the multi video channels (they do play on my xbox one however). Another issue for me was that while playing some races from 2017 I noticed that there was no 5.1 surround sound which surprised me somewhat given that another website I watch races on does offer this facility and for some races the background sound is good but the commentary is terrible. it sounds like it’s coming through an old radio. I’m used to the down the pone line style of commentary sound from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The last race that I’m aware of which had phone line audio commentary was the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1996. But this sounds more like medium wave radio. It even happens during the commentary of the 2012 Australian Grand Prix where the commentary is very muffled which is surprising given that Sky not only broadcast the race but did so in 5.1 sound which means the commentary sounded really clear at the time. I can only imagine this was a processing and upload issue. It happens with a lot of races and is something to be aware of.

Overall though I do think this is a great thing that F1 is doing. it’s not without it’s flaws but then not many things are. It’s worth the subscription fee (which is only a couple of pounds per month) and when racing gets underway hopefully the subscription for the live timing and updates will come into it’s own.

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So here’s something else that I’ve been discovering and enjoying over the last few months. The joys of racing marbles. But not as you might think, Marbles On Stream is a game that was developed by Pixel by Pixel Studios about a year or so ago and has become one of the more popular games on twitch. So much so that big streamers like Jon Sandman and even Northernlion have started to incorporate the game into their schedules.

What is so great about this experience has for me at least been the accessibility of the game, It actually costs you the twitch viewer nothing to play at all in fact at the time of writing I believe the game is free to buy from the steam workshop as well. Basically if you have a twitch account then you can play the game. All you have to do is simply go into a stream that is hosting the game and before the next race starts you type in chat !play. I can’t explain how it works, it just does, then you simply see if your marble can finish the race or even better win. At the time of writing this I’ve got in total more than 200 wins across various streams in the past 5 months, If you finish high enough you get points that go towards your rank on the leaderboard.

As with most games there are those who take it deadly seriously and streamers like ITDigilusion, Headsnap_TV, Sleepypan and others will stream this game for upto 8 hours a day everyday just to keep themselves on top of the marbles on stream, streamer leaderboards. But that’s not what sets this game apart from most out there that are being played on Twitch. For me it’s the inclusiveness. ANYONE with a Twitch account can play and Twitch accounts are free and easy to set up. Anyone can have a great time with it. There are always plenty of streamers out there playing the game for viewers and they are all really good in their own way.

The marbles courses themselves are many and varied too. There’s a course that winds it’s way through the solar system as is the case with the one above. There’s a course that is set in a kind of Chinese garden, another one where you wind your way through a haunted house, and they are just the standard maps made by the developers of the game. The real magic is the sheer number of community courses that keep the game fresh and interesting

The other good thing about a Marbles game in the virtual world for creators is that there is little to no limit about what you can and can’t do with regards to courses in terms of obstacles and layout you can have pretty much anything you want. Speed boosts, blocks that disintegrate when you hit them, anti gravity, swinging hammers of doom and or course portals because. Well why not.

The other element of the game is of course the marbles themselves. They have evolved over the years from simply having different skins that all look incredible and have their own charm. Whether it be a cute penguin or a hippy style peace symbol. There’s skins for everyone. But now you can choose the shape of your marble. You can have a cube, coffee cup, sphere, donuts, heart an even an alien head. How a cube easily rolls down a marbles track is somewhat unknown other than “video game physics” but it works so don’t judge.

What your typical Marbles on Stream, stream looks like

It’s strange though that I never thought I’d ever use Twitch for anything other than watching Rocket League or Northernlion’s Northernlion Live Supershow streams yet here we are. I’m actively following more marbles streamers now than I am Rocket League players and that is something I thought would never happen. But it’s a discovery that I’m glad I made and it continues to be great fun and if you have a twitch account and see a streamer doing marbles on stream just go right on in and type !play to get your balls on track.

Oh and how am I doing?? See below.

And that is going to be it for this long overdue article. Apologies to anyone waiting for another F1 season review reviewed series. Rest assured 1992 will be done and sorted in a couple of weeks time when I finally visit my mum and dad and get the chance to watch the review and then write the next in the series.

So thank you for reading this far I’ll leave you with a tune that I like and there will be more from me very very soon.

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