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More TV tweaks ahead

GRAND PRIX RACING has been at the forefront of recent television technology and there are expected to be new developments announced before the flotation of Bernie Ecclestone's company this summer. These will help to attract investors by improving F1's television spectacle and, in theory, making the sport more attractive to viewers and sponsors around the world.

The first of these is likely to be the introduction of "virtual advertising" which will mean that different viewers in different countries see different trackside advertising panels. This means that trackside advertising can be sold many times over, increasing the revenue enormously. This is done by electronically-superimposing sponsor signage on a blank advertising hoarding. Viewers may have noticed that the gantry across the start-finish line in Melbourne featured a bright green patch in what was a prime advertising position. This will be used to continue the development of virtual advertising technology which is currently only successful with static objects, such as advertising next to baseball scoreboards in the United States.

Ecclestone's F1 Communications company has been working for the last 18 months to master the technology needed to introduce virtual advertising with the cameras moving.

Research work is also going on into introducing cameras activated by electronic global positioning systems. The systems are widely used in modern navigation and have been used in motor sport by rally-raid teams on desert events.

A scaled-down version of the system, using a stationary airship above the track rather than satellites, can be perfected so that computers know exactly where every car is in relation to the others at any given point. Careful programming will mean that if an overtaking maneuver begins to happen it will be picked up by the computer which will automatically switch to the relevant camera.

The system is being developed in Switzerland by former Formula 3000 driver Mario Hytten.

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