AMITIAE - Monday 5 May 2014

Cassandra: MotoGP Online - TV Reception Just Doesn't Cut it Here

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By Graham K. Rogers


At this time of year, I allow my Sundays to be dictated by my love of motorsports, particularly Formula One and MotoGP. I would also like to watch SuperSports bike racing, but coverage of that in Thailand is not all that good. I catch what I can, when I can, and when the satellite company allows.

To watch the Grand Prix races, I need television coverage and in Thailand the satellite provider runs two channels for my subscription: Star Sports (owned by 20th Century Fox) and Fox Sports Plus. Note, Fox figures in both of those, although the video quality is far better (a sharper image) with the latter.

The same two channels are used for the MotoGP coverage, but the feeds are not the same. Formula One programming comes from Formula One Management, sometimes referred to as belonging to Bernie Ecclestone. It certainly seems to be run by him for the moment. MotoGP is controlled by Dorna Sports, who also provide the excellent commentary in several languages.

Recently, the good feed via Fox Sports Plus, has been marred by poorly balanced sound levels. The background sounds (bikes, crowd) drown out the commentators. As their input is knowledgable - adding considerably to the enjoyment - I have been looking at the Star Sports feed. But not for long. The images are so poor that even with the commentators at proper levels, I am unable to enjoy the transmission.

Fortunately, I have a third path: the MotoGP VideoPass. I had originally subscribed to this for late races run late at night (here) when I prefer to sleep. I could run the video in the morning at breakfast time and catch up quite easily. I can also run the videos again and again and even focus on specific events as the timeline has markers that indicate problems, accidents and major happenings before, during and after a race. I am also able to balance the sound levels, between ambient and commentary: something that Fox has not been able to do.

Screenshot from MotoGP Coverage

In short, this is a service that enables a motor racing fan like me to keep up to date, catch up with races I miss and not be a slave to the cable companies who sometimes do not even bother to show a scheduled re-run, preferring to switch to more important content like tapes of the arrest of OJ Simpson (this did happen not so long ago with Fox).

While I had always debated with myself the value of spending about €99 for the pleasure, this season the value is clear with the poor efforts from the two feeds that TrueVisions provides.

This weekend I improved the experience when, as well as watching on the 13" MacBook Pro that is now my main computer (there is a 15" here as well), I used the AppleTV I have and sent the signal to my large TV screen. As the two devices are linked, the resolution on the Mac changes, to 1680 x 1050, so the icons and windows on the screen appear smaller, but the full-screen display of the motorcycle racing is . . . full screen. And sharp.

Although I am sitting a couple of metres away from the TV, the picture on that also appears to be as sharp. There is no sound on the TV: that still comes from the computer, but as that is less than a metre from my ears, the sound levels are fine. And properly balanced.

With the MotoGP transmissions there are three races: Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. Each usually provides more excitement than a single F1 race, so I end up drained, but happy.

It is a pity that, having paid for a TV service, the quality of input is not up to what it should be, but as far as motorcycle racing is concerned, I have a substitute in the MotoGP VideoPass that exceeds the satellite company's limited best.

Screenshot from MotoGP Coverage

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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