James May explains how on-demand viewing for The Grand Tour works

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James May has written an article for driving.co.uk, explaining the techy nature of how exactly one can watch The Grand Tour. Perhaps best suited for those who are over 50 years old.

“First, a word about this exciting thing called ‘on-demand TV’. It doesn’t mean that televisions are given away free,” May explains. “No, it means you can watch your favourite programmes whenever you like. All you need is a ‘portable device’ — a computer that’s small enough to carry around – also called a smartphone or a tablet.”

“This idea still excites me because I’m old enough to remember when it didn’t exist, May says. “I know it’s difficult for anyone born after 1980 to comprehend, but there was a time when things were “on the telly”, and if you weren’t in front of the telly at the same time, you missed them.

“And so it was that the streets would fall silent and burglary and pregnancy rates would plummet, briefly, because The Two Ronnies was on. As soon as it was over, everyone would make a cup of tea and overload the national grid. Some people regard this as a golden age of TV, because the ‘appointment to view’ acted as a sort of social glue.” – James May

May concedes that ‘appointment to view’ TV is still popular today for things such as big sporting events and the resignation speeches of prime ministers, and admits that he finds the idea of sitting and watching a football match rather comfortting, in the knowledge that millions of other people are doing exactly the same thing at that moment. With the windows open you can hear the whoops of joy and baleful cries of neighbours,” May explains. “Like some sort of antiphon to the switchback of your own emotional responses. It makes me feel part of the community.”

Thankfully for the rest of us, on-demand streaming has removed the need to actually be in front of the TV at exactly the right time – and May explains how one can actually watch the The Grand Tour.

“I’ve been told, firmly, to point out that it’s simple, as long as you have an Amazon subscription and either a smart TV or an Amazon Fire set-top box or Fire stick,” May says. “So I’m sure we’ll all be able to work it out. It’s all quite exciting, especially for three old farts astonished to find themselves still active in this incredible new era of television.”

But how will all this work on your TV?

4K

The Grand Tour is being filmed in 4K, which quadruples the number of pixels found in normal HD to give an incredibly detailed image. But it’s even more complicated than that. The footage is 4K HDR (high dynamic range), meaning each frame combines images of different exposures to give an added level of definition and make colours “pop”.

The amount of data is so huge that the servers used to record the studio segments had to be specially built, as did the kit to back up the footage on location. The Namibia special generated 40 terabytes of data — enough to fill 80 laptops. So should you buy a 4K TV? That depends on whether you’re comfortable seeing Clarkson’s head in ultra HD.

X-RAY

If you’ve used Amazon Prime, you may be familiar with X-Ray, which puts information, such as which films an actor has appeared in, on screen as you watch. We asked Amazon if X-Ray could be used to “muck about” and were told: “OK, if you must.” Look out for the results during each programme.

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