Whilst the global pandemic shut down most non-essential activities such as motorsports, the masses turned to Sim Racing to fill the void and get their adrenaline fix.
The ability to race on familiar circuits in cars that mimic their real-world counterparts thanks to highly sophisticated physics engines makes for a very immersive experience for the user -regardless of their real-life experience on the track.
It’s this immersion that makes Sim Racing so addictive to motorsport aficionados even today in 2023.
In this article, we shall explore the highly contentious matter of Field of View (FOV), whilst helping you calculate the perfect FOV for Assetto Corsa Competizione.
What is FOV?
The human eye has approximately 200° field of view (FOV), however, the effective FOV that is used to process main information is much lower at 40°- 60°, the other 160°-140° degrees is referred to as peripheral vision to detect motion (speed).
If you look straight ahead and someone off to the side of you holds up an object you will be able to accurately identify it. In racing, you don’t have to know the make of a car that’s approaching from the left or right, but you do need to know how fast it’s approaching and that it’s actually there.
Without that visual information, you are racing blind. Without that peripheral vision, we also lose the sense of speed and we can’t enter and exit corners properly because the FOV is too high we’ll feel like we are hurtling into the corner faster than we are which can result in the early application of the brakes or missing the apex of the corner.
Ideally, we want a balance of maximum track view and sense of speed so that we are entering corners at the right speed and track position.
This is where FOV comes into play. When you have the correct FOV setup on your display you will have a better sense of speed and spatial awareness. Without these two elements, it’s extremely difficult to get the timings correct on key actions such as; braking, corner entry and exit.
This will translate into faster lap times as you will be able to enter corners at the correct speed and on the racing line. Since not everyone has a full-motion rig at their residence, we have to rely on other tools to improve the level of immersion.
Immersion and Field of View
Immersion is what separates racing sims from arcade racing games. Sim Racers rely heavily on immersion as software can only do so much. In the real world, a driver relies on many different inputs in addition to visual information. The driver can feel the weight transfer of the vehicle as it’s transferred from the vehicle to the body.
When you are driving a real race car you have much greater spatial awareness thanks to peripheral vision and audio cues. Sim Racing in a 2D world makes it difficult to replicate these cues, which is why we often see our peers using VR or triple monitor setups and surround sound to overcome these challenges.
As sim racers, we need to ensure that we are seeing the whole picture in order to be as successful as possible, regardless of how we set our displays up. The picture that is displayed on our monitors doesn’t accurately depict the virtual world that we are racing in. Everyone is sitting at differing distances from our displays. Some are sitting at desks, while others are in rigs, or on sofas several feet from their display panel. All of these setups vary in different ways, but how does this affect us?
When a driver is on the track in the real world spatial awareness timing naturally is key to your positioning to other vehicles on the track as well as the entry, apex positioning, and exit of corners. The driver looks out of the windscreen and side windows to gather visual information that contributes to the aforementioned cues. The driver is easily able to process speed and therefore have more accurate braking and throttle timings as well as steering response.
A 2D display simply can’t replicate depth and speed accurately enough to what happens in the real world. In real life, we see the world in 3D so we can use depth perception to our advantage in racing. This is one of the barriers that differentiates sim racing from real racing and makes FOV so important.
What happens if my FOV is too low or too high?
If the FOV is too low this will result in a loss of speed and peripheral vision. There could be cars beside us and we’d never know because we effectively eliminated them from our view by zooming in on a part of the track that we haven’t even encountered yet. Imagine driving through a tunnel at 100km/h and focusing solely on the exit of the tunnel. Due to the reduced viewing angle, the perspective of speed will be reduced despite the exit approaching at a relatively fast pace.
Conversely, if the FOV is too high it will feel like you are driving the car from the backseat making it difficult to race effectively as you are stretching your view and it will feel as if you are going faster than you actually are.
How Do I Calculate FOV?
So how do you figure out the correct FOV for your situation? There are many online resources that will automatically calculate the correct FOV based on your distance from your display, size of display and the sim that you are using. An important note is that optimal FOV does vary from sim to sim. What works in iRacing might not be applicable in Assetto Corsa Competizione.
The first step in having the correct FOV is to make sure that your eyes are at the midpoint of your display. The height of your display will affect your FOV so it’s important that this is set up properly from the get-go. If you are looking at a display that’s mounted on a wall above eye level you’ll have to make in-game adjustments to compensate for the height differential. With the first step to proper FOV taken, we are now ready to correct our FOV.
The second step is to use a FOV Calculator of choice. By using a tape measure, you can ensure maximum accuracy and if you want to truly up your game, then have a friend or family member help measure distances with you in your natural seating position.
*Something to note: you may be more comfortable with an FOV that differs from what the calculator outputs and that’s fine. If you make adjustments to your FOV try not to exceed 10% if possible. Consider the calculation as a starting point that gets you pointed in the right direction. In order to be successful in racing, you need to be comfortable with your equipment, virtual car, and your FOV. If you still need help finding your FOV sweet spot, then Chris Haye can talk you through the process:
Once you have a proper FOV setup you’ll wonder how you raced without it – and whilst we can’t guarantee that this will make you faster, it will definitely help you be more consistent when you are battling for the podium at the next Sim Grid event. Happy racing and attack those apexes!
One last note, if you are still having trouble nailing those apexes and you are wondering where those precious seconds are going, head over to Coach Dave Academy to get yourself a race-winning tried and tested setup.