Video Analysis

(A clip created from VBStatsHD. From Mens Australian Volleyball League, QLD v Canberra Heat)

A few years ago, I was fortunate to meet through this blog, Chau Le, a Programming/database/user interface expert who was developing a suite of volleyball statistics applications for iPhone devices. The first of these products, VBStatsHD became available last week when Apple approved it to be available on the iTunes Store.

I’ve been a beta tester for VBStatsHD for the last 6 months and for $31.00, it’s a great app that lets you take stats and then synch them up with video of the match. Once coded, clips can be created of individuals, skills, rotations etc.

While this stuff isn’t new, it’s never been so affordable and accessible. Products like DataVolley and DataCode cost $5,000+. And it works on iPads, which are hardly rare these days amongst volleyball coaches. I used VBStatsHD during AJVC this year. I was able to scout/stat our opponents while my team dutied and in a matter of seconds exported the clips we used for gameplans and team meetings. My assistant took stats during our games, so we also had video of our own performance. So it didn’t cost us a lot of time to get stuff that was of huge value to the team (as you’ll read later, maybe I’m overestimating the value players have for video).

Video is now just standard in Volleyball. Whilst visiting the USA, a common task assistant coaches would be doing in between training sessions and games was sitting in the office coding video. It’s just something you have to do and a habit I’ve now gotten myself into.

From reading books on other sports it’s interesting to see the evolution of the technology.

From David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach about Bill Belichick starting his career “doing film” for the Baltimore Colts in 1975:

“That season they badly needed someone to break down film on opponents which was critical to the (George) Allen system… So (Had Coach Ted) Marchibroda badly needed to find someone to do the film for no pay—and there was young Bill Belichick, Billy to Marchibroda then and forever, knocking on his door, wanting work, and not interested in being paid for it… ‘All work and no pay was their motto’, said Belichick. That was not entirely true. Because he was so good, they started paying him $25 a week, and by mid season, when the colts were doing very well, and on a winning streak, (General Manager) Joe Thomas came by and told Belichick how well the other coaches were speaking of him, and he was therefore going to raise his pay to $50 a week, but not to spend it all in one place at one time.

Marchibroda was hugely impressed. ‘You gave him an assignment, and he disappeared into a room and you didn’t see him again until it was done, and then he wanted to do more’. Soon Belichick’s duties expanded and became more interesting. At first they would send him to the airport to pick up film being shipped in, that and other donkey work, but then they decided that he was too valuable , that if he went to the airport they would be wasting two hours of his workday.”

My Brother-in-law used to be a film editor, Splicing 16mm film sucks. And because film was expensive and delicate, someone had to pick it up from the airport. No hard-drives, H264 codecs and broadband back in 1975.

The Footscray Bulldogs ruckman Andrew Purser tells this hilarious anecdote about Sam Newman using video analysis in an interview about his 1980s VFL playing days:

Q: “Who was the Bulldog’s ruck coach during your time at the club?

AP: Sam Newman. He was fantastic, but very injury prone too. He modelled his style on Polly Farmer.

Q: Did he use videos back then?

AP: Yes, but nowhere near as sophisticated as we see today. He used to get (infamous VFA legend) Fred Cook to edit some tapes & just put highlights together.

Q: Sounds like a recipe for disaster, if any of the rumours about Cookie’s videos are true. 

AP: Funny you should say that. One day my wife’s parents were over & Sam rocked up large as life & said to my in-laws, I’ve got a tape of some of Andrew’s highlights & he wacked the video into the machine.

Q: Unfortunately it was one of Freddie’s blue movies featuring him going at it hammer & tongs. Poor Sam just couldn’t find the stop button on the remote. He became extremely embarrassed & beat a hasty retreat.”

It’s not a surprising anecdote about Sam Newman (except that he was the one with his clothes on in this story). VHS tapes and two VCRs were better than a reel of film and a splicer, but still took ages. Obviously they still paid peanuts for someone to do the jobs. When you pay peanuts, sometimes you get Bill Belichick, sometimes you don’t.

They were still stuck with VHS in the 90s, although offline editing systems like AVID started being used in Film and TV. Still, the idea of using computers for anything video based was still in its infancy. The North Melbourne Kangaroos used video during their glory years in the 90s. Denis Pagan recounts in The Champions: Conversations with great players and coaches of Australian Football:

“(Football Manager) Greg Miller and I both took our problems home with us. I was the only full-time employee in the Kangaroos football department when I started in 1993. I often wonder: ‘How were the Kangaroos ever successful?’ Our resources were stretched beyond the limit. If people didn’t put the in time over and above their job descriptions, who knows what might have happened? Greg took it upon himself to do the video-editing of games. We’d play on a Friday night and he’d stay up all night and cut videos so we’d have ‘positive’ and ‘room for improvement’ tapes to watch at the recovery session the next morning. I’d tell Greg the things I wanted with directions like: “Third quarter, 20 minutes in, knock-on by (Darren) Crocker”. He’d have two VCRs going and it would take him about five hours. I don’t know of anyone else who has done that.”

Greg Miller was the General Manager on a part time basis while presumably holding down another job, and still MADE the time to get the video turned around by the next morning??? Good thing the players really appreciated his efforts, as Wayne Carey recounts in his (ghost written auto?)biography The Truth Hurts:

“In the period from 1993 to 1996 we used to play 8 or 9 Friday night matches each season. We almost used to circle those games on the fixture list – not just because we played well under lights and invariably won, but because it meant we had most of the weekend to get the drinking boots on nd get stuck in.

After Friday night games, we’d always have a Saturday morning session at 9am to review the match and do a light training run. It would usually last an hour or so…

I remember Martin Pike arriving at training one day after a big night and looking as though he had come straight from a nightclub. He was unshaven, dishevelled and stunk of grog.

I said what the hell are you doing, Pikey? Just sit in the corner, don’t say a thing, and don’t do anything which draws attention to yourself, OK? 

Dennis showed us a video pointing out the positives and negatives. Someone had made a really lame attempt to spoil, so Denis froze the video and said: “What do you think of than, Martin?” Slurring his words a bit, Pikey said Cheryl could spoil better than that – Denis’s wife! “

So while Miller was up all night with two VCRs editing a few minutes of footage from Channel 7 coverage, Carey and the boys were getting drunk and probably too inebriated to really watch the video. To be fair, Carey sometimes watched the video:

“When I dislocated my shoulder in the first game of the 1997 season, he (Pagan) came to visit me in hospital and dropped off a videotape of highlights of myself. He knew I was feeling down and needed a pick-me-up so he had this tape made, set to music. I wasn’t big on watching replays of myself but give that he’d gone to all that trouble, well, I certainly made the effort to watch it.” 

I wonder what the music was. Probably Van Halen. Or ACDC. Maybe KISS? Music with highlights isn’t a bad idea. I showed my U17W team a highlight video this year before our gold medal game without music (i had debated for a while whether or not to). It was eerily silent and sombre. The mood just wasn’t right.

* * *

Anyway, VBSTatsHD. Check it out. For $31 it’s $1 more expensive than the camera Tripod I bought off eBay. Bargain.


One Response to “Video Analysis”

  1. Video Feedback, Technology and Laziness. | Huy's Volleyball Blog Says:

    […] recently wrote about the affordable video tagging software VBStatsHD which allows coaches to create edited videos from match […]

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