Video Feedback, Technology and Laziness.

*As you read in my post it’s not always actually “priceless”

It’s great to see that Moore’s law applies to volleyball and art too. The defining moment for my animation studio was a period when the professional software tools for creating animation could be run on an ordinary household PC. Similarly, we are at a point where technological things that used to cost a fortune to do in sports now cost next to nothing.

I recently wrote about the affordable video tagging software VBStatsHD which allows coaches to create edited videos from match situations

The other great breakthrough I discovered recently was in video feedback technology. Quite simply, it’s a system that captures then displays video on a delay, so players can see what their previous actions looked like. Research has shown that it can accelerate skill acquisition.

I’ve seen a couple of systems over the last 5 years, all with a similar recipe: A Laptop with a firewire port; boutique software; a video camera with DV output to firewire; a data projector and white screen or TV display. The Dartfish software I saw cost $2000 at the time Déjà vu cost $300 and Live Video Delay was free. The software could be put on a short delay (5-10 seconds) to see the last action, or a long delay (90-120 seconds) to see multiple reps.

These setups were generally not very portable and suited training environments where they could be set up permanently. In my Performance Analyst role at the Australian Junior Women’s Development Camp last year, I had to set one up for a session, which involved a camera in on a tripod in a referee stand to get a high angle, a viewing area for the screen and data projector and the laptop in between. A lot of cables, and it all had to be close enough to capture the action while being out of the way for the athletes safety. Meanwhile on the other court, 2 coaches had come up with a different solution: one would film a group of players with his iPad; the other would be off to the side showing a group of athletes their last lot of repititions; then they’d swap ipads when the player groups swapped (another simple solution I saw in the US involves a TV on a rolling stand, a camera with RCA outputs, both connected to a cracked TiVo box).

Which brings us to BAM! Live Delay – developed originally for dancers – for the iPad. It’s a $5.49 application from iTunes and the iPad lends itself perfectly as a portable device that can capture AND display video (no laptop, cameras or cables). I always bring my iPad to trainings mounted on a tripod and I can place it close to spikers to see their spiking action, on the net so blockers can see their blocking form, or on the sideline for receivers to see their technique.

What if you don’t want the video to be displayed where it is captured? For example what if you want to put the camera at the back of the court to see the width of the net but don’t want the players to always have to walk back there to see what happened? Chau showed be an even neater trick with BAM! Live Delay – with a wireless router and a $14.99 airserver application, you can wirelessly send the feed from the iPad to another device. In this case, for setting feedback with my U15s, I have put the iPad at the back of the court and my laptop on a desk on the other side of the net directly opposite the setter. The setter only needs to turn to their right to see where the ball went on the last rep.

All this stuff is cool, and studies have shown that it can be effective, but I still have scepticism. Despite its affordability and ease of use, a lot of coaches still don’t bother. A lot of coaches assume that I can do this stuff because I have some technical nous (On closer inspection of our iPads, I’m consistently the coach with the least amount of apps. I’m convinced most of these coaches spend most of their time on their iPads playing Angry Birds). It’s like when animation software became available, why didn’t more small studios spring up? Even when I do set it up, a lot of players don’t look at it. A lot of players don’t like seeing themselves on the screen (I’m starting to think I set it up largely now so that players behave more professionally at training. Even though they don’t use it, they expect to have it now).

The cynic in me believes that technology is not always a catalyst for change. This applies to both players and coaches. If it’s taught me anything, it’s who really can’t be bothered. The players who choose to look at the video and make the adjustments and progressions are the ones that are willing and able to get better. The same goes for coaches.

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