Sports Analysis Simplified (Part 2)
My previous article was designed to introduce the importance of the 'human' element in sports analysis. Now it's time to venture into realms of equipment. Once the action that you are looking to record surpasses the functionality of the smartphone or tablet then a camcorder and laptop should be investigated. Planning and then budgets become very important as money can easily be wasted if these few simple steps are ignored.
How much time do I really have available to conduct analysis?
If you only have a small amount of time in the week then spending lots of money on a program is going to be a waste of money, certainly in the short term.
What is my budget?
It might seem strange for this question to come second on the list, but a proper assessment of available resources (both personal time and equipment) should be conducted before the issue of money is introduced. Do not spend any money until you are sure that you cannot conduct a video assessment of your activity with what you have around you.
Step 1. The Video
Video information needs to be transferred onto a computer hard drive. This can be directly from a camera through cables or via an SD card or it can ‘ripped’ from a DVD.
How do I transfer my video from my camera to my computer? – What are the output ports on the camera apart from the USB?
€ Digital Ports might require an external adapter to transfer the video onto a computer. HDMI ports on computers predominantly output video rather than import it.
€ Analogue Ports will require an adaptor (analogue to digital converter) to transfer the video onto a computer.
€ Removable SD cards can be plugged directly into a computer or connected by a low-cost USB adaptor.
Does the video format that my camera produces import easily into the software program I’m looking to use?
This might seem trivial and there are ways that videos can be converted into other formats, but this process takes time (maybe hours) that you might not have available.
Step 2. The Computer
A laptop is generally the most practical type of computer to have due to its portability, but a desktop shouldn’t be ruled out, as they come with better processors, bigger hard drives and memory, and importantly have bigger screens.
How much space do I have available on my computer’s hard drive?
Video files consume a large amount of space on a computer and if you are going to store multiple events you are going to quickly use tens of gigabytes (GB) of your hard drive.
How much memory does the computer need?
As much as the machine can accommodate.
Do I buy an Apple or PC running Windows?
Your choice will be determined by budget and user preference. Some software packages are designed to only run on an Apple computer. Apple computers have traditionally been associated with graphics and desktop publishing and were believed to be better for processing video. In addition, an Apple computer can run Windows and associated software.
Step 3. The Software
There are 2 broad categories of analysis software; those concerning technique analysis, or those used for match play and tactical analysis. For the vast majority of sporting situations, customizable match play software will have sufficient functions to adequately cover both the technical and tactical aspects of performance.
Are there any software packages that will run on the computer I have?
Please note there are adequate free programs available on the Internet that should maybe be investigated before a commercial package is purchased. For technique analysis try http://www.kinovea.org and for match play and tactical analysis try http://www.longomatch.org/en/open-source/
Is a single-sport software better to buy than a multisport package?
Single-sport packages are usually designed with a fixed list of event information that can be collected. These can’t be changed easily to accommodate new requirements.
How can I present my findings to my athletes?
Many software packages create video clips that can either be used inside the program as a playlist or can be exported for use in presentation software similar to PowerPoint. Data can also be exported into formats that are compatible with Excel and bespoke reports can be created.
Step 4. Accessories
Additional basic equipment to enhance the quality of the analysis process.
Do I have an appropriate tripod to mount my camera?
Just be aware of the cheaper tripods that you buy, they don’t always provide you with enough height extension to give the camera view you are looking for and they are generally light and easily knocked or blown over by the wind.
My computer doesn’t have enough hard drive space for my files.
External Hard drives are readily available that can be used via USB ports. The formatting of the drive will determine whether it can be used with both Windows and Mac OS computers.
There are many issues associated with the buying of equipment but if some of these simple questions have been addressed you will be in a better position to direct the sales people towards what you are looking for rather than having to rely totally on their recommendations. However, it is important to consider a visit to a specialist camera dealer, because if your video is of poor quality then your analysis at best is going to be poor.
I hope that this basic article provides some simple direction for people wishing to invest in sports analysis equipment. I do have my own preferences that can be shared via a direct correspondence. But please ALWAYS remember to ask WHY are you doing analysis, WHAT do you hope to learn, and HOW are you going to create an environment where your athletes can learn before investing in expensive equipment.