Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Video Analysis of Sports 101

Welcome to the Video Analysis of Sports blog. As this is our first article, we will take this opportunity to introduce ourselves.

We (Dennis and Dudley) have a combined 20 years experience in motion capture and biomechanics with a special interest in sports performance and injury prevention. Through our consulting company Sadaka, LLC http://www.sadakallc.com ,we offer services to sports professionals, sports equipment manufacturers, hospitals and motion analysis software and hardware companies. Some of our past clients include Titleist, FootJoy, Warrior Hockey, National Pitching Association, NASA, Shriners Childrens Hospital and Vicon Motion Systems.

Video analysis of sports performance is often the domain of professional athletes and large companies or research institutions. This analysis is done with expensive 3D video camera equipment and complicated software to ensure high speeds and accuracy. However there are some basic techniques that can be used by any individual to evaluate their own performance and get great results using a simple digital video camera and a little understanding of biomechanics. The video camera will require a small cost (we will discuss what makes a good camera in a future posting), but we will supply you with much of the biomechanics understanding for free on this blog.

Reviewing video clips can be a great way to provide coaching feedback to players, as well as a means to emulate one's favorite athletes. Whether you're a professional all-star, high school athlete, or weekend warrior, seeing yourself from a different perspective can help improve your performance and/or minimize your chances of injury.

So in this first posting, we'll start right at the beginning and describe what features make a sports clip suitable for video analysis of an individual, and what you can do to ensure the clips you film will meet those requirements. Future postings will demonstrate the various levels of analysis that can be performed on suitable videos, using a range of available software, from basic free software to detailed 3D analysis.

What makes a good sports clip?
A good sports clip of an individual shows the athlete's full range of motion (ROM) during an action, with the camera positioned such that angles can be accurately calculated (this will be discussed in more detail later). Filming the athlete's ROM can be accomplished by simply zooming out or moving the camera backwards until all the desired features are in the viewer. In general, it's recommended to have the camera as close to the athlete as possible and still capture the entire ROM, as this will make the most use of the camera sensor's resolution. For example, if we were to capture a basketball player dunking the ball we would want to ensure that our camera can see the complete action from take off until the player puts the ball in the net. Our camera would therefore need to see the ground at the take off point as well as some space above the rim of the the net.

Another important factor in obtaining a great sports clip is to make sure that your camera is stationary. There are some motion capture software available that can handle a moving camera, but for now we suggest that the camera is mounted on a tripod and is not moved while the video clip is being filmed. This means that you should ensure the full ROM (described above) can be captured in this one shot.

How you can film useful footage:
Camera placement
In general, most sports clips we watch on tv are best suited for analyzing strategy and teamwork because they provide an overall picture of many or all of the competitors and the playing field. However, when it comes to analyzing an individual's performance or technique, it's not only important to focus the camera on the single athlete, but the angle we film from must also be taken into account. It's best to use "orthogonal angles", meaning the camera is directly in front of, behind, or to the side of the athlete. Golf coverage usually does a nice job of this, providing shots of the golfer either "face-on" or "down-the-line". Here's a great face-on view of Tiger Woods' swing:

And here is a down-the-line shot of his swing:

Notice these cameras are level with the golfer; they're not filmed at an upward or downward angle, meaning it's possible to accurately calculate some angles, if that's what is desired from the analysis.

Although the above clip is a beautiful view of Tiger's swing, the footage could have been improved by having him wear clothes that were a different color from the background. Black clothing with a black background can make it difficult to accurately evaluate the amount of hip and shoulder rotation - two commonly analyzed characteristics of a golf swing. Not that having a solid black background is a bad thing though; on the contrary, if you can manage to film your athlete with a solid-colored background, you are well on your way to filming some nice footage for analysis.

As is true with taking most photos, it's ideal to position the camera and athlete such that the light source (e.g., the sun) is behind the camera and illuminates the athlete. This will provide a crisp view of the athlete, and will allow you to use a more open setting on the camera's aperture.

Now that you're up to speed on the basics of filming great video for analysis, grab your video camera and start practicing! Follow our regular blog postings, and see how you can create your own analyses of your videos, using a variety of software packages.

-Dennis Ho

No comments:

More Recommendations