The evolution of video analysis in sports

May 9, 2022

Various studies have shown that video-based methodology has had more impact on the learning of groups than audio-based ones. According to researchers at Milligan College, visual learning leads to greater recall on memory performance than auditory learning. This understanding is at the core of video-focused feedback and forms the basis of sports video analysis. The idea is to automatically analyze match or training video content to discover patterns and outline crucial instances. By knowing important occasions, coaches can provide timely feedback for players to act upon them. 

Until the 1990s, video analysis in sports was not that extensive. Professional and college teams in the US were among the early adopters of the technology. Before that, games were recorded and replayed. Players and coaches would often study their opponent's videos to gain a competitive advantage. 

“With video, it’s a lot easier to remember.” 

Tony Gwynn, Hall-of-Fame baseball player (MLB, 1982-2001)

Over time, new advancements in video-capturing equipment and an increase in computational power have allowed teams and organizations to adopt video analysis extensively. Video analysis is now a necessity and not a luxury anymore for sports teams. It is not just about recording games and studying the footage. Cameras today can capture high-quality sports videos. Video recordings have now paved the way for Video Motion Analysis. 

Video motion analysis is a technique used to get information about moving objects from video. The motion analysis technique usually involves a high-speed camera and a computer that has software allowing frame-by-frame playback of the video. This analysis has a lot of different uses in sports. 

Broadly, such videos could be used by coaches and athletes to provide feedback on correct techniques and to analyze team and individual performances. By analyzing training and game videos, athletes can measure and rectify the technical aspects of their game. Ball release points, game stance, and ball trajectory angle are some metrics tracked through video. Teams and organizations can use software to 'mark' videos outlining different game aspects - shots-impact points, ball trajectory, ball pitch map, etc. Using these and other measures, a filter made for athletes can help them view specific instances.

Technology companies such as Hawkeye Technologies and Metrica Sports are some of the leaders in sports video and data analysis. Historically, companies could provide after-game analysis by processing recorded videos. But now, real-time processing and analysis have become the standard. Teams are capturing videos using GoPros or special cameras, and devices such as iPads contain software allowing coaches to analyze match content live.

Sports video analysis is present in every professional sport today. In the past, technology and analytics were available only to big clubs and leagues. But in recent years, technology, along with required equipment such as smartphones, has become cheaper. Video analysis tools are accessible to smaller clubs and individuals.

The advantages of video analysis in sports over other classical methods are substantial. We tried listing some down:

  • Better Game Retention: According to studies, 65% of people are visual learners. When players study team match footage or opponent game videos, they have the edge over their competition. 
  • Real-time Feedback: Unlike other methods, video analysis provides real-time game analysis allowing coaches to improvise and strategize at that very moment. 
  • Data-driven Communication: If players are informed about their mistakes verbally, they may or may not understand the problem. But replaying a match video and showing a specific moment helps coaches and teams to point out the exact problem. Doing this helps in a better understanding of the error for the players.
  • More Efficient and Time-Saving: Since videos for matches are available during or after any game, the feedback provided to players is accurate and can be instant, if needed. Modern tools allow teams and individuals to view highlights and other metrics -  balls bowled, type of shots played, bowling length map, player strike ratio, etc. - based on filters. Doing this saves a lot of crucial time. The need to edit whole videos for snippets is no longer needed.

With constant innovations in sport, the use of technology is ever increasing. We have the example of Microsoft partnering up with La Liga to provide real-time video analytics in football and overlaid on live broadcasts. Recently, there has been an upsurge in the number of sports tech startups. Artificial Intelligence concepts such as Machine Learning and Computer Vision now provide integrated video analytics. 

Smartphones have better processing powers allowing for on-edge video processing. The videos are sent to the cloud to store securely. The analytics is poised to evolve constantly with access to information faster. 

The future of sports video analysis looks promising. We have now entered the realm of the Metaverse. Soon, people would be able to watch live sports with integrated match stats and data from the comfort of their homes. Large videos would take seconds to process and still contain real-time analysis. All these technologies will be accessible to the fans at a fraction of the cost. And most importantly, coaches would be able to better communicate with players about their errors and, subsequently, help improve their game.

In the last four decades, a lot has changed. We are now able to do things that we would not have imagined. We have come a long way from recording videos on VCRs. Video Analysis is no longer just about studying match videos and looking for errors. Devices and technologies are capable of so much more. And innovation will continue to happen. The tools might change, but the core idea of efficiently analyzing a video to obtain meaningful metrics will remain the same.

Sports Video Analysis is here to stay for a long time!

About the author

Karamveer Singh Bakshi
Sales Consultant & Cricket Expert at Ludimos
M.Sc. International Sport and Event Management