Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Video Learning Technologies for Gymnastics Coaching: From 3D Motion Capture to 2D Phone Apps

For a sport that is probably unmatched in attention to detail, gymnastics has been relatively behind the curve as compared to the rest of the sporting world in adopting video learning technologies into everyday teaching.  I say this not to be critical, but instead to highlight the possibilities available if the sport chooses to embrace these technologies in the same way as other sports such as golf and baseball.  Obviously the economics of the sports are different.  One membership at some golf clubs produces enough revenue to support a gym for months.  You can only hold so many bake sales and car washes!  Nevertheless, technology becomes more accessible by the day.  Ten years ago, the thought of having phones with still cameras, let alone video analysis software, was unheard of to most of the public. 

3D Motion Capture

Without a doubt the benchmark in the commercial world of video analysis is 3D motion capture.  Once the province of domains like Hollywood or NASA, you can find 3D motion capture systems at many golf performance centers and medical clinics.  While the cost is not cheap and the logistics to accommodate the ballistic action of acrobatic sports are not readily available, finding a 3D system at a private training center or clinic was virtually unheard of ten years ago.  The Titleist Performance Institute offers an entire curriculum based on the analysis of the data as relates to the golf swing; the National Pitching Institute in baseball has a similar commitment to 3D.     

Below is one example of a 3D motion capture used for gymnastics. 

A major benefit of 3D motion capture as compared to 2D video (which will be discussed below), is the ability to quantify the timing of movements.  The technology exists; it is only a matter of time before the tools hit the mainstream.  Whether that day is sooner or later will depend on the receptiveness of performance enhancement specialists.  As with any technology, the tool won’t make a bad coach become a good coach, but it can make a good coach a better coach and accelerate the learning curve for athletes of all levels. 

2D Permanent Systems

One of the best permanent 2D systems is right here in Tucson at the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center at the University of Arizona.  In the video below, Coach Bill Ryden describes fruits of a four year project that continues to evolve. 


Equally important to the video system is the computer support network that facilitates communication between coach and athlete.  A permanent system allows for immediate feedback on the gym floor.  The computer infrastructure allows the coach to create take-home DVD’s for each athlete and to e-mail files (having a university server is an even greater help for storing all the massive video files).  

2D Hand Held Cameras

There is such an abundance of quality cameras on the market that I won’t even begin to review them.  Nevertheless, this market is one in which technology advances by the day (or less).  Perhaps equally important to the camera itself is a video analysis program on which to playback and analyze footage.  Dartfish and V1 Pro are two leaders in the field.  One benefit of the V1 system is that it offers a free “Home” version that is essentially a stripped down version of the Professional versions.  Nevertheless, the “Home” version offers all the essential analysis tools such as line drawing options, slow motion playback, and the ability to import and export video files, including from video hosting sites such as Youtube

2D Phone Apps 

Now more than ever there is virtually no excuse for not having access to portable video analysis tools.  Recently V1 Pro introduced a video analysis program as an App for the iPhone, iPad, and Android.  Although the product is marketed as a golf aid, the line drawing tools, slow motion, and split screen options are useful for video analysis in all sports.  For only $9.99, coaches can access the type of video analysis software that was once limited to high-priced permanent systems.  While portable phones will lack the picture quality and shudder speed of a high quality stand-alone camera, the App can encourage immediacy of coaching feedback in situations where the coach would otherwise not bother to carry around an expensive camera.  The last thing anyone wants is a several hundred dollar camera to be permanently damaged while spotting!     


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