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Ask the Lab: Digital Video Library

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

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    Many times the question we receive for this “Ask the Expert” column are related in some way to tennis technique – whether it’s relating technique to injury or determining how to move more efficiently on the court. These are hard questions to answer; it is very difficult to provide technique recommendations to a player without first watching their strokes and movement.

    However, the USTA Player Development Division has developed a technique analysis tool that is free for anyone to use – the Digital Video Library. The Digital Video Library allows you to watch video clips of your favorite players, frame-by-frame, and analyze their technique.

    Below you will find information on how to access and use the Digital Video Library. Check it out and enjoy the clips. We hope it will help you develop your game and an understanding of how they best players play the game.

    Accessing the Digital Video Library

    The first step to accessing the Digital Video Library is to log onto the USTA Player Development website: (www.playerdevelopment.usta.com).

    From here there are two ways to access the Digital Video Library. The first is to click the red and blue “Learn From the Pros – Ground Breaking Video Instruction” banner on the Player Development website (www.playerdevelopment.usta.com) - This will take you directly to the Library of Video Clips. The second way is to click the Digital Video Library link under Coaching Education.

    This will take you to an introductory page that provides information on the importance of technique while also pointing out the differences between fundamentals of technique and style. You may find it beneficial to read through this article the first time you work with the Digital Video Library. This article then links directly to the video clips.

    Entering the Digital Video Library

    When you enter the Digital Video Library you will have access to video clips of 40 of the top US and international players – 20 men and 20 women, including Venus and Serena Williams, Sharapova, Clijsters, Blake, Roddick, Federer, Nadal, and 32 others. The players are arranged in alphabetical order and there are TWO pages players to choose – to advance to the second page slick the ‘Next’ link in the lower right corner of the page.

    At the top of the page are several headings you can select.

    Home: This is where you start. Wherever you are, clicking this item takes you back to the main player video page.
    Getting Started: This presents information to familiarize yourself with the video viewer.
    High Performance Technique: This link takes you to a page that discusses technique, style and the goals of training technique.
    High Performance Lessons: This is a site that is under construction and eventually will use the video library to provide technique lessons.

    You likely want to get right into the video, so let’s go. To access the video of a particular player simply click on his or her picture. Let’s start the tutorial by clicking on the picture of James Blake.

    Becoming Familiar with the Video Viewing Window

    Clicking on James’ picture launches a program called Dartviewer and a new window should pop up. The page will include the following items:

    • At the top of the page you will see two tabs – Analysis View and SlideShow View. You automatically enter on the Analysis View page.
    • A red banner titled ‘Analysis Section’ with a drop down menu next to it.
    • A video viewing window with several control buttons.
    • A Comments window to the right of the page.
    • Another red banner titled ‘Key Positions’ with a series of pictures beneath it.

    The functions associated with each of these items are described in greater detail below.

    Viewing the Video

    In the red banner titled ‘Analysis Selection’ you will find a pulldown menu. In that menu you have the option of selecting a video clips of James’ serve, forehand, backhand, forehand return, backhand return and a complete point. Choose the forehand option and hit the play button below the video screen to launch the video – It may take several seconds for the video to load.

    With the video loaded you can use any of the video control buttons below the viewing window. The buttons allow you to, in the order they appear on the screen:START: Jump to the start to the video clip

    BACK: Go backwards in the video frame-by-frame (when the video is paused)
    PLAY/ PAUSE: Play/ Pause the video
    FORWARD: Move forward in the video frame-by-frame
    END: Jump to the end of the video clip
    LOOP: Loop continuously/ Turn off the continuous loop

    To explore all the options of working with the video clip, follow the following steps.

    • Hit PLAY and watch the video clip play through one time
    • Now hit the LOOP button and hit PLAY again. The video will loop continuously until you stop it.
    • Hit LOOP again to turn off the continuous loop or hit PAUSE.
    • Jump to the START of the video clip.
    • Use the FORWARD and BACK controls to move frame by frame through the video.

    Using Key Frames

    At the bottom of the screen you will find 6 photos/ still images that identify key positions in the stroke – in this case James Blake’s forehand. These images are taken directly from the video. Click on each Key frame and two things will happen: the picture will come up in the main video viewer and instructional comments will appear in the Comments window. Since the screen is only large enough to show 5 pictures at a time there are also controls in the upper right corner of the window to advance backwards and forwards to additional key frames.

    As an example, try the following:

    1. Click on the Contact Key Position picture.
    2. You will automatically jump to the point in the video where James contacts the ball in his forehand and will be able to read instructional comments on the technique used at the point of contact.
    3. You can use the video controls to move backwards and forward in the frames around the point of contact.
    4. Note: To bring up the instructional comments you have to select the key frame in the Key Positions window – they will not come up automatically as you step through the video.

    Using Slideshow Viewer

    The ‘Slideshow Viewer’ tab at the top of the page allows you to make your own photo series printouts using the key frames and comments that have been identified. By selecting the appropriate button you can print 2, 4 or 9 key frames on a page.

    To print out the key frames of James Blake’s forehand, it’s as easy as 1-2-3-4:

    1. Select the ‘Slideshow Viewer’ tab at the top of the page.
    2. Select the 9-picture option on the right hand side of the page.
    3. Click on the printer icon to format the print job and show you what the finished page will look like.
    4. Select ‘Print’ to send the job to the printer.


    Can I download the video clips and save them to my computer?
    No, you cannot. Due to limitations placed on the use of video taken from the US Open and other tournaments restrictions have been put in place that prevent downloading of the video to a personal computer. However, as long as you have access to an internet connection, you will have access to the video library.

    Can I change the key frames and/or comments associated with the key frames?
    In preparing the Dartfish Mediabooks (what comes up on the screen when you view the video) the USTA provided the information contained in the key frames as well as the comments. At this time, the software does not allow for the key frames or the comments to be changed once they have been posted to the website.

    My favorite player is not available too watch. Why not?
    There could be several reasons for this. For one, we may not have digital video of the player in question. Or, we may have video but have not posted it at this time. Our goal it to add to or update the video list periodically.

    What does the future hold for the Digital Video Library?
    Even though the Digital Video Library is up and running we have even bigger and better plans for it. As mentioned, we plan to update the players featured in the library several times a year. We also want to add an instructional component, where a featured coach will make comments on a player’s technique. We also want to expand the scope of the library to include junior player footage as well as historical footage of top players from past generations. So, check back frequently to see what has changed.



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