49ers Streamline Coaching Analysis With Panasonic Workflow

Fresh off their eighth straight win, a 23-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers will hit the practice field this week to prepare for next Sunday’s contest against the Baltimore Ravens. All season long, head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have had the added benefit of new Panasonic P2 HD camcorders for coaching analysis.

Upgrading to a digital workflow, the 49ers uses its new Panasonic digital cameras every day.

Prior to this season, the 49ers upgraded from a tape-based workflow to a digital workflow, purchasing three AJ-HPX3100 P2 HD shoulder-mounts, an AG-HPX370 P2 HD shoulder-mount, and two AG-HPX170 P2 HD handheld camcorders, as well as six AG-HMR10 handheld AVCCAM HD recorder/players.

“We utilize all of the [cameras] every day,” says Michael Christianson, 49ers coordinator of football technology/offensive assistant. “We shoot the three HPX3100s and the HPX370 from lifts or towers and use the HPX170s as on-the-field cameras to shoot various types of drills from the ground. The higher-end shoulder-mounts give a greater detailed look from above to shoot a wider arrangement of scenarios while at practice.”

The HPX370 handheld camcorder serves as a backup in case one of the HPX3100s go down, and the HPX170s allow Christianson’s team to roam the sidelines, focusing on an individual player, position, drill, or practice period.

Each P2 HD camera is paired with an HMR10, which provides the lower data rates of AVCCAM recording with the redundant, high-quality recordings of P2 HD. Transitioning to SD cards has made data acquisition both faster and more cost-effective.

“We actually drop those [SD] cards after every practice period; over the course of a two-hour practice, we’ll have probably 20 periods,” says Christianson. “We’ll drop multiple cards from all the locations and run those into the video room. The video is actually captured while practice is going on.”

Christianson’s team ingests the video from SD cards via XOS Digital’s Thunder Football HD digital encoding/coaching system. Within 10 minutes after practice ends, the video is available to the coaching staff to view and evaluate.

“Digital editing used in tandem with the Panasonic camcorders gives us the flexibility and access to certain types of footage instantaneously and allows us to have the video readily available for the coaches within a time frame we would never have with tape,” says Christianson. “Essentially, before the team walks off the practice field, the edits are ingested and complete for viewing.”

In addition to the speed of acquisition, the 49ers’ Panasonic complement facilitates coaching analysis by recording metadata. Every time a camera operator begins, pauses, or stops recording, the video is marked.

“For our evaluation software, that’s critical because we evaluate every single play on its own merits,” Christianson explains. “We can capture 45 minutes of video in less than two minutes, which you could never do on tape.”

Practice footage from each of the Panasonic cameras is captured in 1080p 16:9 HD. The 49ers also deploy three HPX3100s on game days, positioning the cameras in three crow’s-nest locations: one in each end zone and one above the sideline. Game-day footage is captured in 16:9 SD.

“The Panasonic gear is invaluable for our work as a coaching staff,” says Christianson. “It has made the world of the 49ers much more efficient and provided us with limitless capabilities when it comes to what we shoot, edit, and ultimately evaluate.”

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