Sunday, 8 August 2021

Veo 2 - Sports Analysis interesting!

@VeoCamera Veo announced on Thursday 5th August their new "Veo 2" sports camera as per https://event.veo.co/ with a video https://youtu.be/Mtjr34nZ3v4?t=1643

As someone with a keen interest in sports still & video images, and as someone who is regularly "up the tower" enjoying the best view in the house behind a video camera for field hockey match analysis, I've been keeping an eye on the emerging world of club level intelligent & automated imagery. I'd looked at Veo previously, so the v2 was of interest.

The first thing to say is that this sector is immature, now please don't take that as a bad thing, in fact it is developing and growing rapidly - with companies and many different exciting features & functions emerging rapidly.

To my rough eye these companies might break down into 4 groups:

1) Pro - companies moving their professional grade solutions down to the club level

2) Analysis - companies widening their analysis solution portfolio to encompass more elements of the workflow solutions. 

3) Club - companies widening their club management portfolio to encompass more elements

4) Video - new to market companies focusing specifically on club video analysis, breaks into a couple of types

    4a) All in one solutions - providing full hardware and software solutions

    4b) Component solutions - providing specific elements of the new solutions (gimble platform, masts, IP cameras etc)

Some of the companies include the following:

https://event.veo.co/

https://www.spiideo.com/

https://provispo.com/

https://www.frogbox.live/ 

https://www.hudl.com/en_gb/products/focus

https://shop.movensee.com/en/content/31-pix4team-auto-follow-camera-for-team-sports

https://www.pixellot.tv/products/pixellot-air/

https://www.usportfor.com/

https://traceup.com/

https://www.joymo.tv/start-streaming

Whilst I'd love to have a 20+ 8k camera, fully AI referee assist & match analysis solution like some of the category 1 companies, that 6+ digit budget money simply doesn't exist in the amateur club level. So the area that most excites & interests me right now is the category 4a companies like Veo...

To me, in an emerging market the key elements in an emerging market are solution & commercial flexibility (so you can change as things evolve), time to value, and openness on integration & data portability.

At the moment the industry standards for data, meta-data, imagery and tagging assets haven't yet matured in this level, so it's a matter of looking for eco-system relationships & cooperation rather than technology standards & interoperability. There's clearly some overlap and jostling going on between imaging companies, analysis companies, streaming companies and club / game management companies.

Features I'm most interested in:

  • Autonomous filming of field hockey matches - mainly outdoor 11v11, but occasionally outdoor. To remove the need for a camera operator
  • Portable platform, with permanent install & mounting option
  • Live streaming to audience
  • Ability to live feed to other screens around the local club (eg clubhouse)
  • Match overlay graphics (scorecards, teams, sponsors etc)
  • Feed to open match analysis solutions
  • Automated hockey event timeline tagging (goal, side-line, free hit, long corner, PC, shuffle, stroke, player substitutions etc)
  • Automated generation of post match analytics (heatmaps, player trackers, formation trackers)
  • Visual analysis tools (draw on screen, directed highlights, full pitch view and broadcast view)

After last week's announcement from Veo, as well as being super interested I was left with a sack of questions, including:

  1. Can we control & mute the audio? both for live streaming, and for post match analysis & assets...
  2. Can we concurrently forward / export the live stream real-time to other platforms? (eg https://scorrd.com/? YouTube? Facebook?)
  3. Integration with Pitchero and SportLomo?
    1. I can see that Veo & Pitchero had had some relationship so far, https://www.veo.co/pitchero-veo-football/ but I'm looking for integration of teams & fixture info, allowing the Pitchero app to update the Veo score etc.
  4. The LiveStream FAQ says "You can live-stream at 1080p with 10 Mbit/s and 720p with 4 Mbit/s." but elsewhere in the FAQ it also says "Streaming in 720p video quality requires a 4Mbps connection. To stream in Full HD, you need an 8Mbps connection." - so is HD 1080p 8Mbs or 10Mbs?
  5. Integration with and/or export of events & video to CoachLogic & Hudl?
  6. Given the 'local processing of images' can I later use Veo 2 as a camera without the full subscriptions?
  7. Does the Veo 2 automatically upload / backup the locally processed videos to the Veo service? and can it securely send the files automatically to other locations?
  8. What happens with Veo 2 when the 128GB storage fills up?
  9. Is there a 'permanent mounting kit' that would allow us to securely mount the camera (in a secure enclosure?) to the pitch side fencing and keep it powered and network connected full time?
  10. Details as to how the new software & hardware work with Field Hockey? football is nice but not relevant for my requirements...
  11. Confirmation of all functionality working over Ethernet & Wifi without the need to use the in build 4G cellular network?
  12. An ability to auto zoom in on a penalty corner or flick during live stream?
  13. Is there a digital zoom function for analysis?
  14. Is there a slow motion function for analysis?
  15. What is the supported distance from camera for app control?
  16. Can I get access to all of the content without needing any physical connection to the device?
  17. How is the security access to the device & service managed?
  18. What roles & control granularity are available for the camera & service management application? (can I give coaches & managers some control but not full config admin etc?)
  19. Approval / affiliation with England Hockey as the NGB, to allow us to use promote the solution as part of the player pathway program
  20. Does the match app allow for:
    1. "stopping the clock" as per hockey rules? (ie no extra time, but clock stopped on incidents)
    2. Quarters & Halves, both with varying durations
  21. Can we expand the live streaming (and recorded) graphics overlays to include:
    1. Team introduction player lists
    2. Club & sponsor logos
    3. Graphics info pages to be shown as overlay before & after matches
    4. Graphics info pages to be shown at quarter & half-time breaks
    5. Event animation overlays (eg driven from buttons on the match app re 'goal', 'green/yellow/red card', 'penalty', 'home win/loss)
    6. Graphics overlay for player substitutions (eg from app type list of player #s on/off - show on screen and record in event timeline)
  22. Can we export the automated & manual event timeline to 3rd party match analysis packages (eg CoachLogic)

Some concerns include:

  • Strong support for field hockey, whilst the website mentions field hockey, there aren't any example videos on the site or Youtube channel - I certainly want to see how the upgraded cameras work with the small & fast hockey ball
  • Strategy feature that most concerns me is that, at initial glance, it appears Veo may be going down the "walled private garden" route for content & streaming - we use multiple other systems already and whilst some might be replaceable not all are, so the ability to work & integrate with other platforms is of value
  • Veo Analytics - is an extra cost, and current only supporting football https://support.veo.co/en/articles/5454606-analyze-your-recordings-with-veo-analytics - need to know when this will support field hockey? (surely 2D-radar & heatmaps should work easily?)
  • There aren't any manuals online - small thing but always bothers me
  • The page listing the current v1 Platform and videos is littered with "video not found" - yes I know the future is v2, but v1 is still current, and web quality issues like this are always somewhat unnerving.
  • Some of the initial functionality will require cabled Ethernet not Wifi initially, with a software update planned before year end https://support.veo.co/en/articles/5453070-veo-cam-2-f-a-q

I'm also looking to see what Veo do for their existing v1 camera owners re hardware upgrades/trade-ins and contract options, as this is a good indicator of a companies' approach to their customers...

At this point I've not mentioned costs, you can see the Veo 2 pricing here https://uk.shop.veo.co/pages/pricing - assuming a 'club' subscription with analytics & live streaming it's circa £1000 per year subscription, and £1000 for the initial hardware - so not trivial but equally a viable cost for many clubs if you're using it well.

Do I want to get hold of a Veo 2 and do some field trials with hockey, very much so! Lets see what happens next...

RIP #FixturesLive

So it's only been a week since it's closure and I'm already missing the https://w.fixtureslive.com/default.aspx website for hockey fixture management :(

Like any good friend it wasn't perfect, at times far from it, but it was always there and supported us in some many ways, quietly getting on with the things that needed to be done - the unglamorous linchpin of club sport for so many, utterly indispensable for hockey competitions. 

I've just spent a few hours adding the families' junior & senior fixtures for the season into our family calendars, and boy this is painful, especially finding the venue location information (why do so many clubs manage to hide their pitch locations on their websites???)

Well just what am I missing right now?

  • Sync - The ability to simply synchronise a team's fixtures into my Google calendar seamlessly - the one click that instantly added (and kept updated with changes) dozens of fixtures into our schedules
  • Fixtures - The ability to easily synchronise a team to a league and have all the fixtures automatically added into the club's Pitchero membership system - and then later seamlessly have the results appear
  • Info - Easily and simple place to locate other club's venue locations and people contact information easily - yes I know the leagues have this but it's much easier for players / parents to get it without needing to engage with leagues
  • History - The history archives, whilst reviewing the coming season it's always important to look at the league's historic and fixture results over the years. Not just a historic archive of fixtures, players and events (including many current GB Elite squad player records from their early careers), but also a real treasure trove of information for current game prep.

Like all solutions, their demise reminds us of a couple of key topics:

  • Data - Who owns, curates and safeguards the data in the sport? Leagues & clubs were advised multiple times to download their historic fixture & player data (although looking at the extracts not all data was possible to be exported), It will be interesting to see what happens to these fragmented archive records. As times move forward it's going to be increasingly important for participants to take accountability for their own 'player passport of data', especially when the sport overall doesn't have a data strategy.
  • Resilience - Is the provision of any key solution/service within the sport secure, protected and resilient? The things we rely on to run and participate in the sport need to be there when we need & use them, don't just assume it's somebody else's responsibility to ensure they are!

With the upcoming new England Hockey centralised Game Management System (GMS), based on SportLomo I believe, I'm looking forward to seeing how it addresses the different user journeys of the sport's participants - hopefully it's going to focus on the needs of the many not those of the few.

The key to the benefits of such systems is not the app or the web user interface, it's not how many niche complex features it can address, BUT rather it's that many people use it, that it addresses the basics well for all and makes life simple for the various participants. An advantage that the new GMS should at least have is that it is required for use with all England Hockey affiliated competitions, so should have even more people using it, making it's information ever more usable & useful.

Equally with a revised, hopefully harmonised, set of competition rules from the AGM Governance works over the last few year (over)due for release from England Hockey for the new season in a few weeks, I'm going to be very intrigued as to how eligibility, data ownership & rights and image rights are addressed within these new rules.

So it's time to say a big thank you to those that originally conceived, developed, supported and maintained #FixturesLive - an essential tool/service that will be missed but not forgotten.

And of course time to look forwards, in hope, that the new system is at least as useful as FixturesLive was! (and yes I'm hoping that the history archive resurfaces somewhere soon)

Monday, 1 March 2021

OT - Sports Video & Photography

Some people have asked me about the setup I use for filming & streaming live hockey matches (although this would apply to most live sports).

So the first thing to say is that I'm very much an amateur & beginner myself, but I've picked up some good tips from those around and done a fair bit of research and trial & error.




Setup

The setup is a mix of software and hardware, some used pitch-side and some used from anywhere.

One thing to remember is that video files get big quickly, very much dependent up on the video source resolution & format, and the compression codecs used, I film at 1080p 50 frames/second MPEG4 35mbps which generates about 16GB of data files per hour. Not only does your camera need to have enough storage capacity, but remember the time take to transfer files from cameras to PC, the storage needed to keep both these 'raw' files and the subsequent processed files.

Many cameras, including mine, will seamlessly split a single recording into multiple files, so for a 1hr match I will typically have 5 files of circa 3.2GB each - later these will need to be joined/concatenated into a single file as part of processing before uploading to an analysis / sharing service.  

Notes

I have 3 distinct sets of kit:

    1. The video match recording
    2. The live streaming
    3. Stills photography

Not all of the equipment below is needed although it's all found it's way into my bags.

Most of the points would work with many different makes of cameras.

Video Equipment

Video camera

Canon XA35 

https://www.canon.co.uk/for_home/product_finder/camcorders/professional/xa35/

A great video camera, with strong optical zoom, multiple control points, great audio controls & inputs, and dual HDSC cards for vast storage

Lenses

XA35 standard

Wide angle Canon WA-H58

https://store.canon.co.uk/canon-wa-h58-wide-attachment-lens/8640B001/

Microphone

Quickly I realised it was good to have a directional microphone to focus noise pickup towards the game and action (away from the side-lines), but also to minimise environmental noise (wind & rain). RØDE was an obvious choice re quality, cost & ubiquity (spares, interop etc). The VXLR+ minijack adapter was only needed to use with the pro audio interfaces on my XA35 camera.

RØDE VideoMic Pro+ Compact Directional On-camera Microphone

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0749GV5L3/ 

RØDE VXLR+ Minijack to XLR Adaptor with Power Convertor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B071LNDKBJ/

RØDE DeadCat VMP+ Artificial Fur Wind Shield for the VideoMic Pro+

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07D14L3LH/ 

Tripod

Manfrotto Befree GT Carbon

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/befree-gt-carbon-fibre-tripod-twist-lock-ball-head-mkbfrtc4gt-bh/

Tripod head

Manfrotto MH055M8-Q5 Photo-Movie Tripod Head

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/magnesium-photo-movie-tripod-head-with-quick-release-plate-mh055m8-q5/

Camera Quick Release Plate

Neewer Rapid Connect Quick Release Sliding Plate Camera Mount with 1/4" and 3/8" Mounting Screws for Manfrotto 501HDV 503HDV 701HDV MH055M0-Q5

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MNA7E7W/

Magic Grip

Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/super-photo-clamp-without-stud-aluminium-035/

Magic arm x 2  (1 for monitor & 1 for mobile phone)

UTEBIT Magic Arm 11 Inch Adjustable Articulated Arm Camera Arm with Super Clamp Max Load 3KG Magic Arm Camera Mount for DSLR Rig Camera, LCD Field Mon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07KS9VVVT/

LANC controller (for remote zoom/focus/record control)

Varizoom VZ-Rock Zoom Controller

https://www.proav.co.uk/vz-rock-zoom-controller

Monitor

Feelworld LUT6 6 Inch 2600nits

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08F9ND8RQ/

Mobile phone holder

Neewer Cellphone Holder Clip Desktop Tripod Mount with Mini Ball Head Hot Shoe Adapter for 14-inch and 18-inch

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07D3K9C8R/ 

USB Capture

DIGITNOW! Video Capture Card HDMI to USB 2.0 Audio Video Capture Cards HD 1080p

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0895N9KM5/ 

OR 

ExtremeCap UVC - BU110 (works well as a more expensive equivalent capture card)

https://www.avermedia.com/gb/product-detail/BU110 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/AVerMedia-ExtremeCap-Uncompressed-Supports-BU110-White/dp/B0745KP298/

You will also need an Android Mobile phone for capture input and live streaming (I use a Google Pixel 4XL but most android phones will work) - Apple phones will not work (I know blame 'Uncle Steve').

Cables

Duttek Mini HDMI to HDMI Coiled Cable 4K 2.5m

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B087T5N9NM/ 

HDMI <-> HDMI Coiled 2.5m

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B087TPD2R2/ 

USB 3.1 (female) <-> USB C (male) 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B077FY7831/

Software

Shotcut - open & free video editing & encoding, for post match video work

https://shotcut.org/ 

Coach-Logic - for post match coding, analysis and clipping to players

https://www.coach-logic.com/

CameraFi - for live streaming of matches

https://www.camerafi.com/camerafi/ 

YouTube - for live stream viewing and restricted on-demand playback

https://www.youtube.com/ 

USB Camera - Connect EasyCap or USB WebCam

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.shenyaocn.android.usbcamera 


Other photography equipment

DSLR Camera x 2

Canon EOS 6D

https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/dslr813.html

 Lens x 3 (main use)

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM

https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/ef345.html

Canon EF 500mm f/4.5 L USM

https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/ef307.html

Monopod

Manfrotto Element Monopod Aluminium Red MMELEA5RD

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/element-monopod-aluminium-red-mmelea5rd/

Monopod head

Manfrotto MH496-BH 496 Centre Ball head - Black

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/496-centre-ball-head-mh496-bh/

Stool

Mini Max Stool

https://www.minimaxstool.com/

Bags

LowePro 

LowePro ProTactic BP 450 AW II

https://www.lowepro.com/uk-en/protactic-bp-450-aw-ii-black-lp37177-pww/



Positioning

For filming, height is good here, both being as high up as possible, and in keeping the camera position as high on the tripod as possible.

For match analysis, most coaches will say end of pitch views are better than side-on views as there should be less camera movement.

If there is a filming tower, and you have permission and know how to use it safely then this is normally the best option - some have camera mounts, some have tripod spaces, some you need to be creative with. But always remember to take a drink with you as it's normally 90mins up a tower.

If the pitch is a fully caged one without a tower (as often found at education facility pitches) I tend to film from a couple of metres behind a baseline corner flag, but paying a lot of attention to the live game and moving balls!

For stills photography, couple of points here

    1. Remember where the sun is in relation to the pitch, to avoid 'wash out' or glare
    2. I tend to find close & very low to the pitch works best for capturing the 'being part of it' aspect
    3. If you're looking for general images the centreline can be fine, but if you want action (or using a long lens) then pick an end of the pitch and shoot from there (I tend to find somewhere around the baseline to 23yr works well)
    4. Always remember to keep clear of the sidelines to allow players, coaches & officials free passage
    5. Always pay attention to where the ball is and where it is going, hockey balls hurt & can be very expensive when you don't avoid them!

Weatherproofing

A good pair of 'mechanics' gloves are useful during the cooler pitch days - thin enough to operate controls but good enough to prevent frostbite :)

But it is key to weatherproof your electronic equipment as much as possible, most good lenses have a good degree of weather proofing, but only the top end commercial cameras tend to have proper weatherproofing needed during a typical hockey season weather. I've already had to send my XA35 to Canon's pro service centre due to rain damage on a zoom control button - great 2 day turnaround CPS service but £180 I'd rather have kept in my account.

For my EOS cameras I use Canon ERC-E5M

https://store.canon.co.uk/canon-erc-e5m-camera-rain-cover-medium/1759C001/

For the XA35 camera I use CamRade WetSuit XA30/35

https://www.camrade.com/products/wetsuits-rain-covers/camrade-wetsuit-xa30-35

For everything else, and for when I don't have the above, I use these bags with a hole torn and elastic bands:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07TXRMVY6/

Filming & Sharing

Always ensure you have permission from all clubs & officials in order to film - this is best arranged via email in the prior week (we do it when the captains message each other re logistics etc)

Always ensure that you following SafeGuarding and GDPR guidelines with all footage - some events, venues or leagues will require that you complete additional paperwork here.

Whenever I film I also offer to share a copy with the opposition coach, and also with the umpires & officials, it's useful for all. Indeed there have been several times where the umpires have asked to review the footage during/immediately after a game, other times where I've had to prepare normal, slow-mo and zoomed versions of footage for people after a game.

Hints & Tips

  • Be careful when filming behind fences - whilst you can easily control the focal length on the DSLR lenses, the auto-focus on the video camera loves to focus on the fence not the pitch. I found this out the hard way when we had a new extension catch fence in front of the camera tower!
  • Remember you're filming the full field of play and not playing "follow the ball" - try and keep as many of the players in view as possible, it's these formations & player positioning that the coach needs to be able to see
  • Manage the optical zoom of the video camera to keep both side-lines in the view where possible - I use the Varizoom VZ-Rock control (mounted on the video head pan/tilt arm and connected to the remote input on the XA35) to make it easier to control the zoom - but this does need practice!
  • Keep the pitch in view, you don't need the skyline, surrounding areas or spectators etc
  • Batteries run down a lot quicker in the cold, in my bags I normally have 10 fully charged DSLR batteries, a couple of fully charged batteries for my video screen monitor, and 6 of so extended capacity video batteries. I tend to find for a full match I might use 3 DSLR batteries between 2 cameras, 1 video monitor battery and 2 video camera batteries. For streaming you also need to remember a power backup for your phone as the streaming is fairly heavy on the battery.
  • Remember you're filming the match not watching it - it's easy to be still thinking / looking at something and not to notice the game has moved on
  • Remember the microphones pick up everything - including the noises you make behind / beside the camera, and also the noise of a DSLR shutter!
Live Streaming
So for me at the moment, the live streaming setup breaks into a number of areas:

  • Camera to Application
  • Application to Platform
  • Platform to Viewers 

Camera to Application

So I use my Canon XA35 camera connected via HDMI to the "DIGITNOW! Video Capture Card HDMI to USB" card which in turn is connected to the Android phone via USB. This then allows the video camera to appear as an input device on the phone. It needs to be Android as Apple devices don't support USB input in the same way at all :(

 Application to Platform

The application I use is CameraFi Live https://live.camerafi.com/ which allows me to take the video camera USB input as a live source, 'top & tail' it with intro effects etc, add overlays such as a scoreboard and then export the stream real-time over the network (using the phone's 3/4G or wifi connection) to a streaming platform (currently YouTube, but looking at https://restream.io/ for multi channel broadcast)

I'm still  very much learning with CameraFi Live, as it's got a lot of functionality.

https://blog.camerafi.com/

https://blog.camerafi.com/2020/02/faq-camerafi-live-faqs.html

A couple of overview links re how simple a setup you can do from Camera to Application:

https://youtu.be/CSB4J53f6gs 

 Platform to Viewers

This is as simple as sharing the link to the user community and them watching it on the device & location of their choice. 


What's next?