How ’bout them Cowboys? Team gains Digital Advantage via Webb Electronics

By Ken Kerschbaumer

When Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Terrell Owens scored two touchdowns this past weekend it not only proved the benefit of athleticism but also technology. Week in and week out the Dallas Cowboys rely on coaching video analysis software from Webb Electronics, a Carrollton, Texas-based provider of coaching analysis software and hardware.

“We’re a little different from the competition in that we provide a more complete variety of products,” says Robert Giddens, Webb Electronics product director. “We not only make the digital editing software but also provide cameras and make the dual-DVD decks and remote control that coaches and players rely on.”

The Dallas Cowboys are the only professional football franchise to rely on Webb’s sports analysis system. About 20 collegiate level programs, four CFL teams and several hundred high-school teams also call on Webb’s GameDay, Digital Coach’s Play-Maker, Quick Cuts and Advantage series products.

One of the key technologies Webb Electronics developed is a special “Cowboy” remote that allows users to scan forwards and backwards on a DVD or videotape in a manner similar to using a film projector. “About 80% of the high-school programs in Texas use our remote,” says Giddens.

The company’s newest remote features lighted buttons and 17 functions, including slow motion, instant replay, freeze frame and reverse play.

Giddens says that having a range of products is important because the needs are much different between the professional and high-school level. “At the professional and college level there is a full-time video coordinator who captures the video, identifies the plays and creates sub lists,” he says. “So at that level it’s about helping the coordinator provide coaches access to the video and providing one-button playback and easy tools for the coaches.”

But moving down to the high school level there is a need to have a system that can let the coach do everything himself. “We have a powerful tool list that can help coaches create their own cut-ups and even integrate diagrams into the video,” says Giddens. “The goal is to help the coaches prepare for their meetings and easily present the points they want to make.”

The Cowboys, however, have a large system with 32 workstations. There is more of an emphasis on networking and pushing data to back and forth between the workstations and a 7 TB video server that can store 600 games in the DV25 format.

“The coaches create they’re own cutups and then share it with the meeting room they’ll be using,” says Giddens. “For example, the special teams coach logs in and can see their own system with columns of data and video.” Coaches can also define the look and feel of the interface.

The NFL is currently undergoing a transition to the MXF file format, a step that will allow video to be shared among the different coaching systems in the market. “It will allow for interoperability between XOS, DVSports, LRS and ourselves and it’s an important step,” says Giddens. The project is expected to be completed by next February.

“Coaches are much more PC literate but we want to help them get their points across to players with a coaching application that is transparent,” says Giddens. “We want to provide tools that helps them interact with the video or make comments. We’re not trying to replace the meetings but rather help them save time.”