Telestration Systems Continue To Evolve for Coaches, Players

When the average sports fan thinks of telestration, it usually conjures up memories of John Madden shouting “Boom!” while drawing yellow lines across a grainy overhead shot of a busted play during an NFL game in the mid ’90s.

The telestrator has come a long way from its days as a nifty little television technology gimmick, becoming a critical weapon in every coaching staff’s teaching arsenal.

“Telestration, as a whole, has immensely increased our meeting productivity,” says Michael Christianson, offensive assistant and coordinator of football technology for the San Francisco 49ers, who use XOS Digital technology. “In the past, if a coach wanted to emphasize a point or draw a play, he would have to stop the video, turn on the lights, and get up and redraw everything on a white board. With a telestration tool, coaches can now continue doing film work while drawing right on the video screen itself. This is a strong visual teaching tool that greatly increases the effectiveness of what we are trying to teach our players.”

Understanding the value of developing telestration tools is key for technology companies working with teams on their video services. One of those companies is XOS Digital, whose Thunder platform is used by hundreds of coaching staffs across the NFL, NBA, NCAA, NHL, and even MLS.

Portable XOS Courtside Coach is used by many coaches during practices.

“[Telestration] is definitely big,” says Bryan Stuckey, director of customer support at XOS Digital. “If you go back to Madden during those football games, the average Joe Shmoe sees a play and just sees a completed pass. Madden and other coaches know everything that went into that play to help make that play work. So that’s where the telestrator came into play, to help teach the viewer at home. So, with the coaches and the players, it’s the exact same thing, except the coaches and players have a little bit more knowledge, but having that technology is huge for them.”

Telestration technology has evolved significantly over the past decade. From using a traditional PC mouse to drag and draw directions across a video has come the touchscreen technology of today, which someday will likely integrate seamlessly into tablet and mobile-device tools.

XOS Digital offers two turnkey systems that allow coaches to draw on video to diagram a play. The XOS Coaches Command Station features a large-screen display option for use in conference rooms, locker rooms, and auditoriums. In addition, the XOS Courtside Coach, a portable 50- to 60-in. display with a touchscreen telestration overlay, is used on the floor during practices by many coaches.

To incorporate telestrator technology with video stored, archived, or streamed through its various platforms, XOS Digital partnered with Tucson, AZ-based Boeckeler Instruments, whose CPN-5000 Pointmaker video-marker annotation system supplied the backbone.

Instead of using a PC with a capture card and annotation software, XOS sided with a  hardware system for numerous reasons, foremost being that PC-based annotation is limited to annotating only what’s displayed on PC screens. It offers very limited flexibility and portability.

The Pointmaker system integrates with all of the different racks in all of their different media rooms [at a team’s facility],” says Stuckey. “So, if they are having a meeting in, say, their defensive-line room, the coach can take his laptop in and have access to all of the video he has stored on the server, be able to pull that up on the projector. All of the video runs through our CPN-5000 unit, so any video he’s showing — whether it’s through his laptop or through a document camera or a DVD player — we have it all routed through that Pointmaker, and he can telestrate over anything that’s on the projector.”

The latest Pointmaker model XOS installed in its systems is itself a switcher/scaler: it can input most video signals and then scale and output the video and annotations as a single signal to anything from computers (PC or Macintosh) to high-definition projectors. The CPN-5000 Pointmaker also has the ability, through USB drive, to store annotated video clips.

“It’s an instant teaching moment for the coach and the players,” says Stuckey. “It’s really evolved from this cool, little thing you see on TV into something much, much bigger for the coaches and the players to learn and get better at what they do.”