“Coach’s Eye” is a video app by Tech Smith for iPhones and iPads (sorry, Android friends). Techsmith, the app developer, touts it as “the ultimate video analysis app you can take anywhere”…and I must say, for me this app has lived up to the hype! I downloaded the app after reading about it in WGI Focus, and started using it by taking video of my flag basics block during practice. The user interface is visually organized, easy to use, and the application has clear tutorials. The graphics are stylish (the fire that burns up your video when you delete it is a nice touch).
I was always one of those kids that threw away the directions to new toys on principle; figuring out how to use it was half the fun. This trait has followed me into adulthood, which is why I feel a little stupid for not using the app tutorials right away. They really led me to discover key features I didn’t stumble onto initially so I strongly recommend starting with the tutorials.
Testing things out…
I thought it might be a good test of the app to target my guard’s toss initiation skills, specifically the inconsistency of the space between the push and release.
I used the flywheel—a cool tool for skimming through your video—to show my kids the exact moment of their toss initiations. After recording an eight-count toss exercise, the app allowed me to play back the video very slowly and then add my narration on top of it. I couldn’t gather the girls around my iPhone to look at the screen, so I used the program’s share features and could send it by e-mail, text, or YouTube.
Reinforcing Individual Corrections
When you review a video on Coach’s Eye, there is a red rectangle button at the top of the screen that says “Record”. I assumed incorrectly that hitting that button would start recording whatever was in front of my camera. Instead, the record button creates a new video with the clip you were reviewing adding an audio overlay of your commentary. While making audio commentary, you can use the drawing tools to illustrate your point, then erase the illustrations and continue.
I used that feature to review and comment on one of my rifle soloist’s tosses. I used the squiggle tool to clarify the pathway from her dip to her release. Then I showed the same clip and used the arrows to show how she was contracting into her shoulder. Then I showed the same clip again and used the line tool to show her that her dip was going past full.
I had given her all this information many times before at practice, however, the pace of rehearsal necessitates quick corrections, and my performers can’t always internalize information that fast.
Creating a video provided visual evidence of all the things I’d been telling this kid all season, and she could review it on her own and get a better understanding of my corrections.
Cleaning Ensemble Moments
Another useful feature of the application is the Review tools. When you select Review on the Original videos page, a shapes menu appears in the bottom right corner. It looks like any basic drawing program, with squares, arrows, circles, squiggles, etc. in five basic colors. When you’re done drawing, the shapes peel away when you touch the little “clear” button.
I used the line tool to show the differences in the release angles of my flags. The bright red lines on the video were obviously not perpendicular to the floor. I took a screen shot of that one moment, saved it to my phone, and sent it via mass text it to the performers.
The result was amazing. Within twenty minutes I had eighteen texts from my thirteen students with their reactions. The visual perspective on a single moment of time was access to information they thought they never had before, and gave them a new appreciation for the precision this activity requires. Video is an excellent addition to a training program, and gave my students a new perspective on how to apply their training. Being able to see the slow-motion video themselves made a big difference.
The Line Tool and Movement Instruction
I started using Coach’s Eye to record brief snippets of dance class, flag basics, weapon block, and the show. For movement purposes my favorite tool is the straight line—it’s a great way to point out inconsistencies in body lines and curves.
For example, I recorded two girls (my Captain and a rookie) doing a tendu exercise. I drew one line from their hips straight to the floor, flywheeled forward, and drew another line where their tendu ended to make an angle. The new girl, while watching, said, “Oh! My leg is bending and Megan’s stays straight! Oh that looks bad. Ew!”
Now we use this app for everything. The circle tool is great for showing performance in our faces and our port du bras (red circles show incorrect technique, green circles are correct-our goal is to get a completely green video). The arrow tool helps us see where we sink in to our hips or contract away from our extended legs or equipment, and the square tool shows the difference in size between their second position, toss heights or check points. I use the line tool all the time to illustrate the importance of pointed feet.
Drill and Staging
We were lucky enough to get a new floor this year, which makes my stage look clean and beautiful. However, we spent the first month of rehearsal using an old painted floor, with colors and lines and those little circles your feet make when you turn. On the new floor I don’t use tape spots or floor markers because I think my kids should learn how to move in forms. However, without paint spots or lines or even small holes to help them see their dots, my performers were getting lost.
Out came Coach’s Eye.
I used the line tool to show how a gate turn was to revolve, the squiggle to illustrate a particularly complicated pathway, and the square tool to show the differences in spacings. We took a video of our opening movement phrase, and I used the line tool to explain the differences in their body facings. The first time we analyzed our set our shoulder lines looked like a good game of Pick-Up sticks, the third time we got close to parallel.
They are learning!
I love the color choices for working on staging. I use green lines to show when the kids move correctly, red for illustrating mistakes. Amusingly, this has snuck in to our rehearsal lexicon. I used to say, “You could drive a Mack truck through that space!”, now it’s “Whoa, big red square!”.
Coach’s Eye Game
I also made a Coach’s Eye game for my kids. I review a video from rehearsal and count the number of corrections I see. Then, I post the original video (no corrections) to our facebook group. The kids watch it and write a comment on the number of mistakes they see, why it happens and how to fix it. 24 hours later, I’ll post the reviewed video and whoever comes closest to my number gets a prize. Occasionally, a kid will see something that I do not-in which case, they get another prize and I become a better instructor.
The absolute best part of Coach’s Eye is how much progress we’re now making outside of rehearsal. A lot of my kids have bought the program themselves and are using it to critique their friends while they’re practicing. Beyond making them better performers and making my guard cleaner as a whole, this app is helping my kids develop an understanding of how to clean technique that took me years to learn as an instructor. I hope this knowledge will help them strengthen their appreciation of the activity as a whole, so when they grow up and teach guards of their own they will creatively contribute to the evolution of our art form. But in the meantime, at least they’ll have pointier feet.