Since 1999, Florida-based XOS Digital Inc., has provided digital coaching technologies for collegiate and professional sports organizations across the country, including the San Francisco 49ers.
Among the company’s product offerings are 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; and the XOS Courtside Coach, which offers “on the fly” corrective instruction on real-time practice video.
Instead of using a PC with a capture card and annotation software, both of these systems use professional video recording and display equipment that integrates a standalone hardware-based annotation system — here, the Pointmaker video marker manufactured by Boeckeler Instruments Inc., based in Tucson, AZ.
Nick Jones, director of engineering for XOS, who first partnered with Boeckeler in 2003, said he chose to use hardware-based annotation for two main reasons. “First,” he said, “PC-based annotation is pretty much limited to annotating only what’s displayed on the PC screen, and coaches need to draw on a variety of image sources. So, we designed our turnkey systems as mini-mobile video stations.” That way, he explained, coaches could easily record, play and diagram those plays whether they came from a DVD, a VHS player, document camera or from broadcast content. “Also, they need to be able to switch from one type of signal to another,” he said. “PCs just aren’t set up for that.”
The latest Pointmaker model XOS installed in its systems is itself a switcher/scaler – it can input virtually any video signal out there, and then scale and output the video and annotations as a single signal to anything from computers (PC or Macintosh) to high-definition projectors.
“Anyone can pick up the Pointmaker and know how to use it without reading any instructions,” Jones said. “We didn’t want our coaches and athletes to have to worry about how to use it. The Pointmaker is pretty intuitive.”
As for customer service, Jones said he was very impressed with how Boeckeler president and CEO Pat Brey and Pointmaker sales manager Victoria Ferrari worked closely with XOS from the beginning to develop their first prototypes and make later improvements. “They listened to us throughout the years,” Jones said, “and they adjusted their hardware and firmware to cater to what our clients needed.” Clients that just happened to include the San Francisco 49ers.
“Telestration, as a whole, has immensely increased our meeting productivity,” said Michael Christianson, offensive assistant and coordinator of football technology for the San Francisco 49ers. “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.”
“It was very important for us to make several key configuration changes so that we could continue to work [with it] on a consistent level,” Christianson said. “The XOS/Pointmaker team was fast and efficient as a whole. Their changes not only allowed us to better navigate the different inputs, but also gave us some additional graphics that allowed us to teach more effectively.”
As the XOS and Pointmaker teams make a play for the future, they plan to streamline their products by adding faster capture and print capabilities, wireless tablets, and more seamlessly integrated large format touch screens.
“The technology that benefitted Monday Night Football years ago should benefit every locker room and sports organization in America that requires enhanced instruction,” Jones said. “Providing that is our goal.”