Alabama Football Relies on Wavecam To Prep for BCS Championship
As the Alabama Crimson Tide prepared this week for Thursday’s BCS Championship Game showdown with the Texas Longhorns, they boasted an extra weapon unique in almost all of college football: the Wavecam.
When the University of Alabama remodeled the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility following the 2008 football season, the school began looking into ways to improve the football practice facility’s video capabilities. That’s when it happened upon the Wavecam, which was already in use at Penn State University’s indoor practice facility.
“Alabama knew that Penn State had used the Wavecam,” says Patrick Plunkett, senior account executive at Wavecam. “They needed to get good video, and they couldn’t physically do it due to physical limitations. So they saw that this was something that could work.”
The Wavecam is a point-to-point aerial camera system featuring a robotic camera attached to cables that can traverse the entire length of any field as well as drastically adjust its elevation to best cover the action. In Alabama’s case, the Wavecam runs from about midfield to the end of the facility’s new 40-yard workout area (formerly tennis courts before the remodeling), where players run through skill drills.
“Crisp was an older indoor practice facility, and, when they updated it, one of the things they thought was, ‘how can we get better video?’” says Plunkett. “’How can we put the cameras in positions to get more-valuable footage for the coaches? We could put a tower at the far end or build a crow’s nest, but [Wavecam] is probably a much more efficient and effective way to provide a higher quality of video that’s critical to helping our coaches make better decisions.’”
After Alabama decided to go with the Wavecam in July 2008, the installation took only a matter of weeks, and the system was ready to go well before the Tide’s 2009 spring practices the following March. In addition to the swift installation, the Wavecam staff quickly trained Alabama video personnel using a Train the Trainer system.
“We train two or three people, and then one of their people is capable of training four more people, just like we did at Penn State,” says Plunkett. “The thing is that the technology is highly intuitive so, if you know how to film and you know what a coach wants, you can pretty much just let your instincts take over.”
The system’s ability to capture almost any angle and always stay with the spot of the ball offers coaches viewpoints they never had in the past. Numerous coaches, including Penn State offensive line coach Bill Kenney, have said that the Wavecam provides a genuine “competitive advantage.”
“You can label and cut up film many different ways, but, if you can provide a new perspective that provides an image of what coaches weren’t able to see prior, that opens up a lot of new doors,” says Plunkett. “If you can put the camera at an angle where you can see what the player is not doing, the coach can understand what needs to be done more effectively to execute on that pass or that block, whether it be the dynamics of contact or the positioning or anything. All that is extremely helpful.”
In addition to Alabama and Penn State, Wavecams are currently in use at Villanova University’s basketball arena (where the Wavecam feed is streamed live online and leased out for national TV broadcasts) and football stadium, the University of Kansas’s fieldhouse, and California University of Pennsylvania’s football stadium. And Alabama indicates that several other schools have already inquired about the Wavecam.
One thing is for sure: if Alabama comes out on top Thursday night, you can bet football programs all over the country will be knocking on Wavecam’s door.