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New Video System Helps University of Arizona Gymnasts Reach New Heights

A new video system helps University of Arizona gymnasts reach new heights.

Photo of Mary Roby Gymnastics Training CenterPhoto of Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center

Gymnastics is about perfection. And when University of Arizona women's gymnastics coach Bill Ryden helped oversee the recent renovation and expansion of the Mary Roby Center, he set out to create the perfect gymnastics training facility.

To that end, the center was outfitted with a video system that was custom-designed to fit into the renovated building and provide unparalleled recording and playback options. Using software created by Swiss technology company Dartfish and incorporating high-performance digital cameras, the system allows UA coaches to film gymnasts practicing their skills at multiple angles and instantaneously review footage. The system features much of the same technology used by NBC in its motion-analysis coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Coaches and players can review their routines from multiple perspectives, and video and images can be superimposed. "We can film a gymnast doing the same skill twice - once successfully and once unsuccessfully - and we can play them over the top of one another and point out details such as, 'This is what made you move to the right,' " says Ryden. "In our sport, we do a lot of motion analysis and we use a lot of freeze-frame video. I wanted to take that to a higher level than what is currently out there on the consumer market. I've been thinking about how to do this for four years."

It was the renovation of the entire facility that ultimately made the installation of the video system possible. UA's cameras are permanently mounted, computers and monitors are built into the walls, and all the wiring - including the fiberoptic cabling that allows for crystal-clear, freeze-frame images - is likewise built into the renovated space. It's a far cry from systems commonly found in college gyms, which usually involve analog camcorders being played back on television monitors that are rolled around on carts.

"We're a performance sport and we're all about perfection," says Ryden, who this fall will begin his 12th year leading the Gymcats. "We're trying to do things that the human body has never done, and we're trying to perfect motion so that it's done in a way that's the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing. When the athlete can see what she's doing, she'll say 'That's not the movement I'm feeling, but I can see that it's what I'm doing.' A light bulb goes on."

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