A few weeks ago I bought myself an iPad and installed an app on it called Coach’s Eye, version 2.7. I hope to show you that Coach’s Eye is easy to use, cheap, and a valuable and functional tool for both coaches and archers alike.
The old-style computer software analysis programmes cost in excess of £1,000, and they were difficult to use and often needed a cumbersome camera setup, which would inexplicably stop talking to the computer halfway through a session.
Now we have easy-to-use apps that record motion clips, which can be edited by drawing useful lines and boxes over the film clip, and they will play in slow motion. Coach’s Eye, for example, is a simple and easy-to-use app for both Apple and Android mobile devices. At just £2.99 it really is accessible to everyone, although smart phones are generally too small to be of much use. To get the potential out of Coach’s Eye, and to see greater detail, it really needs to be installed onto a tablet.
Once you have downloaded the app you can start using it straight away. Just touch the camera icon and – hey presto – your device is a motion camera. Choose your position, steady yourself, point the ‘camera’ in the right direction and touch the red record button to start and stop your recording. The camera must be kept absolutely still to make useful recordings, and using the grid function can help with this if you line a cross section on a point.
There are three different camera settings for the film quality and size. On my iPad, 60 seconds of filming using the HD+ setting took up 280MB, the HD setting 76MB, and the SD (low quality) setting used just 17MB, so you can get away with only using the HD+ setting when you really need to, and deleting files that you no longer need. The camera is not quite quick enough to check arrow clearance, but it is just about quick enough to check for a clean execution in the average archer. However, I have found that for a world-level competitor it wouldn’t show up the difference between a slight execution error and their perfect release technique.
You can play back in slow motion mode, but for picking up the fine detail I prefer to use the buffer, by winding forwards and backwards one frame at a time.
You can draw freehand curvy or straight lines, squares, arrows and circles over the clips. These are essential tools for highlighting movement and direction. I do, however, find it difficult to place the lines in exactly the right place. Zooming is a useful function, but picture quality can get a bit lost.
In the evenings after a training session I like to watch any videos that I’ve taken with extra care and attention. If I spot something, I can draw and talk over a playing clip while it records as a new clip. Once you have signed up to your free Coach’s Eye account you can send a link to your archer or coach, and they can watch it on the internet, without needing to have the app themselves.
As an archer I ask fellow archers to film me with my iPad and I can check for myself how my technique looks. As a coach it is a priceless tool that I can use to show my archers what it is they are really doing when they don’t believe me. Taking a clip every so often shows up progression that a coach can show to their archer, so that the archer has a mental image to fit with their feel of the shot, a better understanding of what they are aiming to do, and positive feedback when their week’s work has paid off and they are doing a particular thing right.
One misgiving I have about Coach’s Eye is that you cannot watch an old clip side by side with a new clip to make critical comparisons and really see change over time. A coach also cannot save clips into a different folder for each archer, but can distinguish the important clips by saving them in the ’favourites’ folder. Overall though, I think all archers and their coaches who want to improve their technique should be using an app such as Coach’s Eye. With practice you will learn the best positions for the camera to be in, to capture the information needed as clearly as possible.