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Using Burst Mode on the iPad/iPhone to take photos in sports settings

As a former PE/Sport Science lecturer, I think the iPad is a wonderful tool.

One problem with the default camera app on the iPad or iPhone is there is a time lag between pressing the button to take a photograph and the photo actually being taken, which in the world of sport is annoying as the action you wanted is often missed.

One app that I am finding really useful which overcomes this problem is Burst Mode – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/burst-mode-high-speed-camera/id393131664?mt=8. What this does is take a set of photographs in rapid succession, you then go through the set of images to select the one or ones that you want to use.

Screenshot of the BurstMode appThe image quality is superb, even in the relative low light of sports hall settings, and you can choose various settings including:

  • Delay between pictures.
  • Self timer delay (if filming yourself).
  • The number of pictures taken.
  • Low light Boost.
  • And various others options.

If you use the delay between pictures you have a range of options between 0.5 seconds and 5 minutes, it is a shame there isn’t a smaller increment (e.g. 0.1 seconds) which would be more useful for carrying out scientific movement analysis, however If you have no delay, the frequency of capture will be very quick – but will vary depending on the situation (e.g. low light will take less photos). This is not as accurate as a specialist camera or software – but with it being cheap and easy to use, means that each student can use it – rather than just one at a time.

If you do want to use the system to work out speeds of movements, you would need to know the frequency that the photos are being taking. It doesn’t give us this information automatically – but one way round this is to either have another iPad in shot which itself has a stopwatch running – or immediately before capturing your action, you capture another device (I often use my phone for this) that has the stopwatch running – then you can estimate the time gaps between frames. This is always going to be an estimate – but for a teaching perspective is adequate.

There are various other similar apps out there – with a range of prices, and there may be one better than this, but of the ones that I have tried I have found this to be the easiest to use, with the best quality of image and well worth the cost. Some people will tell me that I could just use the video tool, and then use one of the apps that takes a still image from a video sequence, but I have found with these – the image quality isn’t as crisp – which for sport is essential.

If you want to use an app like Burst Mode – it works very well with the device being hand held – but if you want to use this for more scientifc analysis then I would recommend a bracket to attach it to a tripod – as I discussed previously – https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/device-to-attach-an-ipad-or-tablet-to-a-standard-tripod/

If you work for a school or college, and are interested in me coming in to run a training session on how to use iPads in the teaching of PE and Sport then please get in touch.

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Using headphones to take photos with iPad or iPhone

I recently learnt a little known iPad/iPhone trick – that is really useful, especially for people using an iPad in a teaching and learning situation.
Using headphones to take a photo with iPad
If you have a newish headphone set that has a volume control on the headphones – then this can be used to take a photo or video on the iPad. Pressing the volume down button on the headphones – will have the same effect as pressing the button on the screen when in the default camera app.

There are a few uses of using this technique as follows:

  • If I am creating a video of myself (e.g. introducing a topic to learners) – I can start and stop the video with my headphones, which are out of site of the camera – without having to lean forward and (visibly) touch the screen.
  • If I am carrying out movement analysis in a sports setting, and I have set my iPad up on a tripod (see previous blog post on this topic) – if I touch the screen to start the recording – I risk wobbling the set-up, which reduces the quality of the video. By using the headphones there is no wobble in the system.
  • Again if the iPad is on a tripod and I am operating the taking of the photos/videos – by using the headphones, I can do this without having to look at the device – which means I can keep my full attention on the class. If I am pressing the button on the screen, I have to momentarily take my attention away from the class, potentially missing something important.
  • If working outdoors in the cold, it is possible to operate the camera with gloves on.
  • If working in certain environments such as a workshop, kitchen, farmyard – it is possible to operate the camera even without fully clean hands. At the end of the session you can wipe the controls of the headphones clean.
  • If working with disabled learners, the processing of holding the device, and looking at the screen, and pointing in the right direction, and then taking the photo can be tricky for some, often resulting in movement of the device as the on-screen button is pressed. By using the headphones (and possibly a tripod) we can reduce this effect. This won’t work for all – some will find the on-screen button easier to manage, but others will find the headphones option easy to control.

There will be many other uses that I haven’t listed here (maybe people will comment if they can think of any).

Device to attach an iPad or tablet to a standard tripod

image of an iPad mounted on a tripod

As a former PE/Sport science lecturer, the iPad is a wonderful device, that I wish existed when I was teaching, as  it’s potential for me to video something, then play it back easily with options to slow motion, fast forward etc. is superb, and if I wanted to carry out some slightly more scientific analysis, then we now have an affordable device, that can be easily used by the teacher or students, and I am very impressed by the quality of photographs and footage from an iPad, as even when capturing at a fast frame rate as is often required in sports analysis situations, the quality is excellent, even in low lit indoor situations.

If I am doing some analysis, then I need to mount the device onto a tripod so that it doesn’t move, shake or vibrate. I spent ages trying to source an affordable attachment that would attach to a standard tripod – and surprisingly I struggled. There are many expensive alternatives that are too costly for education (in my opinion) or there are some very wobbly looking options, which I wouldn’t trust, or the options were unique to a a particular model of device which I didn’t want. Luckily a colleague of mine, Ron Mitchell – did locate what I was looking for, which is made by a company called iStabalizer and is called the Tab Mount. The only place that I could find that sells this in the UK is Amazon (which is a shame, because as a company I prefer to use companies that pay their taxes), and the direct link (at time of writing this post) is here – cost at time of writing is £22.95.

Basically the device is a spring loaded mechanism, where the top and bottom pull apart then spring close again and clamps tight around the tablet, and then has a standard tripod thread on its back which can be used to attach to the tripod. It will work with a range of tablet devices of different size , and in most cases you shouldn’t need to remove the device from any protective case that it is in, which I think makes it ideal for education.

Image of the iStabalizer tab mount

You do lose the use of the arm of the tripod with this arrangement, but for sport analysis where the tripod isn’t going to move, this won’t matter. As well as uses in sport, this could have obvious uses for other subjects such as music, media, art or simply for a teacher than wants to film their students and doesn’t want to have to hold their device.

If any PE/Sport Science teachers are interested in a training session on how to use iPads or other tablets in a PE/Sport setting then I run bespoke training sessions through The Tablet Academy, details of the iPad based session is available at http://www.tablet-academy.com/courses/using-ipads-in-pe-and-sport/65.html. These courses can be arranged for an individual organisation, or there are the £99 courses which are great for schools that maybe have only 1 or 2 PE teachers, and the Tablet Academy isn’t just UK based, there are centres setting up around the globe.


All images by Dave Foord – http://www.flickr.com/photos/davefoord/sets/72157640918612424/

Very,very simple sports movement analysis

Yesterday I was presenting at an event organised for people that will be running the level Diploma in Sport and Active Leisure, and I had been asked to provide some ideas as to how to teach some of the units – including the science based ones. I used to teach biomechanics so for me the science based ones are very easy, but for many they are not.

Having presented a few ideas to the group, I then decided to try and ‘wow’ them with a live demonstration. I wanted to show the group how easy it is to do basic movement analysis, which is normally achieved by using very expensive technology (which is very good) but takes a bit of time to learn, and is often so expensive that you have 1 or 2 computers in the class with it on, making it hard for the learners to practice.

From a teaching and learning perspective, I want something that all the learners can do, very quickly without having to learn lots of skills up front, and this was the basis of this demonstration. I gave my compact camera to one of the group, and asked them to film me carrying out a movement. This they did, I then plugged the camera into my laptop and copied the video file accross.

I then showed in the space of about 5 minutes how I could take still images from that video file by using quicktime which allows me to move the film forwards or backwards 1 frame at a time by using my cursor keys, and then using copy and paste to take these images into a PowerPoint presentation. I then drew an arrow on the position of my arm on each image, before copying each arrow onto a single slide. The end result being a line diagram showing how my arm had moved during the motion.

A screencast showing the technique is here

Normally when I do demonstrations at events, it is the complicated uses of technologies that has the wow factor, but in this case it was the utter simplicity of it that had the wow factor. 1 attendee in particular loved this idea as he had struggled to use the more complicated systems for movement analysis, and the idea of just copying and pasting – was well within his comfort zone.

This technique was something that I used about 10 years ago in my teaching because I didn’t have access to the more sophisticated software, so it is interesting for me to revisit this now, but shows how it is possible to use the technologies that we have to create results.