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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.


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.

“I am just a PE teacher!”

When I run training sessions, I will always start by introducing myself and giving brief information on my background – which is basically a sport science lecturer that started using technology in his teaching. I do this because quite often when working with teaching staff if people are nervous or anti technology then an easy excuse for them is that technology cannot be integrated into their subject area or that only certain types of lecturer could have the skills to use technology.

So it is quite common to hear me say “I am just a PE teacher” as I try to emphasise the fact that this can work in any subject area, and playing on the fact that within the educational hierarchy PE Teachers are often portrayed as at the lower end of the academic scale (obviously untrue – we should be at the top). It also gives me a good excuse to duck a techy conversation (which I will take at any opportunity).

However a colleague of mine pointed out to me that I should stop saying that as I am no longer a teacher and haven’t been for the last 5 years.

This made me think – should I stop referring to myself as a teacher? And after a bit of deep thinking I have concluded that I can for 2 reasons:

Firstly this is what I am qualified as, and is the basis of my consultancy and training activities, without my teaching background I couldn’t do my job.

Secondly (and possibly more importantly) I am prepared (and would quite like) to return to teaching. I hear many people like me that have left teaching say they would never go back, but that is not the case with me, if I ever got to the stage where I felt I couldn’t go back to teaching, then I don’t think I could do my job, as I wouldn’t have the passion, energy and credibility that I am so reliant on.

So to conclude:- i am just a PE teacher!