Facundo Juárez is currently combining his role as performance analyst for hockey club Santa Barbara and football side Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata. He is considered one of the pioneers in sport video analysis in Argentina. In this article, he shows us the pros and cons of using drone cameras in his workflows.
Many football fans may still remember one of the most shocking appearances of a drone in a sports venue. It was a qualifying game for the 2018 FIFA World Cup between Serbia and Albania. During the first half,
a drone flew into the stadium
at low altitude with an Albania flag. This provoked a fight between players from both teams as there was some tension between their governments due to the Kosovo conflict. The game was suspended for half an hour and restarted without anyone in the stands at all.
Drones have been surrounded by controversy from the very beginning, they are offering a new unexpected perspective with universal access, there have been many critics. However, for some users, this flying device seems to be really useful. In sports analysis, for instance, it offers an innovative point of view and enables analysts to gather more data and information to make better decisions.
Facundo Juarez is one of the most well-known performance analysts in Argentina. As stated above, he is currently working for two teams in two different sports: hockey and football. He has also worked for Club Atlético Tigre for one season. Nacsport has been his tool all this time. “For me, it is the most affordable software with the tools I need for my work. Apart from being extremely easy to use, the software has insanely evolved these last two years. I think it is one of the most complete solutions in the market today”. Obvious answer to a common need
Drone cameras are not just an advancement in technology but also an answer to a real problem that performance analysts face in most sport non-professional venues (also in some professional ones as well!): the lack of high positions to record games. Using a drone when there is no tower or elevated stands “allows us better analysis when it comes to player positioning. The lower the perspective is, the worse this can be documented. With drones, you can place it wherever you need it”.
This “wherever” is not 100% precise. There are some restrictions to its usage. In Argentina, there are basically two: weather conditions and rules. If the weather conditions are not good, the use of drones is not recommended. As far as the rules are concerned, it will depend on the country, competition and laws of each discipline. “I must use my drone in private venues such a as clubs and elevate them up to safe heights”.
“I usually place my drone behind the goal so I am able to follow the game. In professional football drones are prohibited by security bodies, but in hockey, they are allowed in official games, however I must be careful not to invade the pitch”, adds Facundo regarding restriction for Argentinian performance analysts. In fact, he admits that “I personally prefer to record with a common video camera, but there are many places where this is not possible due to lack of high places to record”. Wide range vs detail
The most important advantage of using drone cameras for analysts is the broad spectrum they can record when the pitch is seen from a bird’s-eye view, allowing a better knowledge of how the team is positioned and offering a unique vantage point of view.
However, the main advantage is the worst enemy at the same time. Recording from so high make details disappear. “I’d rather use drones for football training as the ball is far better identified. This is something not always happen in hockey, where the ball is smaller”. Technical restrictions
Drones still have a long way to go from a technical approach. Batteries are really limited in range so sometimes you cannot record for long periods as many sports require. “I consider this the worst con of drones. In fact, I have three batteries and I need to change them during timeouts”.
Facundo reveals his setup. “I use the DJI Phantom 4, which a really stable drone and I do not need to keep an eye on it every single minute”. As a pioneer, Facundo has been solving the obstacles in the way to finally setup his video analysis equipment. “I had to add an adapter to the drone to get the signal via HDMI”, he admitted. The rest of the setup is the same as when he uses a conventional video camera: AverMedia capture device and Nacsport Basic Plus”. Positive feelings
Despite the existing restrictions and other inherent difficulties to a technology still in evolution, Facundo Juárez concludes: “Drone cameras are the best tool to film sport events. Especially for football or outdoors sports. You will always have the best position to analyse your team tactics and movements”.