When two major players like Panasonic and jukebox vendor
Asaca team up, it's a whole new ballgame, no matter where
or what you're playing. Nowhere is that more evident than
at PacBell Park, the San Francisco Giants' glorious new
ballpark. Acclaimed for its idyllic downtown location, a
block off the bay and miles from the blustery climes of
its Candlestick Point predecessor, PacBell Park boasts more
than a great view-it's also got great video, courtesy
of a promising rookie technology called DVD-RAM. Panasonic
Corporate Systems Company provided much of the electronic
infrastructure of the new field, with an unprecedented video
coaching system-based on the Asaca DVD-RAM jukebox--batting
cleanup. Going to the Show
This system answers a basic need: How do you provide players
and coaches with an effective way to review performance?
More specifically, how do you provide this feedback in an
easy-to-use system? For example, suppose you are a Giants
player and your stats say you're struggling against left-handed
pitchers. Are you swinging at too many bad pitches? Dropping
your shoulder too early in your swing? Or overcompensating
in your stance? Say, on the other hand, you're are a catcher
and base-runners are stealing on you right and left. Are
they stealing your signals? Are you giving them away? How
could you review these performances?
The answer is in a browser-based video library on an intranet.
This revolutionary Intranet-based video coaching system
is designed to improve player performance and more accurately
scout competitive tendencies by indexing this video content
on DVD-RAM. Prior to using this innovative system, the club
depended on a VHS tape system. After each game, video from
the game was edited to create VHS cassettes for each player.
As the year wore on, more tapes were generated. Indexing
then amounted to little more than adding the player's name
to the outside of each relevant tape.
If, then, you wanted to view your performance against
left-handed pitchers, you would have to run manually through
hours of tape to view those relevant parts. (You might speed
up the process if you knew a lot of details, like what part
of the season the play occurred, about what part of the
game, etc.) Worse, even if you did find the relevant game
footage, VHS technology offers poor playback resolution,
especially in slow-motion. So if you wanted to study your
actual movements in the play, well, you might have to use
a bit of imagination to fill in the gaps. The new DVD-RAM
video system solves all that. Using MPEG-2 video, playback
shows razor-sharp images that players and coaches can go
through frame by frame to recall each part of the performance.
To make the process even simpler, the Panasonic indexing
database offers browser-based navigation. This allows even
novice users easy access to relevant video via one of the
workstations on the dedicated network.
Bill Schlough, vice president and chief information officer
for the Giants, heads up a staff of ten-the largest such
MIS staff in Major League Baseball. Schlough feels the club
strongly supports his effort to create not just the most
friendly and useful Web site in the league, but also in
creating the tools needed to help the club win games.
The heart of the video coaching system is a conventional rack
with the coaching system servers. These incorporate three
Compaq Proliant servers-one as the Web server, one as the
database server, and one as the network server. The Web server
provides a full gigabyte of RAM, while the others plug along
with 256MB. Each runs Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, with the Eeb
server handling IIE software. (The park itself uses a combination
of Novell NetWare 5.0 and Windows NT for its network.)
Linked to the database server via an Ultra SCSI connection
is the750-disc Asaca DVD-RAM jukebox. It uses dual-sided
2.6GB media to hold close to 4TB of data. Right now the
system is only partially full (about 200 discs)-not surprising,
since they just started using the system at the start of
this season. The system's designers expect the Asaca to
hold about three full seasons' worth of video data, with
each game yielding about 20 actual minutes of MPEG-2 video
Once the full 4TB capacity is reached, Schlough plans
to take advantage of the Asaca's expansion port to incorporate
one or more additional jukeboxes In fact, Schlough readily
admits that this was a small installation for Asaca, as
most other sites he understands order several units together
rather than just a single box.
Around the Horn
The video flows into the Asaca box as follows: the system
receives an MPEG-2-encoded video stream from a video production
system located elsewhere in the park. This stream is created
from output from four video cameras mounted around the stadium
to provide clear images of any player in action. This output
is indexed using a proprietary database tool, which sends
this index to be stored on a Microsoft SQL server in the Panasonic
rack mount unit. This index then is accessed from any of the
five workstations using an HTML-based screen over the intranet.
Since the start of the season, the unit has run flawlessly.
Retrieval speed from the user perspective is "almost instantaneous,"
says Schlough. (We can probably guess that anything compared
with the old video tape system must seem a vast improvement.)
This retrieval speed is impressive, considering the caching
challenge. While more conventional, tape-based video applications
collect video in unwieldy chunks of minutes or hours, the
player-performance MPEG clips used in the PacBell system may
only be seconds long. These kinds of MPEG clips make the indexing
software and caching mechanism work harder to ensure this
The video coaching system is the brainchild of Dan Quill,
application developer for the Giants, working with Panasonic's
engineering team. Once they laid out the basic concept,
they sat down with the Giants' Assistant General Manager
Ned Colleti, administrative coach Carlos Alfonso, and other
members of the Giants' managerial staff to devise a custom
system that met their specific needs.
In particular, Colleti highlights "the people of Panasonic
Corporate Systems Company, who have brought video coaching
to a new level." He adds, "Professional sports teams continually
search for new and innovative ways to enhance performance.
We feel Panasonic's unique approach is far superior to any
other system we have considered." The video coaching system
itself is entirely separate from the video production facility
used for broadcasting the games or running the scoreboard.
This includes separate cameras as well as the video mixers,
digitizers, and recording system for the DVD-RAM solution.
The system uses a dedicated fiber-optic network running
to five workstations where coaches and players access the
Web-based indexing tool.
According to Asaca national sales manager Chris Stone,
the TeraCart gives Panasonic something other jukeboxes can't.
While the Panasonic team might have gone with a JVC or even
its own Panasonic brand box, they opted for the TeraCart.
"In terms of disc capacity and expandability, the TeraCart
is unique," says Stone. "Plus, the Asaca jukebox is based
on its long-standing MO robotics. This is all industrial-strength
equipment. These are broadcast-level units and not modified
This level of performance is borne out by the Giants'
Bill Schlough. He reports no downtime from jukebox issues
since powering up in March 2000. This, with the system in
use almost every day of the week-either in recording or
coaching or both. The solution's demonstrated reliability,
plus its handy indexing feature, have coaches and players
are ecstatic about the new system.
I'm Just Here to Help the Ballclub...
The potential for performance review and archiving with DVD-RAM
jukeboxes is clearly significant. This market segment has
remained un-addressed until now, as the older video tape technology
simply wasn't up to it. Sports, film, television, and other
industries will benefit from what the Giants now have, according
to Chris Baumgart, National Director of Sales and Marketing
for Panasonic Corporate Systems Company. "If the Panasonic
video coaching system can help the Giants win one more game
by enabling a player to improve his swing or refine a pitch,"
he adds, "then it could make the difference between winning
and losing the pennant."