The avatar ‘how to’ video for rowing coaches
One of the biggest challenges in World Rowing’s recent video project to create the first-ever animated avatar rowing video was unexpected; What happens when you coach an avatar?
The video was a joint project between World Rowing’s development department and the World Rowing Federation’s (FISA) Competitive Commission to provide an additional tool for new or fairly new to the sport athletes and coaches to get a good visual image of the sculling stroke.
“We had a look at what some other sports were using for technical coaching and saw that some of them were using avatar models to describe sport technique. We thought creating an avatar model of the sculling stroke could be a useful tool for developing coaches and athletes,” says Competitive Commission member Peter Cookson.
Cookson and several others are enthusiastic about the potential of animation, comparing it to when you watch a Disney film or play animation games and citing that it really helps watchers to get engrossed in it.
The avatar also allows for manipulations that are not possible in real life.
“You can create a lot of different views and images that you might not be able to create with video,” Cookson continues. “We can look at the created avatar from any angle, from any height or distance. We can slow it down, speed it up, stop it, all with great clarity of the image.”
Cookson and the team were supported by Zuzana Bahulova. Bahulova is a rower, works for rowing clothing company, New Wave and has a PhD in animation. Together with Bare Bear Productions, they created the rowing avatar and made the video through a combination of simulation and animation.
“All of the measurements are exact, as we took CAD drawings of the boats and oars to create proper relationships between the equipment and the avatar,” says Cookson.
But Cookson was not prepared for the realities of working with an avatar.
“Movement of the avatar had to mimic what we do in our sport and we had to create different versions of the avatar’s skeleton to properly address the sculling movement. Sometimes when we made a change in the movement of the avatar, it would create another problem in a different part of the stroke. Just like coaching on the water!”
The video opens doors for further development.
“We see a lot of interesting projects that could stem from this initial one. Certainly, creating a sweep rowing avatar is one of them. We would like to see the project in different languages to see if more universally accessible. The technology is changing rapidly, so as time goes on, we will dream up a lot of different uses for these types of projects,” Cookson says.
Watch the video here.