Cutting Edge

Planned upgrades to West Virginia's football video system will make it the finest in the nation.

"Once we get this system in, we will have the largest system in college football next year, and the finest overall system in college athletics," said video coordinator Dusty Rutledge. "Our men's and womens' basketball teams, as well as the women's soccer team, are already using this system, and we will begin using it soon. In football we'll have 15 desktops and 17 laptops in use. Some colleges are using parts of this new system, but we will be using all of its capabilities."

The system, which is made by DV Sport, is a complete setup that allows tapes of games and practices to be quickly broken down and distributed not only to workstations throughout the Puskar Center, but also to the laptops, which can then be taken anywhere.

Installation of the new system has made Rutledge a bit nervous, as the timetable for getting the system up and operational while also leaving some time for training and familiarization is a bit tight.

"If it doesn't work, I'll be pumping gas down at Sheetz," Rutledge said with a laugh. "But I think everything will be completed on time."

Wiring throughout the Puskar Center for the new system is almost complete, and Rutledge hopes that the storage devices for the new system will be installed this weekend.

"From there, the coaches' stations, which will be in their respective meeting rooms, will have to be installed, and each coach will also have a laptop set up with the software," Rutledge explained. "All of the equipment is already on campus - we just need to get it installed.

"The thing that really makes it stand out is the portability," Rutledge said as he compared the new DV Sport edition to the old one, which was originally marketed by Avid before being bought out by a company called Pinnacle. "The Avid system, which we got around 1997 for approximately $750,000, didn't have nearly as much storage, was tougher to work with, and wasn't portable. With DV Sport, coaches can now take video with them on the road recruiting, or can begin viewing and grading film on the way home from road games. We can also download video onto external hard drives for exchanges.

"With the Avid/Pinnacle system, we had a lot of down time after road games. We couldn't begin to do anything with the video until we got back to the Puskar Center. With this new system, we can begin cutting up game film immediately, download it to the laptops, and the coaches can start looking at it right after the game.

"It will also help for practices," Rutledge said. "We can capture video right from the cameras onto the laptops, so we should be able to literally hand the coaches their laptop as they come off the field with the practice video already on it."

The basketball and soccer programs have already reaped many similar benefits from the DV Sport system, with men's head coach John Beilein mentioning more than once this year how helpful it has been to have video available immediately after the game. That feature alone is worth the cost of the new system, (approximately $400,000, of which $250,000 was footed by a private donor), but there are many other improvements that make the DV Sport product a great buy.

"The old Avid system wasn't really improved much from the time it was purchased," Rutledge observed. "In fact, one of the people that worked for Avid, Brian Lowe, got frustrated with the lack of work being done on it and broke away from them to start DV Sport." (Mountaineer fans may remember Lowe as a Boston College kicker that booted four field goals in BC's 19-10 win over WVU in 1986 - a feat that helped put Lowe in the BC Hall of Fame.)

"DV Sport has added a bunch of new features," Rutledge continued. "It has a feature where you can zoom in and magnify one area, which is a big help for position coaches. It also has a telestrator, so the coach can draw right on the screen to show, for example, the path a player is supposed to take. These kinds of features make it an invaluable teaching tool, and the functionality of it will help us get better.

"The new system will also help us index the plays and break them down more efficiently," Rutledge went on. "It will allow us to sort the cut up plays by down and distance, yard line, hashmark, formation, or movement - just about any characteristic of each play."

Although the Mountaineers will be at the top of the technology heap once the new system in installed, they probably won't be there long. A basic fact of computing is that what's on top today is usually sliding down the ladder by tomorrow.

Given that premise, Rutledge is also looking ahead for some new functions in the systems of tomorrow.

"Certain companies are touching on this now, which is a new way to exchange film," Rutledge said of one of the more cumbersome tasks of video staffs everywhere. "We have to exchange film, which usually entails a trip to the airport to place outbound film onto a plane. We not only exchange film with our opponents, but also with the Big East Conference and the supervisor of officials. We are now looking at exchanging those films over the Internet, but there are still some problems with compression and other issues.

"The nice thing about the system we just got, however, is that we can just trade an external hard drive with the game on it to the Big East and to three of our opponents, because they have compatible systems. So, that will make it a little easier, but it's still not as efficient as trading over the Internet would be," Rutledge observed.

"A company came to us this year offering a way to trade over the Internet, and all of the Big East video coordinators agreed to do it, but that kind of fell apart - several of the people that agreed to it backed out. So that's something that I'd like to have in the future."

However, for WVU, the future, at least in terms of video performance, is now.

RIFLE REPORTS

West Virginia will host meetings of the Big East football officials next week. At the same time, the coaching staff will go into "hideaway" which is their time to review the past 12 months and plan out everything for the upcoming season.

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Work on both the Puskar Center and new stadium suites remains on schedule.


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