Using a video camera to aid your analysis and diagnosis of shooting technique errors is not something new. I have being using camcorders, GoPro’s and even my iPhone to record and review movement and technique issues with shooters for many years.
The nature of shotgun shooting lends itself to watching the actions in slow motion to make the best analysis of the initial start and the transition to the target. All of this movement takes place in less than half a second and requires the coach to have remarkable skills to correctly analyse all that happens in that short period of time. The use of video allows us to stretch that time period to several seconds and allows us and the shooter to see detail that might otherwise be missed.
As far back as 2006, I was working with a camera that I mounted under the barrel to record footage of the movement the barrel was making to the target and how well it was being controlled by the shooter.
I used a camera that I purchased from Amazon which linked back by fixed cable to a portable recorder unit that I carried in my pocket. I did this work as part of my research project for my ISSF Academy coaches A-licence. I wanted to analyse the movement that the gun made and to investigate the the forces involved. The little box you see strapped to the side of the barrel in front of the camera is a 3-axis accelerometer that allowed me to map the forces and acceleration curve of the gun barrel through to the hit point of the target and beyond.
Skip forward now to 2019 and coaches now have ready access to a compact unit that delivers barrel camera video capture but in a much neater and more user friendly manner with the ShotKam.
What is ShotKam?
The ShotKam is a self contained barrel camera which clamps to the underside of your gun barrel and weighs 156 grams and is 114 mm long by 32 mm wide. It has a built in accelerometer which detects the closing of the gun and activates the recording function which in turn s switched off when the recoil of the shot is recorded. This gives the ShotKam and autonomous system for recording each shot during your training without the need to stop and start the recording function. The video is captured to an internal 64GB SD memory card which can record upto 2,000 individual shot recordings.
Two video formats are available, 1080p Full HD at 100 fps, or 720p at 180 fps. The recording times are fully adjustable allowing you to specify how long before and after the shot is recognised do you want the video to record. All of this functionality is self contained and no external wires or connections are required. The internal rechargeable battery is good for a training session of 4 to 5 hours when the wifi unit is switched off and f the wifi is used to stream a live view of the camera to a tablet then this time drops to typically 1 hour.
The ShotKam App
The ShotKam is controlled via a tablet or phone app. The app gives the coach a live view of what the camera is seeing but it also allows the coach to configure the camera’s operation and
Calibration allows the alignment of a reticle either to the point of aim or the point of impact. This feature is essential to get correct as it determines the accuracy of the footage the camera captures. If you align the reticle to the point of aim, you can expect to see the target being hit at the offset as shown when you test your gun with a pattern plate.
When working with trap shooters, I set the point of aim with a still gun to ensure that the point of aim is accurate and that the camera is positioned horizontally so the video is not canted even if the barrel is. Spend the time to get this right as it really does affect the accuracy of the video and where the shot is shown in relation to the reticle on the screen.
There is one feature that I would love to see included in a future release of the app. As I work with many different shooters, even within the same coaching session, I would like to be able to tag the video being recorded with the name of the shooter or to group the video files in a folder tagged by the shooter’s name. When using ShotKam with multiple shooters I have to use the time stamp on the video to identify the shooter. This is not ideal and it seems to be an easy upgrade that I hope will be addressed in a future version of the app.
Setting up the ShotKam
Keep the camera as far from the muzzle as is practicable. About 10 inches is good. The reason is simple physics and mechanics. The closer the camera is to the muzzle the more its weight will be felt and its presence will affect the gun as the law of the lever comes into effect.
Timing the start of movement
The camera has an adjustable frame rate and that can be used to determine at what point in the video the movement of the gun commences. If the frame rate is 120 frames-per-second (fps), it means that each frame represents 1/120th second of video. So as you advance through the video, frame by frame, you can easily work out the timing from the emergence of the target to the point where the video image begins to move which will coincide with the gun moving.
With ShotKam, you can see the immediate approach of the gun into the target including the triggering and post triggering actions. All of this visual information goes towards interpreting what the shooter sees as their sight picture for the target.
The timing involved is very short and it is difficult to describe the sight picture as a single visual cue. Often the sight picture is described as a moment of clarity. Seeing the target clearly and being consciously aware of the barrel position of the gun. Other times, it is more a feeling or a sensation that this is the right time to trigger the shot.
No matter what your interpretation is, the actual video of the moments before you trigger the shot give a detailed and more understandable view of what is actually happening. The barrels can be seen overtaking the target, if there is a hesitation by the shooter before they trigger then it will be seen here. If the shooter rushes the shot through panic or fear, you see the shot trigger before the barrels have even reached the target.
Coaching with ShotKam
My main purpose in using ShotKam is to review the quality of the movement of the gun, the reaction timing of the shooter, the sight picture and triggering point. It helps me to explain all of this to the shooter as we both watch the playback of the video. They get to see what I see and this is a powerful learning opportunity for the shooter. Remember one of the primary functions of being a coach is to educate our shooters as to how their technique works and to recognise when any aspect of their technique is changing or is not correctly performed. In Olympic shotgun events, coaching is not allowed on the field of play so the shooter must diagnose any issues and correct them by themselves.
Example coaching analysis – 1
In this segment, the shooter moves with the call. The movement is to the upwards and towards the left while the target trajectory is towards the right.
The initial movement creates a looping movement of the gun which causes the barrels to intercept the target rather than track the target along its trajectory.
The sight picture is rushed as the shooter has been caught unawares by the target exit. The first shot is rushed and uncoordinated and the second shot follows the same path as the first as a panic reaction to the target.
Example coaching analysis – 2
The footage shows a trap shooter holding still during the release of the target making for a good initial movement to the target. The transition to the flight line of the target is smooth and controlled and follows a straight line to the target throughout the process. The sight picture is achieved at the point the barrel touches the target and the lead is built into the movement by virtue of the gun speed. The triggering point coincides
Example coaching analysis – 3
The remaining segments of the video show the application of the correct shooting technique. Waiting for the target to emerge before commencing any movement of the gun to the target. The movement then follows a straight line to the target and the point of triggering the shot.
I like the ShotKam camera. It provides coaches with a tool that they can use to assist in their day to day work with athletes. The video footage shows what is actually happening. This is good feedback for the shooter. They will see what their movement is and how it affects the outcome of the shot.
For coaches, it provides valuable information that shows the strengths and weaknesses of the technique. It provides timing information and shows the coach the quality and efficiency of the movement from the point of the call for the target through to the hit or miss.
I look forward to improvements with the app and the software over time. For me, I would like to see an easy way to tag multiple shooters to the footage within the one training session. But for day to day use in coaching I believe that ShotKam is a tool worth having in your coaching kit bag.
ShotKam is available to purchase on line at shotkam.com