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Buttery-Smooth Basketball Playback

We have a saying around the product team at Hudl: “Just give me my damn video.” It was a phrase uttered by an unknown coach long ago on our support lines. It perfectly captures the number one goal in developing all of our apps.

Coaches want their video and they want it yesterday. They want silky smooth, high-quality, low latency playback on every device. One way we’re handling this is by killing the the concept of clips and letting basketball coaches stream their whole game. They can still create and browse short segments on demand, but the process requires no upfront editing.

Allow me to explain how we’re making the core experience of just watching basketball video so much better for coaches.

What’s Wrong with Hudl’s Current Approach for Basketball? The problem, once again, is clips as the fundamental unit of video. They permeate all aspects of our current apps.

For example: Say you loaded the first quarter of your game into Hudl. Right now, Mercury pieces it out into five-minute clips. Once the first chunk is online, you can watch it. But say you wanted to jump to the end of the first segment right away (perhaps there was a significant turnover). In the current version, you’d have to wait until the entire five-minute clip has buffered and loaded. And the slower your connection, the more pain you’ll experience.

Can't scrub there

What if, instead, you could jump immediately from one point in the game to another? You could open the game and click into the 4th quarter without having to wait for the whole thing to load. Even better, you could call up every turnover and see them consecutively. What if you could do all of this even on a crappy internet connection?

How Basketball Coaches Navigate their Video Outside of the obvious way of “just letting it play,” a little digging shows there are four main ways coaches browse their video. (Let us know in the comments if we’re missing any.)

1. “I need to watch just the 2nd quarter.”

Perhaps the 1st quarter was of little interest, or the 2nd quarter had a huge run. While there may be key moments for individual players sporadically over all four quarters, coach wants to watch the entire 2nd with the whole team to show how well they executed together.

Quarter Tabs

Whatever the reason, we want to make each quarter ready to view at a moment’s notice.

2. “I need to get the end of the 2nd quarter.”

Maybe it’s just a matter of not finishing the half well - giving up a string of buckets as time wound down. That’s worthy of review with the team and there’s no time to wait for the whole quarter to load before skipping ahead.

We spent a lot of time ironing out our “scrubbing” method for the new basketball apps. “Scrubbing” just means quickly navigating back and forth through the video using a little grabber displayed on a timeline. It’s great because it lets you see key frames of video as you hone in on the point where things started to go right or wrong.

That way there’s less loading, less lag, and you get to your damn video faster. Our goal was to make it feel smooth, and, dare we say, buttery.

3. “I need to see that again.”

Your center suddenly jacks up a three and you were hardly paying attention. Was he open or did he take a stupid shot?

Get excited about our new five-second forward and five-second back buttons to help you watch short segments over and over. It’s also easy to mash the button a few times to quickly replay the whole possession.

4. “Something important is coming up here soon, but it’s not this…”

Think about your DVR. How good are you at 8x fast-forwarding through commercials and pressing play right when your show returns? The basketball analogy to those commercials is free-throws. While coaches typically want to skip just a little to get to the last shot and see who blocked out, they also wouldn’t mind being able to skip a lot to avoid dead air altogether.

The new version of Hudl for Basketball will make this process much easier with an upgraded variable-speed playback control. We prototyped this idea with football coaches two years ago, but it failed because the controls were too small and out-of-reach.

I’m proud to say we fixed that. Now, you can tap and drag anywhere on the video to smoothly scrub video—just a little to get through free throws, or a lot to skip the whole halftime show.

Load Faster, Scrub Faster, Finish Faster

As always, our goal is to help you win with video. To do that, we need to make your video sessions as efficient and dense as possible. While we’re excited about the upgrades already in the works, we never shy away from suggestions on how to make Hudl even better.

Assuming I missed a couple of concepts, leave me your thoughts on how to make video playback even smoother for basketball and other sports. And be sure to check back next week when I talk about our new automated “bookmark” system for Hudl basketball video.

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