Mike Norvell had just learned he had tested positive for coronavirus, a result that was verified a second time, but it left the Florida State coach unable to attend practice while in isolation at home.
Florida State’s video staff didn’t have much notice on Saturday morning. But if 2020 has taught anything, it’s the need to adapt and be creative. FSU director of coaching video Austin Phillips and his assistant, David Lamb, moved quickly.
“We didn’t really find out we were going to do this in practice until about an hour prior to practice starting,” Phillips said. “Coach had expressed interest in at least being able to watch practice live. … We had been using tripods with little iPad mounts attached to them for virtual meetings and we figured they would attach pretty well to our cameras. Right before practice we went ahead and mounted a couple to cameras. Coach was on the Zoom call with four different iPads, sideline and end zone. Basically he was able to swipe through and see the angle he wanted in practice.”
Phillips is quick to underscore there are limitations. It’s not TV quality video. Phillips estimates that it may also be a challenge for Norvell to clearly see players’ numbers.
“But it’s better than nothing,” Phillips said. “I think everyone, especially with this staff, has done such a good job with exercising patience and realizing that it is 2020 and it’s not an ideal situation but it is the situation we’re in and it is the best solution for that situation. It gets him as close to being there as he physically can be.”
And it allows Norvell to have real-time eyes on practice. Phillips says Norvell has an all-22 view (a wide view with 11 offensive players and 11 defensive players) from the sideline and end zone. Norvell can’t zoom in or out, but FSU’s video staff is able to move cameras as needed and they have added a fish-eye adapter to the iPad to give Norvell an improved wide view when the Seminoles are on the two outdoor practice fields.
Phillips is also able to be an intermediary, connecting Norvell to assistant coaches on the practice field.
“I have the Zoom up on my phone and when he needs to communicate with a coach, I’m usually the one that runs around and communicates with him,” Phillips said. “We do have a speaker that’s hooked up. If he needs to communicate with multiple coaches, it can be loud enough for multiple coaches to hear him. … Today I carried a speaker around with me for multiple coaches when he has feedback.”
Norvell thanked FSU’s video staff for doing “an extraordinary job” quickly being able to give him a good look at practice.
“I was able to have access to multiple cameras on both fields to be able to go back and forth in real time with what was going on at practice,” Norvell said. “All in all, it was pretty smooth.”
FSU’s video staff also is quick to turn around video from practice for the coaches. Led by Phillips and Lamb, there are three post-graduate interns as well as 16 students who run the cameras along the sideline as well as the end zones. There is also a “goalcam” where a videographer can keep up with the practice from behind the quarterback. Video cards are swapped out roughly every half hour and video from early practice periods can be edited while the Seminoles are still on the field.
Phillips said their goal is to have 75 percent of practice video edited and in the coaches’ cloud by the time they are off the field, showered and have returned to their offices.
“You don’t take a job like being a video guy for the easy stuff,” Phillips said. “You relish the opportunities to get creative and problem solve in unique ways. We’ve done a really good job as a staff of stepping up to the opportunity to make sure coach gets what he needs and can still be a part of the team even though he’s stuck in the confines of his home.”