Football Film Study In The Digital Age

Assistant Director of Sports Video Chris Buttgen

Assistant Director of Sports Video Chris Buttgen

Oct. 25, 2013

By Austin Miller,

OXFORD, Miss. -- Whether it was good or bad, and no matter what happened, on Sundays, the Ole Miss coaches and players put the previous game in the trash and it's over.

For Andy Commer, Coordinator for Football Video Services, and Chris Buttgen, Assistant Director of Sports Video, their work has just begun. Their main duty is shooting and editing all football games and practices.

For home games, the video staff uses five cameras, one from the top of the stadium, one from each sideline and two on the field.

While television crews shoot games for entertainment, the video staff shoots games, as well as practices, for teaching, and it's done in a particular way to accomplish that goal.

They shoot two angles: "All-22" from the sidelines, which is focused on the wide receivers and defensive backs, and the "Tight End Zone," which gets the offensive and defensive linemen, running backs and linebackers.

"We group the video so when offensive coaches see the game, they're just watching all our offensive plays, and the same for defense and special teams," Commer said.

"Chris and I start editing while the game is going on, so that as soon as the game is over, we can give the game to the coaches on their laptops or iPads because the coaches want to be able to watch the game we just played and be able to break it down and be done with it."

The coaches watch the previous game's video later that day, then get up and watch it again the next day. And then, they're done with that game. Coaches spend most of their time, however, watching their opponents.

For Southeastern Conference games, there is a conference-wide rule, where member schools swap all game video with their SEC opponents every week (not practices). And there's a similar process for non-conference games, whether it's swapping video with the opponent, or an opponent of the opponent.

"When I'm in here on Saturday night, when we're putting our game together, we're watching on the computer to see if the latest game of our next opponent has come in," Commer said. "If it's in, then we're going to download it and import into our network, so on Sunday morning, as soon as the coaches watch our game, they can go ahead and watch that last game of our next opponent."

That video, which can then be loaded to a DVD, laptop, or even an app on the iPad, is cut up and sorted by offense, defense and the respective special teams units. It is also tagged with down and distance, as it cycles between the scoreboard, the "All-22" shot and the "Tight End Zone" shot, so that you see the exact same play one right after another.

During this process, the graduate assistants and interns are working a week ahead, breaking down video and preparing reports for the opponent two games away. Part of that includes cut-ups sorted by down, distance, formation and play and then broken down into the team's language, such as a particular coverage.

"For a conference opponent, coaches have access to every bit of video from the past three years and all the data that accompanies that," Buttgen said. "They can sort, they can make cut-ups, they can look at previously made cut-ups.

"The graduate assistants make cut-ups, but coaches also want to make their own cut-ups that they want to watch."

From the video coordinators, to the graduate assistants, to the coaches, the process of breaking down video continues with the players.

The coaches only get the players for 20 hours a week, so the players only see their previous game on Sunday afternoon with their coach. With the rest of their film study time, they watch video of their opponents.

"Our players will mostly watch film of our opponents rather than themselves," Buttgen said. "We'll make player DVDs with all the data on the screen. Some of the players who have their own iPads, they can download the ThunderCloud app and watch film on their own, and players can make their own cut-ups.

"In terms of with the coaching staff, they're probably only going to get about five hours total of watching film. You'll see players up here watching film on their own in meeting rooms, or they come in and ask us to put it on their iPad, or we get them a DVD, it's up to them."

For practices, it's a similar process for the video coordinators and graduate assistants, but with a lot less data, as they shoot and break down every play of every drill.

"We do practice while it's going on," Commer said. "We will drop cards during practice, so when the guys come in, we have the first half of practice done. And then while the graduate assistants are entering data from the first part, we're working on the second half of practice. Hopefully, 30 minutes after they're off the field, practice is done."

Commer and Buttgen also share duties and responsibilities outside of shooting and editing games and practices. Commer, who's in his second stint in Oxford, having returned in March 2008, is also in charge of players' per diem on the road.

Buttgen, who's in the second year at Ole Miss, having risen from student worker to full-time video coordinator at Arkansas State, also produces the weekly highlight motivational videos, monitors the team's social media activity and serves as the music DJ at practice.

As technology improves, and the renovation and expansion of the Manning Center continues, particularly in the new team room, Commer and Buttgen also work to ensure all those changes are designed to be compatible with the current system.

As Buttgen said, if it plugs into a wall and has an electrical outlet, it probably has something to do with them.

"Technology is always changing," Commer said. "If you don't keep up, you're going to be left behind."

Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller

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