The days leading up to high-level meets such Olympic Trials and Nationals leave the pool deck full of energy and commotion. From first-timers to Olympians, everyone is bustling about on deck, trying out racing suits, getting used to the venue and talking strategy with their coaches.
The pool setup includes touch pads, microphones, spotlights, camera tracks and underwater cameras.
Although a few of the underwater cameras are for television, most people don’t realize the majority are a part of USA Swimming’s increasingly popular video review system.
USA Swimming has been using its video review system at major U.S. competitions since 2007, including the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and all National Championships.
The organization contracts DVSport to run its review system. DVSport is a Pittsburgh-based software company that specializes in digital video acquisition, analysis and play-back software designed specifically for the sports market. It’s the same company that also provides high-definition instant replay for a number of NCAA conferences in both football and basketball.
The purpose of USA Swimming’s video review system is to support officials and swimmers with disqualifications.
At a 10-lane event, there are 30 custom-made HD cameras set up on steel bases to cover views of the pool. These cameras capture underwater push-offs, turns, finishes and strokes. Four above-water cameras are set up to keep track of the 15-meter mark.
During every heat, this video is fed into a room behind the scenes. There are two groups of people in this room (which is also known as “the pit”): officials and the replay team.
Each official looks at a monitor with either the underwater view of two lanes, or at the 15-meter mark at both ends.
Each member of the replay team is also responsible for two lanes. They have computers that are connected to the officials’ monitors. They are in charge of switching the officials’ view from camera to camera as the swimmer moves down the length of the pool. This means that all swimmers are being watches from underwater during their races.
To fully understand replay, one must be aware of how calls are made. Aaron Friesenborg, Director of Product Development at DVSport, explains:
“An important distinction in swimming versus what people see in most other replay models is that nothing can be initiated from replay,” Friesenborg said.
That means if the officials watching the monitors in the pit see something illegal, they cannot disqualify the swimmer. A call has to begin from an on-deck official.