Double play: Dixon Sports Computing's videos serve as both highlight reel material and coaching tools

October, 02, 2006 By Dan Cox, Los Angeles Business Journal

WHEN Nomar Garciaparra hit his game-ending grand slam against Arizona recently, the Dodger bench and a stadium full of delirious fans roared and headed for the exits.

For the Dixon Sports Computing team, the action was just getting started.

The Long Beach firm uses a high-tech software system that allows its video processors and editors to create the now-familiar montages that highlight nightly sportscasts and allow fans to see the most electrifying moments replayed on the scoreboard Jumbotrons at stadiums throughout the country.

"We've got 12 loggers and four editors doing highlight packages for each game," said Mike Dixon, the 44-year-old founder and chief executive of Dixon Sports Computing. "Live event editing is the combination of observing the players and attaching data to it."

Garciaparra's blast allowed Dixon's workers to shine. They edited the hitters' most recent walk-off shot into a clip that included his previous game-winner--and the historic four successive Dodger homers that preceded it. The finished product provided 20 seconds of footage for national, local and cable sports newscasts and a slice of nirvana for the Blue Crew's faithful, who'll be able to relive the moment for years to come when the clip is replayed on the stadium scoreboard.

Dixon assessed the compilation feat with the self-deprecating, "just-doing-my-job" tone used by so many sports heroes in interviews after they've delivered in the clutch.

"The guys are just logging and getting a bunch of data attached to a lot of different plays," said Dixon.

The software system is called Live Event Editing. It enables an editor to combine numerous videotaped looks at a particular play, digitally manipulate and order the moments and finally create a finished product. With TV stations around the country looking for the replays within literally minutes, speed is of the essence.

"Things are really fast," said Dixon, "They don't have time to type in time codes. It's all server-based."

The advancements in the stadium's digital projection systems have allowed Dixon to stretch the envelope, too. "In some of the newer stadiums, with the wide screens can actually play two versions from different angles of the same play," Dixon said. "They can be put fight next to each other, you can isolate the coach.... Your imagination is pretty much the limit."

Since the firm was found in 1988, primarily as a video coaching tool for pro teams, Dixon has expanded its client list to more than 30 universities, pro franchises and stadiums.

Pro baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer teams as well as major colleges like USC and UCLA all use Dixon's systems. Virtually all of the major U.S. venues, including Madison Square Garden, are also clients.

Dixon's primary competition comes from Belgium-based EVS Broadcast Equipment, a pioneer in sports television and the most sophisticated slow-motion systems, that has long-term alliances with many of the broadcast networks.

As the number, scope and sophistication of the video and data compiled has grown, so has the cost of producing it. Today, a sports franchise or college program can utilize some of his firm's systems for around $30,000. To obtain the most comprehensive video and data compilation, however, a team can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Dixon, whose four-employee firm had revenues of $1.5 million last year.

The firm is working with HiImpact Sports, a Portland-based compiler of sports clips in the Sharp Labs Information family, to create abridged versions of games.

"Our technology can extract the meaningful plays in a three-hour baseball game, for example, and distill the content into a 45-minute digest," said Ibrahim Sezan, director of Sharp Labs' Information Systems Technologies.

HiImpact may enable Dixon to expand globally. HiImpact is offering its abridged versions of sumo wrestling matches in Japan, as an example.

Put me in, coach.

The largest part of Dixon's business is working with the teams directly and offering its system as a coaching tool.

"We started with the coaching," Dixon said. "Then we moved into the stadiums because it's almost the same customers. Then we started talking to the broadcasters for the highlights systems."

The San Francisco Giants were among the first franchises to use it in 2000. After a phalanx of digital cameras recorded the game or practice, the images were sorted with about 25 fields of data, like whether the pitch was a curve or a slider, or whether the pitcher was left or right handed.

The database will allow different angles of the same play or two different plate appearances in different games, to be shown in synch. Putting the material onto DVDs allows anyone within the organization to access, practically anywhere.

"Tying the video into the database in DVD RAM made it all come together," Dixon said. "We could look at all Barry Bonds' at-bats with two strikes on him against left handed pitchers, for example."

The data is accessible through a Web browser from a PC many teams set up in rooms in their clubhouses. A team's general manager can use his office computer to help him evaluate players and a player can even use his laptop computer to access the system on the road.

"The system can actually save the teams money," Dixon said. Prior to the development of Dixon's systems, the same sort of information could only be acquired by having individuals view, edit and compile the footage.

Though high-tech gadgetry can't guarantee success, Dixon's baseball clients clearly subscribe to the well-known Yogi Berra quote, "You can observe a lot just by watching." Dixon agrees.

When the Anaheim Angels won the World Series in 2002, the team used Dixon's Sports Computing to tape and then archive every pitch. Whether this helped win the series could be debated, but Dixon said it probably helped.

"We've had teams say this system wins them six to eight games a year," he said. "You can't get a pitcher for a reasonable cost to get you six to eight wins a year."

Dixon Sports Computing

Year Founded: 1988

Core Business: Custom-editing video from sporting events and instantly compiling it for news and scoreboard highlights or use as a coaching tool

Employees in 2005:4 plus contractors

Employees in 2006: 4 plus contractors

Goal: To expand the applications of the video clips and data, and the number of clients

Driving Force: The increasingly sophisticated field of sports video analysis and the desire to enhance stadium experiences

What We Do

Dixon helps your work… flow. Tag your assets with metadata to get them where needed - on time and in the right format.

  • Easy to Use Sport Specific Loggers
  • Hilite Selectors: Drag and Drop to Editor
  • Sports Asset Management (SAM)
  • Show Creator: Monetize Your Assets
  • Compatible with all Major Vendors
  • Live Event Replay