High-Speed Image Sensors for Sports Analysis

One of the many specialized uses for high-speed video, or what is often called slow-motion video, is for the analysis of athlete performance. Today’s amateurs and professionals are always seeking the edge over their competitors, so finding and correcting any shortcomings in performance is a high priority. With high-speed imagery, events can be slowed down for millisecond study and correction of sporting motions.

Whether it’s a track athlete seeking another .05 seconds off her 100 meter time by improving starting mechanics or a swimmer needing to correct a turning style, slow-motion imagery – or “slomo” – is now a mandatory coaching tool. But while the value of slomo was recognized decades ago, up until the 1980s, slomo could only be done with specialized high frame rate film cameras. Due to film’s intrinsic long processing times and high cost, very few athletes got the benefit of high-speed motion analysis. Today, because the cost of slomo equipment has plunged with the “digital video revolution,” the capability is available – at some level – to virtually every athlete and coach.

One very good example of how high-speed digital analysis can improve sporting performance is in golfing. Digital video has been fully integrated at golf training centers. The challenge often comes down to refining and repeating a swing that brings a golf club head into contact with a golf ball at the right angle. Analyzing the imaging challenge shows why high-speed image sensors and cameras are necessary. On a typical golf swing, a conventional video camera shooting 30 frames per second (fps) and a normal rolling-mode shutter may show only two blurry and distorted photos more than six feet apart on either side of the ball which isn’t very useful. But a truly high-speed camera with an image sensor capable of 1000 fps with snapshot shutter speed in the range of 1/10,000 second would show very clear images of the club head approaching the ball at 100 mph or more, allowing much more complete analysis of swing quality.

Golfball compression

(Image Source: PerfectGolfSwingReview.net)

Tennis, soccer, football, baseball, basketball, gymnastics and more; coaches are finding ways to benefit their athletes using high-speed digital video slow-motion systems.

Forza Silicon supports the design and manufacture of custom high-performance CMOS image sensors for many specialty camera manufacturers, including high-speed motion analysis cameras. Forza has even integrated a custom Forza Silicon CMOS image sensor with an electronic global shutter to create a high-definition (HD) camera. The camera’s maximum frame rate of 3000 frames per second has a fast shutter speed up to 1 µs, making it an ideal camera for the most demanding needs in sports.