Synoptic Vision


Two years ago, I explored the possibility of visualising actual performance compared to predicted performance … after a visit to the Sydney Moderns Exhibition and learning about Roy de Maistre ‘s use of colour.

This week, a Kevin Ferguson post has encouraged me to think about how video might be used as a synoptic tool for performance analysts.

Kevin wrote about watching 50 Western films and compressing each film into single frames of form and light. To create his image of each film, Kevin extracted one frame from every 10 seconds of the film and summed with the others to create a real image.

Kevin suggests that the images have the potential to be evocative and to allow an emotional response “confirmed or denied once you come to discover what the image really is”.

I found Kevin’s approach fascinating. He introduced me to:

His approach to brightness, hue and saturation took me back to and beyond Roy de Maistre.


Kevin’s April 2015 post is full of detail about his approach to the creation of images. He has another technical post about ImageJ written in 2013.

In the 2013 post, Kevin discusses the approach he has taken to re-visualise film

Since a film (along with, most often, its audio track) operates primarily by visual means, we should recognize the film itself as already a “visualization.” Just as with data visualization

Kevin quotes Victor Shklovsky:

The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.

Kevin’s two posts have prompted me to think about all the video we have in sport from training and competition environments. I wondered how we might use these to add a new dimension to our understanding of performance by increasing the difficulty and length of perception … and stimulating discussions about aesthetic understanding.

I wondered if we might use Kevin’s approach to re-visualisation as a new form of trigger images.

This is my visualisation of an AFL Champion team’s performance based on data:


A team that improved during an AFL season appears like this:


I wondered what synoptic vision of these performances Kevin’s video methodology might produce.

Kevin concludes his 2015 post thus:

As a scholar, though, what use are these average looks — which strip out virtually all narrative, characterization, plot, sound, dialogue, and action? I don’t yet have a cogent answer to that question, but I do have a strong suspicion that film studies will benefit from new modes of visualization such as this one, which represent film texts from an otherwise impossible perspective — in this case, along the z-axis that compresses the film’s time into a single frame of form and light.

I am hopeful that sport might grasp these “new modes of visualisation … from an otherwise impossible perspective”.

Perhaps we might then explore the essence of sport.

Photo Credits

Monument Valley 02 (Rich Michaels, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Lights, Abstract (Louis Vest, CC BY-NC 2.0)

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