Advanced video analysis provides added depth for student conductors

The conducting programme at the University of Stavanger (UiS) has adopted a device from the world of elite sports, namely video analysis. During a CEMPE-supported project the UiS has trialled the use of iPads and video analysis apps when teaching bachelor students on the conducting course.

Conducting and video

Video analysis of rehearsals and concerts is a common and well established tool on all conducting programmes. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, conducting is a visual art and therefore comes across well on video. Secondly, podium time is a precious commodity for conducting students. By leaving the instructions until after the practical rehearsal is over, we do not waste valuable podium time. Systematic analysis of the rehearsal video and of different aspects of the student conductor’s performance also maximises learning outcomes with the available podium time. Thirdly, conducting involves exercising leadership – something which also needs to be practised. It is often a good idea, therefore, for the conducting teacher not to interfere in the interaction between conductor and ensemble during the rehearsal, but instead wait to give feedback until the post-rehearsal analysis.

An app from the world of sports

Eksempelbilde fra Dartfish
Eksempelbilde fra Dartfish

When developing the UiS’ continuing education programme “Digital Conducting Studies”, launched in 2015, there was a desire and a need to find analytical tools to boost communication between teacher and student. On this online course the one-to-one conducting lessons are held using video conferencing. We wanted to compensate for the constraints that video calling places on communication by boosting the visual potential and effectiveness of the video analysis.

We were looking for the following features:

  • “Telestrator graphics” – the ability to draw freehand graphics superimposed on a video image.
  • Simple and functional video processing, including fast forward, rewind and bookmarks.
  • Playback at different speeds without altering the pitch.
  • Still images.
  • The ability to add comments – both written and verbal.

Having tested a range of platforms, the decision was made to adopt Dartfish, one of the market leaders in video analysis for top athletes. The UiS has opted for a solution that centres around the iPad and an app provided by Dartfish.

Use of Dartfish in traditional tuition

Once we had established the “Digital Conducting Studies” programme and developed a method for using the Dartfish app on our online course, the question arose as to whether this might also be an asset in traditional tuition, too. A pilot project supported by CEMPE was carried out in the 2015-16 academic year in which three conducting students on UiS’ bachelor programme were each given an iPad with a Dartfish app. The three used the app both when practising on their own and during their one-to-one lessons. They used the iPad to film all performances – including masterclasses, rehearsals and concerts – and they used Dartfish as an analytical tool, both on their own and together with their teachers during the one-to-one lessons.

Conducting student Guro Haugli believes that she has benefited greatly from using digital tools when performing video analyses. – Using video after the rehearsal to analyse and see in detail exactly what it is you’re doing is an important part of my conducting studies. There is a noticeable difference between using iPad with Dartfish and an ordinary video camera. The slow motion feature in Dartfish has been particularly useful for me, as has the option to zoom in and draw directly on the picture, Guro says.

“Using video after the rehearsal to analyse and see in detail exactly what it is you’re doing is an important part of my conducting studies” (Guro Haugli)

iPad as a workstation

The students have developed certain individual habits and needs when using the iPad and app. The ability to play back the material at different speeds is often cited by the students, while the effective and simple scroll, fast forward and rewind features make the process flow seamlessly. Some of the students also highlight the graphics and zoom options.
It also appears that the iPad has become the students’ preferred workstation, and they use it to play music and read scores in the forScore app.

Lærer Trond Korsgård og student Marte Rolfsen ved UiS.
Lærer Trond Korsgård og student Marte Rolfsen ved UiS.

Associate professor of conducting at the UiS Trond Korsgård is one of the most prolific users of Dartfish, both when instructing his digital students and when teaching the bachelor students on the ordinary conducting programme. He thinks the app is a bonus. – Of course, we spend just as much time as we did in the past trying to see the wider picture, that is discussing artistic choices, rehearsal techniques, instruction and communication, Korsgård says. – Dartfish and iPad are practical and useful tools that help keep the lessons flowing, and they’ve had a positive impact on the quality of the course in that respect.

New opportunities and added depth

Conducting technique teachers have found that the app genuinely offers new opportunities and added depth to their teaching. The combination of graphics, zoom and multi-speed replay makes it much easier to talk about technical challenges with the students.  – I’m using Dartfish more and more frequently, and it’s becoming more integrated in the lessons with the bachelor students, says Korsgård. – I actively use the bookmark function when preparing for one-to-one lessons because it systematically allows me to get to the key points when analysing videos with my students. That is true not just for the technical aspects but for the broader picture, too.

“I’m using Dartfish more and more frequently, and it’s becoming more integrated in the lessons with the bachelor students” (Trond Korsgård).

Digital video analysis tools are here to stay

It is interesting that we can identify new methodological approaches by adopting technology. Digital tools do not introduce any new topics to the conducting programme, but they provide us with new arenas and new angles. The tools simplify and rationalise the tuition while reinforcing the learning process by highlighting problems and challenges. As far as the conducting programme at the UiS is concerned, digital video analysis tools such as Dartfish are here to stay.

The project is supported by an innovation grant from CEMPE.

Last updated: 17. November 2016