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View Full Version : What should the ISU do to resurrect Figure Skating in the US and Europe?

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loulou
04-05-2011, 11:39 AM
They do in vault, because it consists of only one trick that has a specific start value (which I why I used vault in my example). But really, vault is just a simplified example. The maximum potential value of any specific routine on the other events can be calculated as well if you have a list of its elements (incl planned connections).

No, they don't: gymnastics has an open ended CoP even in every apparatus, included vault.

Of course it's only one trick, but you can decide to make it as difficult as you can perform; i.e.: you can extend the D component of the score as far as your skills go.

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Your reasoning applies to the current figure skating CoP too: let's say that every planned element will be completed earning the highest possible GOE, bam, you have your top TES value, which you can only deduct from.

And yet still the figure skating CoP is open ended, because no one is gonna stop you if you want to jump a quadruple insted of a planned triple, if you can - (and granted that you meet requirements, as in gymnastics).

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Gymnastics vault would be like peforming a single jump: once you're going for one specific element the TES value is set (D score in gymnastics), and the final score is only a matter of GOE (E score in gymnastics).

-- We can skip the under-rotation thing, as it would be like piking a vault that was supposed to be straight, it only brings the actual TES/D score down --

But: you can always go for the jump you want, hence, the TES score does not have a fixed top value.

gkelly
04-05-2011, 04:35 PM
However, figure skating also has another completely separate set of scores -- the Program Component Scores. These do have a maximum (10.0 times 5 components times whatever the factor is for that kind of program -- for senior men's SP it's 1, which makes it easy).

There isn't anything really comparable in gymnastics.

It should be easy for audiences to understand what the maximum score is. The factoring does make the math a little confusing.

Theoretically, judges opinions of the Interpretation score should trend with audiences' perception of the interpretation. The average judge is probably no more or less musically literate than the average audience member, and there's really not a lot of skating-specific knowledge that goes into that particular component. In practice, judges do tend to keep that component more or less in the same range as the others, probably more than is appropriate, with some exceptions.

What if we brought in musicians and dancers to judge Interpretation instead of former skaters? Would that make that score more accessible to audiences?

Skating Skills scores, on the other hand, are very hard for casual viewers to appreciate while watching on TV. The average viewer doesn't have the knowledge of what to look for in that component and the commentators usually make little or no mention of the relevant skills and criteria. Also video flattens out the perception of speed, the sounds (good or bad) of the blades, etc., to the point where experienced judges would not be able to judge Skating Skills on video nearly as consistently as they could live and up close.

Because figure skating is primarily a skating contest, Skating Skills is arguably the single most important thing being judged and often overrides the difficulty or success of the elements in determining results.

But it's hard to explain to TV viewers with no skating background. If we could come up with a good solution to that problem, it might be easier to build a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience. Any suggestions?

The other components are more of a mix of criteria that audiences can see perfectly well for themselves without training and criteria that do require detailed knowledge of skating technique and judging standards.

Susan M
04-05-2011, 05:02 PM
...gymnastics has an open ended CoP even in every apparatus, included vault. Of course it's only one trick, but you can decide to make it as difficult as you can perform;
I think you are talking theoretical routine possibilities while others are talking one specific athlete's known routine or vault. Any one specific vault has a specified start value. Once that athlete's vault number goes up, it is not "open ended" at all. The broadcasters can (and do) tell us the precise start value of that athlete's vault. It makes it easier to understand why a clean looking vault got 9.35 while a messier looking one got 9.4 when you understand the second vault had a much higher start value.

Susan M
04-05-2011, 05:17 PM
It was after these Olympics that I went to look up the Champions on Ice tour and found out that it had gone out of business long ago.
I think, technically speaking, COI merged with SOI. In most years, SOI still looks mostly like SOI, but they have moved into some of the dates/venues that used to belong to COI. Also, after worlds, they usually add a few of the top US eligible skaters as "guests" for the final tour stops. (Obviously, that won't happen this year.) After Calgary, though, the SOI tour did resemble more nearly the old COI cold spot format. They carried over only a few of the previous SOI cast and added a number of skaters from the Olympics, but not the international array that made COI so good in its best years. Mostly, they added US and Canadian medalists (plus, inexplicably, Alissa Czisny). I don't know if this was a marketing-driven decision, a way to provide employment for IMG clients, or something the USFS forced on them as a condition for approving the participation of US eligible skaters.

julieann
04-05-2011, 05:22 PM
Skating Skills scores, on the other hand, are very hard for casual viewers to appreciate while watching on TV.

Not sure if I completely agree with that one, even my daughter saw a big difference between the Skating Skills of S/S and G/E during Euros and it was only the difference of 1st and 4th place.

Robeye
04-08-2011, 06:08 PM
The short-term solution for increasing popularity in the US or Europe, IMO and in a nutshell, is the appearance of a homegrown, photogenic ice queen. But this is necessarily an either/or proposition (the US or Europe), and just as inevitably impermanent.

Forgive me for indulging in some starry-eyed futuristic speculation, but here's a thought:

It's fairly obvious that one of the primary weaknesses of COP on the technical/sporting side, from the point of view of audience involvement as well as in the ability to rigorously judge (and give appropriate points), is the lack of real-time transparency as to what the skater actually did. More broadly, it's clear that skating needs to broaden it audience, particularly with younger viewers.

However, at some point in the not too distant future, it may be possible that advances in software and hardware can be visually applied to the problem, the way that Hawkeye has revolutionized line calls in tennis, and goal line technology can be used in soccer and is in use (in the broadcast booth) in the NFL.

In golf, which I think is closer in spirit to skating (in its technical nerdiness :lol:, and its partiality for arcs, spins and rotations), the flight of the ball is electronically tracked to give a colored visual trajectory on the screen, allowing the audience to ooh and ahh over the flight and length. It also makes it easier for officials to find the ball if it strays into the knee-deep heather ;). Broadcasts are now even showing the projected line on putts before and during his stroke.

Perhaps the possiblity, still just beyond our visible horizon, of being able to digitally capture and "track" a skater's movement, will revolutionize the sporting aspect of skating. Such a capability would allow the viewer to see the take-off point of a jump vs. landing, which can immediately be compared to magic-marker type lines generated by programming to show, say, true triple rotation, or the ideal edge orientation. You could do this in real time, using split screen. Or, while the viewer is watching the element live, you could mark the "correct" landing position for rotation a nanosecond after the jump is initiated to give the viewer a "feel" for the mark that the skater needs to hit.

Conversely, such a capability would potentially allow the rules to be more precise in the scoring definitions of an element, even for spins and spirals. Electronically counting the rotations on a spin would be easy. A more difficult one, but not undoable, assuming more precise definitions, would be for "stretch" or "speed" in a spin or spiral. Each skater is different, but digital measurement and motion capture of skaters before the start of competition would allow the monitoring program to precisely judge the geometry (using things like spine angle, or the position of, say, the leg relative to other anatomical reference points).

You might even want to add little indicator bars (tastefully, on the margins) continuously displaying the speed of the skater, as he/she moves around the rink, the speed/height/ice coverage achieved in the jump, a coefficient for the "deepness" of edges in basic skating, etc. There are many possibilities and bells and whistles that could enhance the real-time information availability, and hence the viewing experience.

Exactly how all of these features are integrated and presented need to be thought through. A legitimate issue is how to do all of this without marring the "holistic" viewing experience that the artistic aspect requires. Some things could be done in real-time, some may be best left until after the live performance has ended. But with some trial and error, I believe a balance could be achieved.

Purists may object, but I'm of the view that, in the longer perspective, this is the direction that all sports are going anyway. And the benefits to skating may be far greater because of its technical opacity. It would address the naysayers who crow that figure skating isn't a "real" sport. Another potentially significant bonus: the fact that figure skating begins to resemble an electronic game may increase the interest from the younger demographic, who now grow up demanding precise and data-rich environments in their entertainment as a matter of course.

A bit radical, given the current state of rules and methods of visual presentation (please don't immediately label me a weirdo :scream:). What do you guys think if skating were to develop this way?

gkelly
04-09-2011, 02:22 AM
A bit radical, given the current state of rules and methods of visual presentation (please don't immediately label me a weirdo :scream:). What do you guys think if skating were to develop this way?

Are you talking about how skating itself would develop, or the television coverage of skating?

I think that many viewers will still like to just sit back and enjoy the performance as performance. So split screens, slow motion, overlaid graphics, etc., would detract from that kind of watching. But they would be educational and enhance the technical analysis of the performances from a sporting perspective.

And maybe someday some of the technologically enhanced technical analysis could contribute to making the scores for TES and and Skating Skills more precise and objective.

But other aspects of those scores, plus the other components, will still rely on human perception, interpretation, and synthesis.

If we could have all sorts of broadcast technology available right now, I would vote for an interactive setup that gives viewers the ability to choose between one of the following options or toggling between them: 1) just the straight video of the performance with only the music audible; 2) video and music with human interest commentary, jump calling, etc., as in most current and past broadcasts; and 3) detailed technical commentary coupled with visual aids.

04-09-2011, 03:24 AM
It's fairly obvious that one of the primary weaknesses of COP on the technical/sporting side, from the point of view of audience involvement as well as in the ability to rigorously judge (and give appropriate points), is the lack of real-time transparency as to what the skater actually did. More broadly, it's clear that skating needs to broaden it audience, particularly with younger viewers.

However, at some point in the not too distant future, it may be possible that advances in software and hardware can be visually applied to the problem, the way that Hawkeye has revolutionized line calls in tennis, and goal line technology can be used in soccer and is in use (in the broadcast booth) in the NFL.

In golf, which I think is closer in spirit to skating (in its technical nerdiness :lol:, and its partiality for arcs, spins and rotations), the flight of the ball is electronically tracked to give a colored visual trajectory on the screen, allowing the audience to ooh and ahh over the flight and length. It also makes it easier for officials to find the ball if it strays into the knee-deep heather ;). Broadcasts are now even showing the projected line on putts before and during his stroke.

Perhaps the possiblity, still just beyond our visible horizon, of being able to digitally capture and "track" a skater's movement, will revolutionize the sporting aspect of skating. Such a capability would allow the viewer to see the take-off point of a jump vs. landing, which can immediately be compared to magic-marker type lines generated by programming to show, say, true triple rotation, or the ideal edge orientation. You could do this in real time, using split screen. Or, while the viewer is watching the element live, you could mark the "correct" landing position for rotation a nanosecond after the jump is initiated to give the viewer a "feel" for the mark that the skater needs to hit.

Didn't they used to have something like that for the jumps? I forgot the technical term but on instant replay they would show the series of still pictures all together that added up to a jump so you could see every position in the air. I'm almost 100% positive one of the US channels used to do that a long time ago. Now that you mention it, I'm not even sure they even really use replays anymore in figure skating at all. Do they?

Anyway, you're right. The technology is mostly there. They show tennis players in slow motion so you can see how they hit a return, so the commentator can explain what is right or wrong about their technique. And graphics show where they hit all the returns from, where the different serves landed. I'm sure if they wanted to they could use that in figure skating to at least show the foot positions on take offs and landings. But would they want to? Because then they'd have to make sure they were doing it right themselves. The challenge system in tennis has pretty much proven that line judges are sometimes way off on their calls.

I remember a jump this year of Brian Joubert's that looked like a clean quad but they downgraded it. That's a huge difference in points. Would they want the fans and commentators from every country to have all these tools at their finger tips if you could really track something like that and have a graphic up that quickly? I think it would be a nightmare for the judges and their agendas. If not they'd probably have it already.

I mean I think it'd be a great idea. Not in real-time but on instant replay that the commentator could call up or that you could check from your computer at home. (Actually that reminds me of the 360 GlamCam (http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/redcarpet/games/glamcam/index.jsp?categories=2010_golden_globes) they have on the red carpet at award shows lol) We mostly watch figure skating online anyway. They might as well take the next step.

Robeye
04-09-2011, 04:10 AM
Are you talking about how skating itself would develop, or the television coverage of skating?

I think that many viewers will still like to just sit back and enjoy the performance as performance. So split screens, slow motion, overlaid graphics, etc., would detract from that kind of watching. But they would be educational and enhance the technical analysis of the performances from a sporting perspective.

And maybe someday some of the technologically enhanced technical analysis could contribute to making the scores for TES and and Skating Skills more precise and objective.

But other aspects of those scores, plus the other components, will still rely on human perception, interpretation, and synthesis.

If we could have all sorts of broadcast technology available right now, I would vote for an interactive setup that gives viewers the ability to choose between one of the following options or toggling between them: 1) just the straight video of the performance with only the music audible; 2) video and music with human interest commentary, jump calling, etc., as in most current and past broadcasts; and 3) detailed technical commentary coupled with visual aids.
To answer your first question, I believe that these types of developments would potentially impact both the audience experience as well as the sport's rules and judging. And they would address several of the often-cited reasons for lack of audience interest.

As per my original post, I agree that the impact is confined to "non-artistic" elements (and, as you know, I'm a big supporter of the need to maintain the artistic aspect of skating ;)). But consider: 1)this portion constitutes the majority of scoring, and 2)this is the aspect most casual viewers least comprehend (or, if they comprehend, are unable to appreciate in real time. Heck, even "knowledgeable" viewers find it difficult, hence the endless, hairsplitting discussions on whether a jump should or should not be ratified, for example).

First, this would address imprecision in judging. Technical elements which, in principle, should lend themselves to greater quantification (it's all physics and bio-mechanics at the end of the day) must accept "approximate" definitions because humans must make the calls, and we only see and think in analogue. The realization of computer-assisted judging of technical elements would allow true quantification of the scoring definitions of technical elements, and hence basically eliminate controversy, any bias, any fear of manipulation.

Second, this change in how skating operates can then be reflected in the presentation of the performance to viewers. The ability to provide viewers with quantitatively accurate and precise information, in real time, about the technical elements they are watching, would allow viewers full immersion in the sporting "thrill". Providing a continuous indicator of speed, for instance, or deepness of edge, gives immediacy to the viewer as to how to appreciate skating skills. Similarly with speed/height/coverage/rotation/edge indicators on jumps. You can't feel the thrill about something that you don't understand or cannot visually track, and this has been one of skating's fundamental problems with lay viewers.

This is an issue that faces any high speed, technically complex endeavor, both in entertainment and real life. People who play electronic games (I do :)) know that any game that doesn't provide this data would never sell even a single copy, simply because the user wouldn't know what the heck was happening on screen (imagine Halo without the life or ammo indicators, without a targeting cursor, etc.). Similarly, a jet pilot without his dashboard or HUD would probably have a nervous breakdown. In a way, this is what skating requires the casual viewer to do: fly a plane with even so much as an altimeter. It's not unreasonable that they find it intimidating or just plain impossible.

Third, this type of viewing experience, I speculate, would make skating much more interesting to younger audiences, who are increasingly comfortable, and expect, the kind of entertainment environment I describe.

Finally, the technology already exists in some form. If a decision were made to go in this direction, everything I've speculated about could be implemented within the next decade, with many elements almost immediately.

Again, as per my previous post, determining the optimal form and extent of these tools would need more extensive thinking; I'm just outlining bare concepts as possibilities. But as a start, I really like your idea on giving viewers a choice in terms of the format that they'd like to view, although my personal opinion is that the vast majority of casual viewers would opt for some sort of "enhanced" version.

Robeye
04-09-2011, 04:34 AM
Didn't they used to have something like that for the jumps? I forgot the technical term but on instant replay they would show the series of still pictures all together that added up to a jump so you could see every position in the air. I'm almost 100% positive one of the US channels used to do that a long time ago. Now that you mention it, I'm not even sure they even really use replays anymore in figure skating at all. Do they?

Anyway, you're right. The technology is mostly there. They show tennis players in slow motion so you can see how they hit a return, so the commentator can explain what is right or wrong about their technique. And graphics show where they hit all the returns from, where the different serves landed. I'm sure if they wanted to they could use that in figure skating to at least show the foot positions on take offs and landings. But would they want to? Because then they'd have to make sure they were doing it right themselves. The challenge system in tennis has pretty much proven that line judges are sometimes way off on their calls.

I remember a jump this year of Brian Joubert's that looked like a clean quad but they downgraded it. That's a huge difference in points. Would they want the fans and commentators from every country to have all these tools at their finger tips if you could really track something like that and have a graphic up that quickly? I think it would be a nightmare for the judges and their agendas. If not they'd probably have it already.

I mean I think it'd be a great idea. Not in real-time but on instant replay that the commentator could call up or that you could check from your computer at home. (Actually that reminds me of the 360 GlamCam (http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/redcarpet/games/glamcam/index.jsp?categories=2010_golden_globes) they have on the red carpet at award shows lol) We mostly watch figure skating online anyway. They might as well take the next step.
The analogy that comes to mind is: compare the "3D" gimmick of 1950s B-grade horror movies (using those pathetically blurry and wobbly two-color cellophane-in-cardboard glasses) , with the system used in Avatar. The concept they're both trying to get at is the same, but in sophistication and effect they are nothing alike. Which is why it was an ephemeral fad sixty years ago, but is now called "the future of film".

My thought was that the technology would not only be used to enhance viewing, but also technical judging itself. The judges and the audience would have access to the same visual information and various indicator data. While you may be right that traditionalist judges/officials might object, I suppose the same could be said for the (non-existent ;)) Union of Tennis Line Callers.