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Tracking Camera Debuts
at 2018 World Championship

by Bob Alman

Nicholls' first tracking camera demonstration on the court, annotated.
Nicholls' break from playoff day in the 2018 World Championship.
Much more advanced demo of two different camera angles, from recent Victoria Open Singles.
Dwayne's triple, angle one
Dwayne's triple, angle two

Live streaming of the entire court from a fixed camera position has been demonstrated at several world championships, and it works--sort of. A vast improvement could be made with one or two cameras that track the main subject, if only one knew how to do that. Jim Nicholls demonstrates the use of this new technology in the annotated seven-minute video attached, shot at his home club in Wagga Wagga, Australia. How and to what extent the Soloshot camera will be showcased in the February 2018 world championship in New Zealand remains to be seem. Croquet World will be tracking this debut and reporting on it throughout the championship from our banner link to the action on Croquet World.

Jim Nicholls, at 51, aspires to excel in every realm of the sport, including competing in the playoff round of the World Championship in New Zealand with his Pidcock mallet. In his Australian club in Wagga Wagga, he has pioneered corporate events sponsored by a local brewery. During his four-month sojourn as Croquet Pro for the high season in Jacksonville, Florida, he learned that he's been elected to the Board of the Australian Croquet Association. And he ordered the equipment he has now learned to use: the Soloshot tracking camera.

The stationary Soloshot camera can track up to 2000 feet away, keeping the subject center-frame with the aid of an arm-band. It adjusts depth and focus automatically and has a battery life of more than three hours. Nicholls' first attempt was done successfully and easily without any assistance, as shown in this seven-minute video.

Discovering the 'Soloshot"

Jim encountered the idea of the 'Soloshot' in it's crowdfunding phase, three years ago. The company experienced a number of delays throughout the development process as various prototypes were trialed. After ordering the cameras in Jacksonville and waiting for them to arrive, he learned how to use them at a local company, SMT (Sports Management Technology).

The cameras didn't arrive until October 2017, when Jim made the first demo tape. In December, Jim tried using two cameras to track one player, and found that it worked well (as demonstrated in the linked videos from the February Qualifier at the World Championship.) According to Nicholls, "The benefit of having two different angles on the same action is to be able to edit (split screen) to show what you want the viewer to see at the time in livestreaming, or in a video for coaching purposes."

One practical advance in the trialing has been to show that the tracking device works just as well carried in a pocket as when affixed to the arm with a bulky strap--which makes it easier to convince players to use it.

Nicholls main contribution to the sport to come out of his American sojourn may turn out to be the game he adapted from Ricochet, called "Aussie Croquet." More than a dozen USCA clubs are now using it as a regular part of the instruction for novices, usually immediately following some sessions with Golf Croquet. The game may turn out to be the "missing link" between Golf Croquet and the traditional forms of the sport, for training purposes.

Showcasing the tracking camera at the World's

As one of 18 Australian players to quality for the 2018 World Championship in New Zealand, Nicholls is focused on qualifying for the knockout round. Other players will doubtless have brought the newly-developed Soloshot camera to North Island, with the same ambition.

We'll be watching to see how Nicholls coordinates his experiments with these other players and their cameras, and whether and how they all manage to livestream major games or matches during the event. Those efforts and those games will be linked from our Bulletin Board's running coverage.

In the meantime, here's a series of photographs drawn from Nicholls first demo (already much surpassed in quality by more recent demos) upon which in post-production he inserted some notes on the camera's use.

"A more advanced demonstration from from the recent Victoria Open Singles with two camera angles corrects many obvious flaws in Nicholl's first and annotated attempt."

"And finally, Nicholls tracked himself in the Feb 3 playoffs hoping to qualify and sent this note with the link: This in my second break in game 2 v Filbee at Waikanie CC. Beautiful setting."

Nicholls has demonstrated that a more sophisticated system of broadcasting of major croquet events can be made much more engrossing by using a combination of tracking cameras and a single fixed camera to provide an overview of the court, live streamed with the aid of editing software.

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