More than 700 basketball-specific terms can be found in recent literature and educational material. For outsiders, most of these words bear no meaning – and even some basketball pros don’t know them all! “blueprint basketball” is a website-based visual concept of illustrating and explaining these terms in a minimalistic but aesthetic way while offering some insight into this complex sport. In order to create a strong focus on the movements and ball, green screen techniques were used and combined with video material from the American NBA, the German BBL, and my own recordings.

“blueprint basketball” aims to not only cater to the already existing fans and players but also awake interest in beginners and newcomers to this highly complex and challenging sport. Teachers, coaches, and players can use this website for both inspiration and instruction.

Starting Point

The final diploma project in my communication design studies at the University for Arts and Design Karlsruhe (Hochschule für Gestaltung). Students are completely free in choosing a subject for this nine-month long period – which doesn’t make it any easier. What topic do I want to talk about, what message and content do I want to convey? As I participated in many serious and very down-to-earth tasks such as “Störfall Karlsruhe” and our work for the plant safety department of the mineral oil refinery MiRO, I longed for a carefree and “fun” topic that would show another side of me while teaching me some new skills. As I was about to finish my doctoral thesis at about the same time, I also didn’t want to do anything too scientific – but explaining complex connections and processes, that is something I love dearly.
Around the time that it was time to decide on a topic, my basketball team was going through a difficult time and struggled with a new coach. While our previous coach had a very self-determined approach of letting us decide how to handle situations on the field, the new coach loved his complex strategies and basketball terms. Unfortunately, none of us players were used to the English terms. This led to various funny, but also annoying situations for both sides.
Thanks to these situations, my diploma project was born: How to explain the various and sometimes quite complex basketball terms in a fun and interesting way?

What a Journey

First, I had to define how I would approach this topic. I already had compiled a database of over 700 basketball-specific terms and had decided that I would want to use film as a main tool, so I started to take my little EOS 650D, a GoPro Hero 4 Black, a DJI Osmo, and a Kodak Pixpro 360° everywhere basketball was being played – during practice, official games, alone, or on street courts.

After I had compiled many, many gigabits of video material, I had to decide what exactly I wanted to show and in what format. While I did consider a documentary, there are already some amazing documentaries of high quality out there (Der perfekte Wurf, Hoop Dreams, Salaam Dunk) and I didn’t really feel I was the right person to add another one. I decided to focus on the terms and see how I could break them down to the bare minimum – what was necessary to successfully explain a term? What could be left out? After going through my video material, I found that the ball and the movement of the person playing with it were the focus points. I needed to get rid of everything else – it was time for my first greenscreen experience!

After I tried all cameras that were available to me, the GoPro was best for slow motion due to its high framerate. I bought a few meters of greenscreen, built a frame for it, and “stole” all the spotlights my university could offer. After several weeks of trial and error, I could finally capture the entire silhouette of the player with clear outlines.
To be able to properly select the basketball in the post-production as well, I bought bluescreen color and painted it blue. This way, I had the greenscreen for an even background, the blue ball, and the player that would create the silhouette – of course while not wearing anything green or blue.

When I realized that I would not be able to capture more complex terms in my small studio, I additionally had to think of something else. That’s when the real crazy started and several full-body suits in green and orange were bought! Check out the hilarious footage:

To say the post-production of these scenes was difficult would be a slight understatement. As I was new to working with greenscreen techniques, I spend night after night learning how to properly crop the people and the ball from the films and render them into two-dimensional silhouettes. When I was finally done the day before the presentation, I felt like I hadn’t slept for months – which was probably quite true.

The Finish Line

As I had decided that my target group would not only be people that already were basketball enthusiasts, but also beginners and everyone generally interested in the sport, I realized the material would have to be easily accessible for everyone – so putting it online was an obvious decision. While I first thought about a video channel or page on a social media website, I felt a single website with its own atmosphere would fit better. I had so much material not only from my own recordings but also all kind of basketball footage through all ages and really wanted to put it in one space.
I had to come up with an interesting name and layout for the website. It took almost up until one week before the final presentation until the website didn’t look boring, “trying-to-be-cool”, and depressing anymore. I desperately needed some colors without picking random layouts or overdoing it. Finally, while researching for a name, I went through the names of NBA teams and fell in love with the bold color combinations (being a Chicago Bulls fan with their red/black, it’s easy to forget the strong colors other teams use). As my little database distinguishes not only level of difficulty but also kind of move, each group got one of the color combinations of a favorite NBA team of mine:

The name, finally, came up during a discussion with friends trying to explain what the website should deliver – a manual, a “blueprint” so to say – a blueprint for basketball. Before that, I really struggled with an attractive name and logo for the project and there were many, many failed attemps until I got it right just days before the final presentation.

Putting everything together

I will soon write more about this almost final step of putting together the various kinds of footage, the silhouettes, terms and descriptions, creating the groups and defining the difficulty levels until everything could be combined into one final website.

Thanks to 2xC, I could also add a great piece of music to help create the atmosphere I associate with basketall on the start page of the website.

The final presentation

Another crazy idea that caused me many sleepless nights and only worked properly about 1 hour before the presentation was the giant video wall I brought back to light from my university’s catacombs. It is so heavy you need four people and two lift trucks to move it and most of the screens were broken or didn’t work when I uncovered it from its spiderwebs and dirt.

But in the end, thanks to many friends and the great university staff, it all worked out! Have a look at the great day that was my final presentation at the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe: Diplom exhibition.

 

Have a look at the final website here.