Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots — winners of six Super Bowl championships — is a fan of Dan Aton.
So are 31 of the other head coaches of the National Football League, along with more than 100 top coaches in Division I college football.
Aton doesn’t run with the ball elusively, make great passes from the quarterback position or lead a team in tackles on defense. But he does help coaches get the most out of their own players.
Aton is founder and CEO of 8K Solutions in Titusville, which relies on decades of technology know-how to provide expert service and innovative lines of ultra-high-definition cameras to professional and collegiate sports organizations. In essence, as a trusted tech partner for the design, integration and maintenance of video solutions — with immense pixel resolution and viewing size — the company is part of teams nationwide at practice facilities, team meeting rooms, locker rooms and coaches’ offices.
Using technology to analyze video and give instant feedback to players has become a powerful tool in sports. In that sense, 8K Solutions, established in 2014 with a roster of approximately 25 employees housed in a 26,000-square-foot headquarters, scores touchdowns all over the place.
“We’re focused on the needs of what in the big scheme of things is a pretty narrow niche of customer base,” Aton says.
Leading the way: mastRcam. Talk about a versatile player. Arriving on the scene about five years ago, the mastRcam is best known for its ability to film from tall heights while being operated by a person safely on the ground. That’s especially important during use in windy conditions. Plus, there are multiple versions, each literally rising to the occasion, positioned high above practice fields. They include the mastRcam mobile, mastRcam SC and mastRcam Tower, all more maneuverable than traditional lifts or stationary structures.
Notably, both teams from last year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots as well as the Los Angeles Rams, ran the mastRcam through its paces in preparation for the big game.
“We definitely don’t want to lose our focus on our core customer base,” Aton adds about his customers and the continual development of new technologies.
That isn’t likely to happen, not with newcomers such as the Lyvve Coach and its instant video review on screens located right on the practice field. The system’s highlights: Each play is automatically created and “loops” until the next play is executed. Also, remote control and tablet interfaces enable coaches to illustrate their teaching points. Designed with the coach in mind, it’s the “world’s first and most cost-effective practice field replay system,” according to Aton.
The newest star is the Walk Through Wall. One can call it the NFL’s popular Madden video game on steroids. The system produces projected images of approximately 40 feet wide and 10 feet high — with either virtual characters graphically generated or actual video stretched and formatted to fit a wall of that size. Teams use it to “walk through” their game plans.
“It really creates almost a [virtual reality] kind of experience,” Aton says, noting the challenge for teams is having an available room large enough to accommodate the viewing screen.
Actually, all of 8K Solutions’ equipment can be described as larger than life. They have to be, Aton says, because the competitive stakes are that high.
“There is a place for it,” Aton explains about the technology and equipment. “But people going out in their normal home and buying an 8K 65-inch TV, the cost is probably not worth the payoff. It’s more of an industrial and commercial application, where you’re viewing it on a very large screen. Then there’s a difference; then it’s worth the investment.”
Aton and 8K Solutions are betting on it.
Aton is a pioneer in sports video technology, now with more than two decades of related industry experience. He mostly hasn’t strayed from a game plan that is squarely centered on football. And it’s a game plan that is closely tied to Titusville. He went to high school in Titusville, and his wife grew up there. In addition, he’s an integral part of numerous local organizations.
In the end, he wants to win in football, and he wants to do it from home, describing Titusville as a “big part of my personal life and community life.”
It’s happening — and you can view it on big screens.