When the Sac-Joaquin Section overhauled its football playoffs, keeping opening-round games a mystery until the regular season was over, it created plenty of suspense for players and fans.
It also forced many coaches to change their preparation, since they were unable to personally scout the two or three teams they might be facing.
That meant additional time watching film this week, for coaches and players. While film isn't the same as putting a pair of eyes on a team, it's better than the alternative — going into the game blind.
"The film gives you an idea of the other team's strengths and weaknesses," said Modesto coach Rod Long, whose Panthers (7-3) visit Los Banos (7-3) tonight in the Division 1 playoffs.
"It allows you to prepare your kids for what you are most likely going to see offensively and defensively."
If you're thinking it's inconvenient to sit through a grainy, black-and-white film shot with an unsteady hand, you haven't seen films lately.
Filming has gone high-tech with multiple cameras shooting in color from different angles, with clarity to rival any college game on TV.
"With DVDs and the cameras most programs have, film quality is the best it has ever been," said Long, noting that coaches also reach out to one another. "Coaches will call other coaches in order to get any information they can."
Section rules mandate film exchanges, with each school required to provide two of its complete game films from the regular season. They must provide a film for each game played in the playoffs, too.
The popularity of high school football, and access to affordable film equipment, has led to more options, too.
Rich Hernandez runs DezGabeProductions.com, a Turlock company filming two or three games a week. Originally focusing on Turlock's public high schools, DezGabe has expanded and is now filming from Los Banos to Manteca.
"We have $4,000-5,000 invested and next year we're going to add two to four videographers," said Hernandez, who began the business five years ago. "My son, Gabe, was playing ball at Pitman, so I would go out and film their games.
"We decided to shoot multiple games each week this season because we could see demand for film was growing."
Most inquiries are from parents, with high school coaches and college recruiters making purchases, as well. Hernandez posts a free highlight clip of each game on his site, and charges for the full video.
"We have scouts and coaches ordering because our quality is clear and there is no extra movement, no shaking," he said. "We use Sony Hi-Definition Handicams. Big cameras are harder to take to games and can't be maneuvered."
Hernandez was filming Los Banos' 48-47 win over Buhach Colony on Friday, and picked up everything from the deceptive handoffs in Buhach's fly offense to the defensive coverage that LB quarterback Erik Martin beat with his 80-yard TD pass to Max Ornelas.
That was at Atwater High, which has a great reputation among videographers. Good lighting, a perch to film from and electrical outlets are priorities for filming football.
The stadiums at Johansen, Downey and Oakdale also get high marks from Hernandez. He shot Modesto's 50-23 win over Beyer in Week 8, catching the record-setting tandem of James Ingram and Arquel Rogers running for 259 yards.
That was on Thursday. The next night he was in Oakdale to film its memorable game with Sierra — Sierra rallied in the fourth quarter to win.
"We try to make the games that we think will be the most entertaining," he said. "Sometimes you get lucky and get a great game. When that happens, you become a fan, too."
DezGabeProductions is working on a highlight video that should be on its Web site next week. It is also asking folks to send in videos, pictures and a few notes on military veterans, in hopes of putting together a military video.