SANTA CLARA Alex Smith has been a film connoisseur this spring. His favorite subject matter: himself.
After every practice, the 49ers quarterback retires to a dark room and studies what he did earlier in the day, over and over, in super-slow motion. Smith said he pores over the footage looking for the most minute details of his throwing motion.
"I've thrown I don't know how many millions of times, and you develop things," Smith said before Tuesday's minicamp practice. "And it's not like you're going to change things overnight. And these are very small things that I continue to work on."
His interest in those small things is related to a weeklong session he had in March with throwing guru Tom House at USC.
House, 65, is a former big-league reliever who mainly works with pitchers. The Giants' Barry Zito, for instance, saw House this past winter. Zito is 5-3 with a 3.24 ERA this season.
But beginning with Drew Brees in 2004, more NFL quarterbacks have been seeing House for analysis and advice on everything from throwing mechanics to nutrition to their mental approach.
After the 2011 season, 49ers receivers coach John Morton, who knew House from USC, suggested that Smith visit House. When Smith ran into Brees at the Super Bowl, Brees was more than willing to make an introduction.
"He (Smith) said he had some things mechanically he had to work on the shoulder and that kind of thing," Brees said Tuesday. "And I said, 'There's no better guy to do that than Tom House.' "
One of House's conclusions was that Smith's throwing motion, which had been excellent before 2007, changed slightly after shoulder surgeries in 2007 and 2008.
"He was still really good. But he had a posture change," House said. "He knew where the ball had to be to get to an efficient release point, and he was changing body position to get to that release point inefficiently."
House suggested exercises that would help Smith regain his pre-injury form. That regimen ranges from specific drills designed to strengthen small muscles, especially in the back of Smith's shoulder, to broader concepts like eliminating the bench press from his workout routine.
Smith, for example, admits he never used to warm up his shoulder before practice. Now he goes through what he described as an "intense" shoulder warmup before hitting the field.
"I can't tell you how many times I've walked out here and just started throwing," he said.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he already has seen improvements in Smith's accuracy and arm strength.
"His mechanics are better; therefore, he's going to perform better," Roman said. "The two go hand in hand at every position."
Smith's mechanics have long been scrutinized, especially after he separated his shoulder early in the 2007 season. Smith suggested that perhaps too much has been made of his motion, including his habit of locking the knee of his lead leg when he throws.
"I know a big deal has been made of the front knee, which is true," Smith said. "But come football time, I'm not sitting on top of a mound. It's football; it's different. When 300-pound guys are running at you, you just react and throw."
Still, unlike last year's lockout-shortened offseason, there is time this spring to work on fine-tuning his craft.
"This is the time for me to really pay close attention," Smith said. "That's why I do spend a lot of time in there watching the film. Because come training camp and the season, when it becomes competitive, I don't want to be thinking about it, good or bad. It's more about production then."