How to Shoot Sports Videos

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When it comes to filmmaking, shooting a sports piece is a completely different game from standard filmmaking. The narrative of sports footage doesn't lie in a script, nor is it marked by any artful transitions or any choreographed scene structure. The sport itself dictates the course of events.

It's the ultimate in action and reaction. Sports can hook audiences, keeping them unblinking and downright addicted what's transpiring in the game. Nothing is left to the imagination, and the key to getting it right is capturing the action from start to finish.

As an amateur filmmaker, realistically, you're just not going to get the same quality as what you see on television during football or baseball games. Pro sports videographers use fancy cameras that can shoot as much as 3,000 frames per second, and technical directors draw from multiple camera sources mounted on high-tech rigs all over the field. Odds are you're not going to have access to that kind of equipment, but at the same time, you're not going to need all those bells and whistles to get good sports footage. There are some simple tricks to it that get the job done.

Also, as an actor, any special abilities you have in the realm of sports are fair game for a demo reel. Though you won't be behind the camera, it's still important to know the techniques for getting the best shots. It may help you determine what to do in front of the camera.

So here are a few tips for shooting a winning sports video.

Know the sport.
Different sports feature different types of action. Whether the subject of your project is tackling, or doing triple axels, you need to be able to anticipate and follow the action to get good footage. If the sport is new to you as a filmmaker, study it ahead of time, watch a lot of footage others have taken, and go in with a game plan. If you're an actor working with a videographer, talk about the sport and go over what you're looking to have captured on camera before shooting.

Go wide!
There's a lot of movement in any sport. Trying to zoom in and capture nuances is not going to get you any useable footage—unless you have a camera that shoots 3,000 frames per second, and even then it's still questionable. At best, it will be jumpy and too quick for the eye to discern. When you're shooting sports action—particularly if there's more than one athlete involved—your best bet is to stay in as wide a shot as possible. You'll have a better chance of catching the complete action from start to finish.

Don't switch sides.
Getting different wide angles on the action is all well and good, but can be confusing if you alter your vantage point more than 180 degrees. The 180 rule applies to all of filmmaking—changing the angle on an action so drastically can end up confusing the audience—and it applies even more strongly to sports videography. When a hockey offense is advancing toward the goal and you switch sides of the rink before the slap shot, it's going to look like you suddenly switched sides of the ice! That's disorienting.

Stay in the game.
Don't miss a moment of the action—that is, never stop recording when you start shooting. If you're missing anything, even a few split seconds, you're going to have a gaping hole that no editing software can fudge in your finished product. Sports are the ultimate in action and reaction, and you have to stay in the game if you want to win.