7 Easy steps to creating great sport videos

This article will tell you everything you need to know to get you started shooting great sport (or action) videos. A lot of the ideas in here apply to general home video production also.

  1. Your Video Camera
  2. Use a Tripod
  3. Conditions
  4. Shooting Tips
  5. Conversion
  6. Editing
  7. Distribution

1. Your Video Camera

At ShedWorx, we're not in the business of reviewing cameras, although we do have quite a few cameras on the test bench. We leave reviews to people who are good at it, like the folks at SimplyDV. Colin and the guys at SimplyDV are experienced, professional video journalists who cut through the gimmicks and marketing to tell you what these new cameras are really like.

SimplyDV also run a very good bulletin board where you will find a wealth of information from everyday camera users.

Picture Quality

From our perspective, the picture quality from the three AVCHD brands is very similar. We wouldn't recommend one over the other from a picture quality perspective. It really comes down to usability of the camera and what else you will do with it.

The main thing reviewers seem to pick on between the camera brands is low-light performance. Outdoor sport shooting shouldn't be affected by this.

Frame Rate

If you are lucky enough to have a Panasonic GH1 you have access to a high frame rate of 50fps (PAL) or 60fps (NTSC). These are progressive formats, so you get 50 (or 60) full frames per second. This is the best possible format for action shooting.

File Transfer and Charging

This is a general feature, but we've found some annoying quirks when you want to transfer your video off the cameras. It should be as simple as a digital camera right? Wrong! The Panasonic and Canon cameras require you to take out the battery and plug in the power supply in order to transfer files.

They also require the same routine in order to charge the battery.

The Sony on the other hand allows you to plug the camera straight into your computer (via USB) and transfer the files. The Sony cameras also charge straight from the power supply - no need to pull out batteries.

This is a minor point, but we were surprised by this when we got our Canon and Panasonic cameras, afer using only Sony's to begin with.

2. Use a Tripod

Using a tripod for your video is very important. While it is more cumbersome to set up and use, it is worth the effort.

You will find that you need to zoom across the field to follow the play. Assuming you have 10x optical zoom available, you can get in fairly close. Without a tripod, the picture taken at 10x zoom is just a jumbled mess. The applies for any event type shooting you might do.

All cameras have a level of auto-stablisation, but at full zoom, they are not much good.

Make sure your tripod moves smoothly. The cheapest tripods are OK for still shots, but won't pan without 'sticking' and producing bumps in your footage.

3. Conditions

The best day you can hope for is bright sun, little wind and no rain. If you can get these to all line up you're in for a good day.

The bright sunlight will let your camera work better. Remember that while the consumer AVCHD cameras are a big step forward, they are not professional outdoor broadcast cameras. Low light is your biggest enemy, followed by high wind. Wind will turn into white noise on these cameras, so try to avoid windy days.

Finally, make sure you put the sun behind you. Shooting into the sun will give you washed out footage as the camera struggles with white balance and aperture control.

4. Shooting Tips

Shooting good footage for your project is the most difficult part of the exercise. All steps from shooting onwards can be re-done as you get new ideas or skills in the post-production stage. You only get one chance at shooting your footage!

So here are my quick tips on shooting sport footage:
  • Keep the clips short when you can. This makes editing easier later on. Sometimes it is a good idea to just let the camera run, but this can make the rough-cut editing stage more difficult later on.
  • Frame your shot. Either keep the camera still and let the play move through it, or track the play keeping a player in the middle of the shot.

5. Conversion

Since we're into AVCHD conversion software at ShedWorx, we recommend taking control of your footage and converting it yourself. We think this is a good idea because:
  • You create a library of your original, compressed AVCHD files from the camera.
  • You convert what you need, when you need it.
  • If (and when) native AVCHD editing becomes a reality, you haven't lost all your original footage.

So do yourself a favour and use FlamingoHD to take care of your AVCHD movie management.

6. Editing

You can easily use iMovie or Movie Maker to put together your video. Actual editing approaches are beyond the scope of this article, but we have put together an article about Final Cut Express for people moving up from iMovie.

7. Distribution

You've finished your masterpiece, so now you want to watch it right? In HD right? Unfortunately its not that easy (yet).

The best way to watch your Full HD creation is using a Blu-ray player hooked up to a full HD (1920x1080) TV. So you need to get your completed video out onto a disk that will play on your Blu-ray player.

Fortunately, you can create a Blu-ray compatible DVD, using a normal DVD burner.

The other alternative is to get your edited movie back into AVCHD format, which will play on a PlayStation3.

Mac

If you have a PlayStation3, RevolverHD for Mac can take an iMovie export and turn it into an AVCHD movie which will play on your PS3.

We are also working on the creation of true Blu-ray compatible DVDs, containing iMovie (or Final Cut) exports.

PC

If you have used Movie Maker to create your video, you can use export a HD WMV file which will play on the XBox.