Mario So is a well-known filmmaker and photographer who specialises in visual storytelling and high-impact product commercials and is also a part of the ZHIYUN creator’s club. In this guide, he shares his tips on capturing the best video and photographs at major sporting events.
The Commonwealth Games will be held from 28 July to 8 August 2022 and could be the biggest sporting event of the year. If you’re lucky enough to have tickets for this or any other prominent fixture, taking the perfect video will be something to share and marvel at in many years to come. If you want to film like a pro, this is what you need to be doing.
Live and breathe your sport
Extensive knowledge of the sport you are shooting will show in your footage. By being passionate about the sport you are filming, you will be more able to anticipate where an athlete is going to move for those next-level shots.
It takes practice and dedication before you can feel your shots by instinct, so the more events you capture, the more you will understand where to go for the best images. Watching lots of sports games will also give you a better idea of what players to look out for and understand what the audience likes to see.
Freestyle shots for an immersive experience
Filmmakers (amateur or pro) can create an immersive experience for their audience in so many ways, including by following the action with close-up shots of, for example, outdoor or extreme sports.
Raise the camera; (we like using the Sony a7siii for its great video capabilities) above your head for an overhead view of the action or sweep in lows for added drama. One way to do this while keeping the camera steady is by using a gimbal.
Gimbals offer versatility, and lightweight models like the Weebill 3 (above) or smartphone champions such as the SMOOTH Q4 offer more freedom for you to move around and try different techniques such as freestyle shots and can be used to get the perfect dolly shot.
Why not capture the classic push-in or pull-out shots you see onscreen by moving your camera steadily forward or backwards?
Alternatively, you can hold your camera or gimbal vertically or inclined, push in at a low angle, tilt up or down, and pan. The options are almost endless. You can shoot some excellent sports footage as long as the camera is steady and facing your subject.
Smooth, dynamic action shots
To get the best out of your footage, ensure your camera is in focus and steady. The Sony A6600 offers a compact body with excellent autofocus. With many sports, like basketball, you still want to be mobile – which is not always possible with a tripod.
Standing in one place, follow your subject with the camera by rotating your body and camera in the same direction as your subject is moving. This is a great shot for those sports that require the camera to stay focused on a moving subject over a shorter distance, such as a cricketer running between wickets or swimmers.
Capture action from all angles
With a gimbal, you’ll get smooth footage that shows the action from all angles. This is called a parallax shot – a 180 or 360 rotating motion that places the subject in the centre of the frame.
Parallax shots are particularly suited for slower, indoor sports like snooker, darts, or chess and work best if you’re a short distance from what you’re shooting. Your subject can be stationary or mobile.
Beautifully unbroken shots
This type of shot is called the handover. Equipment like gimbals makes it possible to hand over the camera to another operator mid-shot for continuous, unbroken filming.
Take parkour, for example. Users stand on different levels, handing the video stabiliser to another operator while the initial subject leaps and rolls over obstacles. For extreme sports like these, getting a gimbal with a secure locking system for your smartphone or camera is always a great idea.
Fast-paced, long-distance action
Be ready to capture the action from a moving car or motorbike for fast-paced, long-distance sports such as cycling or marathons. You can film as you walk, run or bike alongside your subject too, depending on the sport.
Professional photographers should consider the Sony A9 Mark II to capture shots that need to be delivered to a news desk or website quickly…with super-fast WiFi transfer, a class-leading autofocus system and attractive burst shooting. This camera is leading the way in sports photography.
Non-stop wide shots for breathtaking angles
For extreme or winter sports, filmmakers can opt to record the action while also participating in a sport such as skateboarding, skydiving and skiing. While it does take fitness and certain skill from the videographer, the potential results are worth it.
Stabilise your camera as you follow your subject for a start-to-finish action scene. Make sure you choose equipment durable enough to withstand a few bumps along the way.
Getting great audio
Great audio is a key component of the video. When shooting outdoors or where there is an audience, there are various factors that you need to be aware of, such as the weather.
Strong winds and background noise could interfere with the microphone and negatively impact the sound quality. Noise-cancelling microphones, a dead cat, or capturing your audio with external recorders can be of great help.
Capturing smooth shots of sporting action is easy using a camera stabiliser. Here are three of our top picks:
- Crane M3 – professional, 3-axis gimbal, claiming five industry firsts for looks, unmatched versatility, easy operability and trademark high-performance ZHIYUN design. The CRANE M3 is compatible with smartphones, action cameras, and full-frame mirrorless cameras with certain lenses.
CRANE M3 £329.00 from the official ZHIYUN store.
- Weebill 3 – portable, high-performance gimbal for DSLR cameras. Incorporating a new SLING 2.0 design for improved ergonomics, a built-in microphone, fill light and a powerful, inbuilt battery supporting all-day use
WEEBILL 3 £449 from the Official ZHIYUN store.
- Smooth Q4 – aimed at on-the-move filmmakers, live-streamers, vloggers and influencers, the new 3-axis stabiliser is designed for super quick-shooting capabilities and ultra-creative output, day or night.
The Smooth Q4 is priced from £119 on the Official Zhiyun store.