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10 Tips for Shooting Live Sporting Events with a Small Crew

Posted by Meredith Kain on September 23, 2014


Shooting live sports requires constant focus and sharp instincts. It is much like shooting a presenter at a corporate event, if the presenter ran around stage during their whole presentation. Sports are unpredictable and usually have constant action for a variable length of time. Here are 10 tips for shooting live sporting events.



Ten: Bring additional clothes in preparation for multiple weather conditions. Most sporting events occur outdoors, and it is wise to bring clothing accommodations for any anticipated weather conditions. Sunscreen and a hat are also important to shield yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Crews Control DP, Steve McMillan said “When shooting golf, I always have my Tilley Hat.”



Nine: When the production calls for a flypack, technical director, and switcher/ flypackmake sure you are asking the right questions in preparations. Are you recording ISO to camera? How long are the runs from camera to switcher? How are you recording off of the switcher? Are you doing a webcast off of the switcher?



Eight: Do you understand your media workflow? Sporting events don’t always have a fixed time limit. If you are recording ISO to the camera, have a plan for transferring footage from the cards unless you happen to be shooting to tapes or optical discs. Consider hiring a Media Manager, or DIT, to be accountable during the event for the transfer of the footage from the cards to a hard drive.



Seven: If you are shooting with multiple cameras make sure you match the cameras for editing purposes. If you are using a switcher, you will need to match the cameras for consistency when switching images. This may require a Video Engineer to match each camera, but different color conditions, exposures, and settings can ruin a multi-camera live event.



Six: Make sure to turn off all auto functions on the camera. When shooting a sporting event you want to have complete control over your camera. Steve McMillan says, “Also, don’t forget to turn off any steady shot function on the camera.” You don’t want the camera to decide which element it should focus on during the event.



Five: Make sure to scout the venue and plan before your production. If you have the opportunity bring your camera that you are using for the event, or a similar camera, it is good to create sample images from angles you may be shooting. The likelihood of issues arising dramatically increases if the first day you see the venue is the day of the sports event.



Four: Make sure either all of your batteries are charged completely, you are accessible to AC power, or both. Sports events can go into overtime, extra innings, sudden death, or extra time, and if you have only allotted for the original time of event this may cause an issue. If you are set-up far away from an AC power source, and your batteries start to run low, you could miss that game winning point.



Three: As with any kind of shooting, the more usable footage you can obtain from a live sporting event, the more opportunity there is for a technical director or editor to use the footage. So when following the action, try not to zoom in or out too quickly. If the action that you need to capture is happening immediately, obviously act quickly, but if you are just looking to change focal lengths make your moves more deliberate.



Two: Steve McMillan says, “Shoot with a full size broadcast camera with at least a 20x zoom lens on a solid tripod.” Although for some sports you will be shooting wide shots, you never know when the time will be needed to zoom in to the action. If you have a smaller camera, with a smaller lens and a smaller sensor, you may not be able to capture the event adequately.



One: Shoot with both eyes. With one eye in the view finder, or on the monitor, you should always keep one eye on the action. What you have in frame may not be as interesting as what you’re missing in your periphery. If you are shooting with only one eye, you limit what action you see to only the action that is occurring though your lens of the camera.



Capturing live sporting events for broadcast is an art done with huge mobile production trucks and a large crew. Often small multi-camera location crews or ENG crews also capture live events and being well placed, prepared, and having a sharp crew is essential for great video. Please share with us about sports or other live events that you have shot with a flypack and small crew here, on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.



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