Shooting Sports and Action

Making shots predictable and mechanically attached to the camera is time well spent. For long lens close-ups if the subject can move in a circle, a rope to camera will keep them at a constant distance and in focus. For very tight shots of a face or feet, the camera on a free head in the middle of the circle can be panned in a circle with the person pushing or pulling a pole that is attached to a free head holding the camera. Both the camera, long lens and pole have to be easily adjustable to frame the shot exactly. 20 feet is a good working distance. Pole vault poles are light and can be attached to pipe at the camera and free head in the middle. A solid base for the free head is needed.

Shots like a diver hitting the water or pole-vaulter hitting the pad stop abruptly and difficult to operate. Practice helps and looking for cues already in the shot is better than the water or pad just coming into the bottom of the shot that give no warning. Close up hand held works well.

Wide is usually more dramatic if possible. The camera moving close to the ground gives more sense of motion.

Almost all sports and actions look better shot at high speed. The tighter you get the higher speed. We found that tennis on film looked strange at less than 36 frames.

You can make the most out of extras by filling the two bottom rows for pan shots or a block for a static shot. In stadiums, entrance tunnels fill areas where you don't need people.

In small towns you can get a lot of people to turn out for the thrill of watching a movie shot and a bar-b-cue. Hiring a comedian to entertain is often wise as the thrill of the movie biz wears off quickly. For real reactions get people to run around or play some of the game. You don't have to tire the actors for the reaction shots. Have someone watch for the most expressive people and bunch them for tighter shots. If people bring extra clothes and put them in empty seats it will fill a larger area for wide shots. Think about foreground elements that can block missing people.

Study a lot of commercials and films to see what others have done. Think about the music.

Retired and semi-retired champions often can't do very well at their sport. Be prepared to cheat with wide angles, cuts and close-ups. Always shoot lots of cut-a-ways and close-ups.

Often two or more cameras save time with the best operators on the longest lenses.

Think about how and who will be turn on and off a remote camera. You can use short ends and small magazines that run out if you think they will forget to turn off the camera.

Consider break-a-way plugs between camera and battery when appropriate.

Dramamine and sea sickness wristbands are recommended for even sea dogs on moving vehicles. Looking through the viewfinder is disorienting.

Tennis. Shooting a serve straight down as the ball is tossed at camera and hit with the racket is a good shot and 100 to 200 FPS. The wall covering and lighting of tennis courts is crucial. For back light dark green is good, but light green not so good. Explain what you want and good players can put balls pretty much where you need them for camera. Often different courts will work as the sun moves. Higher cameras will make fewer rows of extras needed. Block your shots so that the lighting is best for each angle. In the winter the sun is lower and makes careful planning important.

Track. Study and plan your day for the best light. Ask about other activities that might interfere. Shooting from the center of a curve keeps people in focus. Shooting from vehicles on the track, when allowed is helpful. Consider golf carts, ATVs, 3 wheel bicycles. Long lenses can make poor backgrounds better. Consider covering objectionable stuff with colored canvas other sports equipment.

Pole Vault. Consider a high camera. Remote heads can be too slow and difficult to operate following the jumper if close. For a super close shot of head and pole running; consider the automatic pan described above. The panning pole can be attached to the pole.

Cross-Country. Get camera low and wide for feet. Shoot through trees. Pace with a vehicle. Try the panning pole for close-ups.

Ski Jump. If the track is in the trees and it is hard to see the skier before he leaves the lip, start wider and zoom once he enters the shot. If you can see the skier before hand it is no problem.

Sail Boats. Pre rig cables to remote cameras on masts or a boom. In a wide shot a camera left on the mast might not be noticed.

Shooting from another boat "across the bow" is exciting if the camera boat has the power and an excellent driver.

Keeping lenses and cameras dry is a trick. Try wetting fluid and "Rain Dry". Dried salt water has to be washed off with fresh water. Think about cleaning kits in ZipLoc bags. Cameras can be sealed in a plastic bag with a front filter sealing the lens. This is only good for spray, not dunking.

Alpine Slides. Cameras can be pushed or pulled by the person. In front you can see most of their feet with a push rod to the camera rig. Make sure the camera rig is heavy enough. Select curves where you can get inside of. Rigs that have two handles with the camera's center of gravity in the middle works well. We made one where the batteries were inside the handles.

Roller Coasters. There are high "Gs" involved and rigging or even holding a camera is a problem. Keeping one's eye to the eyepiece is almost impossible. If one car is shooting another, there is a lot of relative motion and tilting is necessary for framing. Stops to limit moves on the tripod head and framing by feel can work.

Sail Planes/Gliders. Also high "Gs" in dives and maneuvers that show much ground and motion.

Drag Boats. Mounting cameras is a trick. The bodies are thin fiberglass shells and the accelerations are great. A camera coming loose during a run or crash could kill the driver. The noise is shattering. The acceleration unbelievable. You should go to a race before shooting one. Some use 24 volts to start their 1000 HP engine. Be careful hooking in.

Race Tracks. Horse and car. Again, get in the middle. If staging a race make sure riders/drivers know exactly where to pass etc. Radios might help. I have found some race drivers very helpful and others who don't give a damn even for their sponsors. Use unmanned cameras where ever dangerous. Don't even think that someone can pull an operator out of danger in time. Wet tracks can be dried by driving on them. Rigging in cars is great, but be prepared for "Gs" and roll bar sizes. I have found drivers usually drive a little too hot for operating hand held.

Fishing. Most of it can be faked except for a fish coming out of the water. It has to wiggle to not look fake. There is a guy in Florida that gets bass to hit a plug on cue.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.