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Sports videography


get this gear!

The first group, which I want to direct this chapter toward, is the parents of the players. Your group is one of the largest of all those who tape sporting events. I will assume you have read the basic pages, and you really want to produce an interesting and useful video.

Don't worry if your not a parent - I will be digressing a lot on this page, being a sports journalist is an entire study. If you want to really get with the program study. There are various books on writing sports stories for the news. Study how to write and organize a print story and apply the knowledge to video.
I will use the book THE STUDENT JOURNALIST ANS SPORTS REPORTING" by Harry Stapler, Library of Congress Card # 64-10396,published 1964 Richard Rosen Press, Inc. 29 East 21st Street, New York 10, N.Y. as reference.
You may be a member of my community, and are reading this at my recommendation, If so you realize I wish for you to aid in my efforts to document our youths sports events. We have many hours available to us for the play of these games and events on our cable. Where today I program 3 new tapes each week, If you participate with this project - many more of our children can be televised.

The average parent has little or no experience with the video camera, and quite possibly purchased the camera specifically to record their children.
If you have not already read the chapters one through 6 please go back and read them. Many of the tips you need to know are already written there. And for you who have read them, you are going to find some redundancy here, because I want this chapter to be one which can be printed and used for reference.


First of all, when you are video taping, you have the right as well as the duty to place yourself in a position where you can actually capture the event you are shooting. Insecurity, is natural when you first begin, but all sports events expect the camera people to be where they need to be. You will be told if you have placed yourself in an area which is forbidden. Then simply ask which of usually many areas you may shoot from.
Many of you take your camera to an event and then sit in the bleachers and handhold the camera. This is sooooo wrong, its wrong for three reasons.
1. You are interfering with the sight lines of the other spectators.
2. Hand holding the camera never produces really good video, it is shaky and usually poorly framed. The only place handholding is at all appropriate is on the floor close to the court, or on the sidelines of a field game. In fact using a tripod in these situations is forbidden, because the tripod represents a danger to the players.
3. In the bleachers you will have to stand and sit - stand and sit - and someone will obscure the very shot you want most in front of you.

At indoor events, look around and observe the professional camera crews, and behave as they do. There are rules of behavior,
1. be polite,
2. do not get in front of another cameraman and block his shot,
3. give way to the professional crews, their living relies on their work, they often show up well in advance of the event and set up their location.

Indoor Court events - I cover many of these events, and use the game-camera technique of documentation. You can watch any professional event, the actual game play itself will be from one camera, and this camera is normally high above the court at the centerline.
This camera position allows you to see the entire court, and game well.
You need to use a tripod from this position, please refer to the (tripod) section for how to set up and use the tripod.

A check list for your equipment

1.Your camera
2.Your power supply and battery charger
3. Three batteries minimum - charge your batteries as soon as you get home
4. two brand new tapes
5. Tripod and the plate to attach the camera to the tripod (if one). I have to stress the importance of a tripod - spending $100-$200 for a good tripod will be well worth the price. The number of people who think all tripods are the same, and buy the least expensive one is amazing. They end up with a tripod that is no good at all and actually defeat the purpose of using a tripod.
6. Headphones - Wal-Mart 5$
7. Handheld mike - Wal-Mart 5$
8. Roll of Duct tape
9. Extension cord - have an adapter to fit a two prong plug in - incase you are somewhere with older ungrounded wiring.
10. two large garbage bags (one for a rain coat - one to put all your equipment in)
11. a couple of small plastic bags to make a waterproof camera cover in case you need to shoot in the rain.
12. a 15 or 20 foot long extension cord.
13. Large diaper bag is one of the best camera bags there is, they usually have lots of pockets - and they are waterproof.
14. battery tester (one with leads) - small screwdriver set, pair of pliers.- small flashlight(with extra flashlight batteries)
This list of equipment is the basic, I recommend you put together this list and keep it together. You will find every thing listed here useful and necessary


I will present a series of scripts as idea starters.


The parent will naturally want to just shoot the activities of their player, but I insist this is a mistake. You should instead include the player as part of the game and only make a close-up when he or she becomes the central person in a play. By making the tape tell the story of the game and focusing on your player, only when they are doing something exceptional you will produce a video which will be interesting and have a lasting appeal to the family. Your son or daughter will be as interested in the other players as they are themselves.

When you are shooting a game there are two alternatives, 1. only shoot the plays, or 2. Shoot the entire game.

These two events are similar, in that you will have a wide shot most of the time. There are only a few moments that will allow you to zoom in for one or two people' shots.
Volleyball zoom in shots.
1. Before the serve you can do a portrait shot of the server, watch the referee and with his hand motion start zooming out to your wide shot.
2. Who ever scores - zoom for a hero shot. - catch the hi 5's
3. The time out periods - zoom in to the group
4. zoom in for substitutions
5. zoom in to the refs and line judges when appropriate.
6. zoom in to the coaches when they show emotion - happy - sad - or mad
7. zoom in to the score board at every time out.
8. zoom in to the net and frame a nice shot showing the final pass of the teams.

In Soccer - you seldom zoom in close - you want to show as many players as possible all the time. This sport really needs a camera on the sidelines, which you will edit onto your main tape. If you have one camera concentrate on your team and your goal - you will move from the centerline to the goal area shooting. Here you can try for really tight hero shots. You will loose the ball at times. If you get behind the goal and shoot through the net - manual focus your camera - at infinity - so you don't show just the net.
Remember you are telling a story with both cameras, lower on the page is a list of possible shots.

Soccer zoom in shots - game camera
1. the starting kick off zoom in to show the ref and the kicker and zoom back wide before the kick off for the action. 2. In soccer the ball is really traveling fast, and it is easy to lose, so always lead the action ( put the empty part of the screen in front of the player, so if they kick the ball you wont lose it.
3. zoom in for the throw in - again back wide to catch the reception
4. corner Kicks - zoom in while they set the ball - the wide showing the kicker and the goal --other wise you will lose the score if there is one

5. Dribbling contests - where the player with the ball is head up with another player, go in to a two shot at the most -- and be ready to zoom wide when they pass the ball.
6. Injuries - zoom in for the story -
All sports camera operators should know the game, because you can develop an intuitive style - you will know that when the person with the ball pulls their foot back they are going to pass it. The cameraperson who will second-guess the action on the field will tell the story of the game in a more interesting way.

This technique produces a fast pace tape, by leaving out everything but the plays. A camera operator and one play-by-play announcer, will be able to co-ordinate their taping and narration, if the cam-op will simply make the same hand signal for starting and stopping each time. He starts just before he makes the signal and stops just after, giving the announcer an opportunity to wind up the phrase. The announcer keeps in mind the last statement, and attempts a continuity each time he speaks.

The announcer does not say "WELL WE ARE BACK", OR ANY VARIATION, EVER. If the announcer starts saying "we're back", that will become the main comment on the tape.
I recommend this style for five reasons,
One. you will have a one-hour or less tape for the game.
Two. The coaches can use it for training better.
three. The shorter tape will be easier to program on cable.
four. Your gross expenses will be less in material costs and time investment.
five. You and your announcer can be anywhere on the field or court and you can move between plays.
the second elaboration of this technique, requires the announcer to keep in mind the shot list below, by using this list -pointing out to the cam-op - one shot can cut to the next and make sense. The announcer can announce the shot, or simply pick up the narrative thought on the tape. If the "Band", (for example) was the shot cut to, the announcer may not have said anything, and could choose to comment on that shot or simply go on with the game play. This technique works because there is a time lapse between plays, and you can observe if the team is slow or fast to the line, or if there are a lot of flags and time-out periods.

When you shoot the plays by themselves you are creating a 'Game Tape', this is the type video the coaches use. The camera starts recording as team leaves the huddle, and stops with the end of action, when the referee blows his whistle. This is repeated for every play of the game.

Continious Coverage

The continuous coverage, means you turn the camera on before the game starts and turn it off at half time, or for long time out periods.

Getting the play is the hard part, If you are looking through the viewfinder at the quarterback and have a wide enough shot you will be able to see if he is passing-off, running or throwing the ball. If the ball is passed-off you can zoom-in to a closer shot, If running widen out to see the play - will the tackle catch him, If passing widen out watching for a 'sack' and be ready to follow the ball wide -- zooming in on the receiver when appropriate.
Your announcer can tell the story of the receiver on the kick off, and you can have a wide shot of the line up, which has found and zoomed tight on the receiver for the catch. As soon as the catch is made widen out so you can see the run and the play - defense and offense players.

If you are shooting for a coaching tape, you show the entire line including the ends and then zoom in loosing the ends and show the primary line, all the players on both sides. You will not zoom in any further than this, the coaches want to see how all the players performed.

Pass plays -- you can see if the quarterback hands the ball off or if he steps back and sets for a throw. Follow the person carrying the ball and try to keep him centered in the frame. On a pass play - put the quarterback on the side of the picture so he will throw into the empty frame. try to keep the ball in the frame at all times, and as the ball is reaching the receiver, try to have the receiver centered in the frame.

The rule of the thumb for zooming in, zoom in just enough to be able to read the numbers on all the jersey's, while at the same time keeping the largest number of players in the picture as you can.

TENNIS - Tennis is a simple coverage - place your camera high at one end of the court - looking at your player - most of the coverage will be wide so you can see the entire court. If you are going to zoom in for close up shots, you will do it between serves. This sport can use a second camera low and on the sideline for close ups and cutaways -
Close up shots
1. parents - spouses
2. coaches
3. Judges
4. ball boys
5. serves and returns - don't try to follow the ball when down low. rather frame the shot and shoot with a fast shutter speed - you can slow motion the shot later. or freeze frame the shot.
6. Stay on your player at the end for the winning shot - the play and especially the reaction to the win.
7. post game ceremonies and awards. shoot from a low angle and make the player seem bigger than life.


SWIMMING - This sport is problematic - the pools are crowded and close even with only a few people at the event. The air is wet and steamy, which can cause your camera to stop working.
With approval and co-operation from the event I have a simple track set designed which you could use to follow the leaders of the even up and down the pool -
One camera at the start finish end of the pool can catch the dives and the finish and do a reasonable job of following the action. This camera will also be good for the close up of the hero of the event.


You will need to practice shooting diving if you are to follow the dive well. go to as many practice sessions as possible to learn to be in close enough and yet wide enough for you to follow the diver and not lose them. Shooting this event would be best done with multiple cameras.

1. wide and 90 degrees to the side
2. wide and at a 45 degree angle to the side
3. high and behind the diver
4. follow camera - for the close up. - preferably on the same side as the diver will exit the pool.

Your tape of this event will be one, which you will want to edit - cutting in as many different cameras as possible.
If you can have a play by play - announcer - for the commentary it will really help in the editing. The commentary will take much longer than the action of the event and you can cut in all of the other cameras and do slow motion and still shots over the top of the continuous talking.


You will want to get the wide establishing shots of the entry to the location and the sign-up areas - hands signing - papers filled out - numbers accepted. The cross-country events really need a series of cameras - Locations
1. Start line
2. Finish line
3. place where you have the longest fields of views - places where you can track the runners for a long time.
4. good views of the downhill runs.
6. get the warming up shots
7. shots in the finish shoot where the runners are cueing to be listed
8. Shots in the final rest area
9. shots of the medic tents
10. drink and lunch bars

These are heavily edited tapes if you have a number of cameras to work with. You will want your camera operators to make clear distinctions on the tapes - showing the program or race list between each event is a good way.

If you only have one camera you will want to plan out all of your moves from one position to another - you will move from the start area to a series of locations so you catch the runners over and over - you will try to be at the finish line in time. You will need to walk your route before the race so you know where you are to be -- In a real sense you are going to be running your own race doing this type of event.

The play by play for this event will be a really hard one - it will probably be best to do a voice over following the editing of the tape, and report the event as it is seen on the tape.

Everything is going on at the same time, how many cameras can you put together here, if you want to cover every event you will have to have many camera operators.
If you can have a coach or some one for your play by play, for each one of the events the tape will come out better - all of these events will be start and stop shooting. you will need to have many batteries for each of the cameras for all of these track events. It is really disappointing to shoot and shoot only to have you battery die at the finish line, or before the event has finished.

Baseball - Fast pitch - Softball
Single camera coverage of these games is really hard, because all of the action is happening all over the field at the same time. Multiple cameras live switched are the best solution.
Three cameras all at the same center location behind the home plate are a simple solution.
Use three cameras mounted on tripods one a wide shot showing the entire field
a second camera zoomed in to show home - the pitchers mound - and second base
the third camera - is operated and follows the ball or catches the play. it will be a judgement call on the photographer's part.
With this minimum of cameras you can make an acceptable continuous game. The announcer for this event is all-important - Ball games have as many cameras as possible to keep the pace going. A good announcer will make or break these programs.
One of the simplest things to do is a feature on the game - shooting and editing out the best shots into a program.
With this type of program you and your announcer will have to become real journalists. Well as a matter of fact for any feature where you have to edit this is true.


You are a storyteller when you shoot in this manner. Ask yourself first --??How many stories are there to tell??--Lets make a CHECK LIST

The National Anthem and School Songs are always good places to begin the video, but is not strictly required

1. the game itself
...a. the warm up period
...b. the entry to the field
...c. the coin tosses
...d. all of the plays
2. the referees
...a. the ball boys
3. the coaches
...a. Assistant coaches
...b. Trainers
...c. doctors and nurses
4. the benches
...a. the whole bench
...b. individual players
...c. injured player
...d. the water boys
...e. the trainers and medics
5. the cheerleaders and spirit group
6. the stands
...a. parents
...b. students
...c. band
7. Band
...a. marching in
...b. half time ceremonies
...c. in the stands
8. security
9. the ticket booth
10. the booster club and other groups selling
11. the snack bar
...a. the servers
...b. the customers
12. close up shots of balls and equipment
13. close up shots of ankles wrapped, or hands doing something
14. any unusual activity - by anyone - but tell the story from where you find it to its end.
15. Document illegal activities, and tell the officials you have the footage -- offer copies these tapes to them.
15. The press box, and all of the individuals and the activities there.
16. The Stadium Announcer and Score Keepers

You have noticed all ready many of the shots on the list cannot be made from the game camera position.
We now will jump to the coverage of an event with two cameras. The field camera and the game camera.


There are video and audio transmission technology under development at present, which will enable any field camera to transmit A/V to a switcher, these will be lightweight and easy to operate. Being free of cabling will change the techniques for sports coverage a great deal.

I have already mentioned the soccer techniques but this section will include ideas appropriate to soccer as well. The field camera operator, does not shoot continuously, this camera is capturing the plays and interest shots.
We will only consider the camera is free and without direction, you are calling your own shots.
Accept the fact that you cannot shoot everything at the same time, pick the shot you are trying to get and don't be distracted. You might even miss a touchdown but you will get the reaction to the touchdown. The reaction is just as important as the play itself, when you are preparing a hi-lite tape or participating in a project where your footage will be edited into the program later.
The list includes all of the shots you could ask for. but others will appear to you when your shooting, try and capture them.

It will be almost impossible for you to use a tripod for the field camera, but a monopod can be used.

Try for DRAMATIC SHOTS - the camera on the ground as the players run past, the extreme close up shots of action and faces.

The field camera should try to capture the face of every single player - at least on your own team - sometime during the game. This will not take long and these shots can be frozen as still pictures --


If you have never been an announcer, remember you job is to keep the tape interesting. You do this by always having something to say, and by being excited about what you say, also by making what your statements sound important.

Before the game collect information to include during the action and, where there are breaks in the action of the game.
1. the rosters of both teams, and hi-lite the starters
2. get the program if any and read it quickly - announce the schedule for upcoming games and any other significant information.
3. ask for histories and biographies of the players and coaches
4. get the statistics for the team

2. DONT SAY 'WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK" OR "WE ARE BACK", instead talk about what is going on --- if your camera is breaking at time out periods - the camera man will give you a hand signal - finish your sentence and stop . The cameraperson will give you a hand signal to start talking again.
3. DONT TRY AND BE FUNNY - YOU WILL SOUND STUPID - have fun and be happy - but jokes will almost always hurt someone' feelings.

Here is where the handheld microphone comes in - the simplest way of recording play by play is to have some one do it live for you. Just plug in the mike to the camera, hand it to the announcer and listen with the headset. Below we will investigate other solutions.

The addition of an announcer on your tape will raise the quality of the program you produce, the play by play will make your tape one which people will really watch and enjoy. Again there are two ways, One 1. Use a radio and, Two 2. have your own people capturing it live.

If you are using a radio again there are two ways to record it.
1. have a small portable radio, with fresh batteries
2. have a cable with a male plug on both ends
3. plug the cable into the headset of the radio and the microphone input of the camera.
4. Use headphones and monitor the audio for volume
5. a common mistake is having the volume on your radio too high, being too high it will distort and sound awful - turn it down.
6. THE SECOND METHOD - A fail-safe is to have someone at home record the game on cassette.
...a. you will copy this tape to videotape
...b. you will edit the video tape copy of the audio - onto the video of the game.

7. This technique Works.

you need:
...a. A telephone splitter - to plug into the back of the radio play by play converter. one line will go to the radio station the other to you.
...b. 50 to 100 feet of telephone cable - you will have a telephone inline connector, which goes to your
...c. converter from telephone to mike level - this is a simple 'Radio Shack' item used to tape record phone calls
...d. if you are limited to the amount of equipment you want to carry, just feeding the signal direct to the camera.
...e. a good set of head phones - .
...f. the next level is to have an audio mixer and feed the signal from the announcers in one channel and have a crowd mike in another channel. you can then fade from one channel to the other and keep the audio interesting.

Your own announcers, this presents an entire new level of complexity. From a technical point of view, The simple way is to plug a hand held mike into the mike input of your camera - monitor with headphones - and let them talk.

If you use two mikes, the complexity increases, you need an audio mixer, two mikes, perhaps 3 (the third for the crowd sounds).
If you have this level you will really need an audio operator to maintain the levels, and while he is doing this you can include a cassette with pre-recorded sponsors messages - and announcements - you may have an audio open and close with music -


Getting back to the original premise, that you are a parent shooting for your own home record. If you follow the above script, your player will enjoy it because you will have captured a story showing many of the important people in the life of your child.

The school or the team itself my wish to use your tapes for seasonal hi-lite tapes.

If you are shooting a game camera - your tape may be used for coaching

If you shoot in the digital format - your footage will be acceptable to the news media. both for still shots and video.

You may live in an area with a Public Access Television Station, these stations will play your entire tape in their programming. Read the chapter on PEG and Cable Stations.

Cities, which only have cable but no access stations - will often have a channel that will play your tapes. It will simply be a matter of calling them and asking.

Many cities have low-power television stations - many of them are Christian stations, often they will offer low cost air time - or provide air time for free. this type of programming benefits them and can increase their rateings, Even enabling them to gain cable slots.
Towns and cities, which do not have 'Public Access Television' often, have a channel which only plays a slate with the time and weather -- sometimes the cable company will play your tapes on that channel - ask them.

Multiple Camera productions

This is a description of a professional production unit. Multiple camera productions will come to age soon for the small Production Company when wireless transmission becomes a practical solution. At present, these setups are very complicated.

I am including this for contrast to the simple one camera operation.

Now we have reached the professional level of production. Be ready for a full day of setup and testing.

You may have a chance to work on one of these crews on one of the most basic levels, if possible take the job. This is one of the more interesting and educational jobs you can have as a beginner.
The production trailer is pulled to the site, by the semi truck and is waiting the next morning for the staff member and the crews to arrive. Your first job will in all probability pulling cables, operating a directional microphone, or a runner (passing notes and delivering messages).
The day begins with the set-up of the arena or stadium. Cables both audio and video are unloaded from the truck and you will string them out to each of the camera locations. No you won't be alone, and the staff technicians will check everything you do. Each Camera operator will be in charge of setting up his camera position, you may be assisting him in this. The Game and Chase cameras will be high and centered on the game area. They will have large professional tripods, and the cameras are in many sections, the camera body, the monitor, and the lens. The lens itself will weigh 20 to 40 pounds, just the front glass lens will be 6 or more inches across. The camera body will have a control cable which attach it to one arm on the tripod and the lens will have a focus cable to the other arm. The cable, which you ran from the truck, will be attached to the camera. A headset with a microphone will be connected to the camera also.

These cameras, allow the camera operator to do many different things. He can view the actual broadcast signal, or view just his own cameras out put, the head set allows him to talk within his circuit, hearing the camera director and the other camera operators.

If you are assigned to the audio crew, again your first job will be running audio cables to all of the locations, The announcers will have sets of cables the field or the court will have cables, the monitor locations and so on.

There is no set rule for how many audio locations will exist. Each one will have a cable a mike and usually many connections and cable joining's between their position and the Production Van.
The audio crew will always encounter more problems than any other of the crews will. cables will fail, or microphones, they will be patched to the wrong locations and so on. You will be running everywhere, doing, redoing, testing and so on, until the job is set for the game.

All of the above will take hours, sometimes the entire day just to be ready for the event that evening.

A few hours before the event is to begin, staff meetings will be held and everyone will be told their exact duties for the event. The camera operators will be told what is expected, and portions of the script for the event explained where necessary.

A camera crew will have been taping interviews, and getting shots of players to be stored in the "still store" for on air reference when one of them deserves special mention, for example a star or the line up. These stills will have - names and statistics superimposed over them. The interviews will be used in the pre-game show.

The person operating the Character Generator will have typed in the names of all the players, coaches, all of the statistics for both teams. The pages indexed and ready for the event.

In the truck will be a tapes position, this position will have a stack of tape players where the interviews are played from. Also each camera position will have a deck recording their output. These tapes will be used for "instant replay".
The tape operator will, monitor the cameras and re cue all the decks that captured the significant plays, and the director will call for that deck and the operator will play it, by direction form the producer/director.

The control room for the game will have 50 or more monitors, a bunch of computers, at least two video switchers. One end or side of the production van will be full of monitors. The two largest will be the preview and program monitor. there will be a monitor for each camera, and tape deck input, the still store, and the character generators, and a monitor of the network or television station playing the program.