by Sean Setters
One of the greatest features found in current Canon DSLRs is a Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (DPAF) sensor which allows for easy and smooth autofocus tracking in video mode. This capability alone is a compelling reason to upgrade cameras if your current camera lacks the DPAF feature.
On that note, I was recently asked to film a high school basketball game and create a highlight reel of the team. I had never filmed or produced a sports highlight reel before, but here are a few things I learned during the process.
1) Small, inexpensive (even variable aperture) Canon STM lenses work great in moderately well lit gymnasiums.
When photographing indoors sports, I typically rely on very wide aperture prime lenses in order to achieve the fastest shutter speeds (to free action) while keeping my ISO as low as possible (for the cleanest possible images). However, an action-stopping shutter speed isn’t a requirement when shooting video. Optimally, your shutter speed should be double the reciprocal of your video frame rate. That means that when capturing, for instance, 1080p video at 29.97 fps, your shutter speed should be 1/60 second.
At 1/60 second, even lenses with a max aperture of f/5.6 can be used in reasonably well lit gymnasiums without requiring the use of your camera’s highest ISO settings to achieve a proper exposure. For the game above, I used a Canon EOS 7D Mark II combined with the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lenses, with the same manual exposure settings of f/5.6, 1/60 sec., ISO 2000 employed for all of them.
And with STM lenses in-use, AF transitions are smooth and AF sounds are [typically] minimized (though the ambient sound level in a gym with cheering/jeering fans can drown out a substantial amount of AF noise).
2) A monopod is really helpful to have for stabilizing video and reducing fatigue.
Lenses with built-in image stabilization are certainly handy, but a monopod with a tilt head is a relatively inexpensive universal stailization solution that is especially handy when using prime, non-stabilized lenses (like the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and EF 40mm f/2.8 STM). You can easily pivot a monopod for horizontal panning while using the tilt head to track subjects vertically (be sure your monopod features a rubber foot that will not damage the gym floor).
3) Where you can position yourself on the floor will depend on the most conservative referee’s consideration of safety.
For the game shown above, two referees were perfectly fine with me being anywhere along the baseline or sides of the floor. However, one particular referee requested that I go no further than about 5 feet in on both ends of the floor. Gyms offer differently sized areas designated as “safe zones” around the playing floor, and those zones are often up for interpretation. Respect the referees and the venue by following all rules, regulations and requests to ensure you can film in the same venue (or in another venue with the same referee crew) in the future.
4) Record everything that could result in a great play and use your camera’s Rating feature to mark the best videos recorded.
After I got home from the basketball game, I had recorded over 100 individual videos. Unfortunately, I had to preview each one to determine whether or not it was worth including in the highlight reel. While previewing, I marked videos that I would definitely include with a special character (I added an underscore) and videos that could possibly be used with another special character and moved uninteresting videos to the trash. This left me with only the videos I needed for the highlight reel.
After going through my organization process, I realized that I could have simply rated the videos right after they occurred, opened up my memory card in Digital Photo Professional 4, filtered by the star rating and then only copied the relevant videos to my hard drive to begin with, quickly culling the videos that weren’t interesting enough to use. You can even distinguish between “will use” clips and “possible filler clips” with a two star and one star rating, respectively, to further expedite the organization process.
5. In post processing, separate the video and audio tracks and extend/blend the after-play audio with the next play’s audio.
When an exciting play happens, the crowd usually cheers afterwards. To best capture the drama, preserve some of the audio captured just after an exciting play and blend it into the following clip. Even if the clip doesn’t feature a cheer-worthy play, blending a clips audio with the adjacent clip(s) will ensure the audio of the crowd sounds natural.
Offering to shoot highlight reels is a good way to earn a little extra income and gain exposure (especially if wearing a t-shirt displaying your photography/videography services brand) while getting to enjoy a sporting event up close. And, not only does the team get something awesome to show for their efforts, your highlight reel could possibly help a student get noticed by college scouts resulting in a scholarship offer.
That sounds like a good deal for everyone involved.