Have you ever watched a sporting event or action movie and wondered how did they shoot that? Large productions benefit from the advantage of using multiple resources. The 2018 Super Bowl had 76 cameras, including two SkyCams and 20 pylon cams. The action of a Hollywood movie could be the result of the same setup, shot over and over from different angles with the final scene is cut together into one seamless sequence. But even if you’re only using one or two cameras, and there are no explosions or car chases, there are still some techniques that come into play when shooting video with action and movement.
As with any video production, shooting video with action and movement depends on planning. Pre-production is the legwork that goes into a project before you ever pick up a camera and it can be the difference between a successful shoot and disappointing footage. Taking the time to create a shot list and familiarize yourself with the sport or action sequence that you’ll be shooting will put you in the driver’s seat on shoot day.
Think about what kind of action and movement you’ll be shooting. Are you recording a football game? Someone running through the woods? A car weaving through an obstacle course? With a clear idea of what you want your finished video to look like—a storyboard can be hugely helpful—it’s easier to plan the position of your camera for each needed shot.
Composition for Video with Action and Movement
Shooting video with action and movement calls for patience. It’s important to keep shooting until there’s a natural break in the action. If you’re recording an entire game, keep the camera rolling and stay mostly on a wide shot. A lot of zooming in and out will just make the viewer nauseous. Let movement play out before you stop recording so there’s a natural conclusion or segue when it comes time to edit.
A cover shot gives action context. If you concentrate on close-ups, the viewer may literally lose sight of what’s happening. Speaking of context, pick a side. When shooting a sporting event, changing sides of the field can confuse the person watching. The shift in perspective is disorienting.
Steady as She Goes
One of the challenges of shooting video with action and movement is combating a shaky camera. First of all, push in only if you have a good zoom. Otherwise, your shot will not only look shaky, but you’ll also lose quality. If you can, start but physically getting closer to your subject, then zoom in. Using a tripod to lock off your shot is another way to steady your camera.
A gimbal is a piece of equipment we find indispensable on shoots. It allows our camera people to be mobile and shoot action with a smooth look. What’s a gimbal? It’s a device used to stabilize video, and it’s probably easier to just show you the mechanism at work.
A higher frame rate is the best option for action footage that will be shown in slow motion. Consider a great diving catch made on the football field. The first look gets the wow. The second look lets a viewer really see what’s happening, especially if it’s in slow motion. At a higher frame rate, more frames are being captured every second. That means more of the action is recorded, allowing video to look smoother. For comparison, interviews are shot at 23.9 frames-per-second (fps). Videos with action and movement are bumped up to 60fps. Here’s a good example of how changing frame rate affects the look of an action shot.
Increasing shutter speed is another effective way to capture video with action and movement. Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the shutter is open and exposed to light. A video shot at 24 fps uses a 1/50 shutter speed. Using a faster shutter speed has the effect of freezing the action, while a slower shutter speed can create motion blur. Capturing action at a shutter speed of 1/120 should result in clear, sharp footage of the action.
A point-of-view (POV) shot is a highly engaging technique used to shoot video with action. When you experience what the subject experiences, there’s a different level of involvement. These shots can quite literally put you in the driver’s seat. Or on the skateboard or in the huddle. Looking at the football field through the eyes of a runner dodging tackles gets your heart racing. A camera that’s turned on the athlete’s face in the same situation shows their reaction and can make for very compelling footage when the two perspectives are cut together. The trailer for I Believe I Can Fly has some stomach-clenching POV shots.
Shooting video with action and movement is possible with a few adjustments and some video knowledge. The camera operators at Key West Video know how to capture footage that keeps pace with a project. Call us today for a free quote on a video that shows your business in action.