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Many home digital video producers first got involved with video as a way of capturing moments in their growing family. As children develop, parents often want to document all of their milestone moments so that those fleeting minutes can last a lifetime. This is true for school plays, Christmas mornings, and sporting events. One of the most difficult of these is recording sports games, mainly because it is by design loud and crowded.
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Placing the Camera
The best option you have for recording a sporting event, and really any event that is happening in a fixed location, is to use a multi-camera setup. This could include two or more cameras each in different locations with their own set shooting style. This could simply mean two cameras set on different sides of the field or several cameras moving and getting different angles. If this is done then it allows an extremely dynamic final product that has more options for angles. If this is not an option, and most home digital video producers only have access to one camera, then you will have to make do with what you have. The first thing you have to decide is exactly what you want to see. Since things are going to be happening so fast once the game begins it is important to know exactly what things you want to document and at what angles you want. What tends to be best is to keep a stable position during all play times, then stop recording and reposition every time there is a change like at the beginning of an inning or quarter. You never want to change camera position while the action is actually taking place because you are bound to miss a stunning play.
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Minding the Image
One of the most difficult aspects of recording a sporting event is being able to follow the action with the camera. For example, following the baseball from the pitcher to the batter then to the player in left field can be difficult when wielding a digital camera on a tripod. The best way to approach this is to be zoomed out at the beginning of each play and then zoom into a fixed location once the action begins. Do not keep the camera zoomed at the beginning of the action because you will not be able to follow it as it happens. If you have a direct line of vision from the camera to the field then it is best to use auto-focus. This is one of the few times it is advisable because you will not have time to change focus as the action is moving. If you are behind something like a fence then the auto-focus will get confused and keep going back and forth from the fence to the field and you will have to use the standard focus You may want to lose the tripod all together and go handheld to get more freedom while shooting and in this case you absolutely have to use the auto-focus because your framing and depth of field are going to be constantly changing.
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In a production environment like this audio is going to be difficult no matter what. The onboard microphone will probably be your safest bet, but if you want better sound you can try connecting a large shotgun microphone to a wireless microphone set-up. You can then put that shotgun on a microphone stand and place it wherever the sound is you want to focus on. This could be near the referee or umpire or behind the dugout where your team is going to be sitting.
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Bringing it Together
Though it is not one of the easier digital video projects, keeping a record of the event can be a great addition to any home movie collection. Whenever possible it is advisable to bring more cameras, but either way you need to address the quick moving action by using the appropriate focus and camera movements. Remember, sports are one of the quickest and most intense institutions in the American society. Capturing it perfectly can be one of the most satisfying experiences of any videographer’s production history.