Guide to Filming Your High School Athlete: What you need in a video camera

Original footage for a recruiting video comes – generally – from one or more of three sources:  game film for the team, parent film of the player, or game film from a showcase or viewing tournament.  Using both game film and parent film is a good combination since you get footage from a distance and also close up video.  Game film is usually taken with a wide view; parent film is usually taken with a view that is tighter on the player.

In this three-part blog, I want to focus on the parent video:  what you need in a camera (part 1), camera comparisons (part 2), and framing the video (part 3).

First, you don’t need a $3,000 camera.  Neither do you want a $100 one.   There are a few things you need, though.

1080p – or more specifically, 1920x1080p.  This refers to the resolution and is tied to television technology.  Since the early TV sets weren't able to display the entire picture on the screen without the top fading by the time the bottom was visible, manufacturers came up with a system in which only half of the lines of the display were refreshed each cycle, while the alternate lines were refreshed the next cycle. This is called interlacing and it sometimes results in distortion if the images are those of a quickly moving subject.

TV technology has significantly advanced, and progressive scanning was developed. This is what the "p" in 1080p stands for, as opposed to 1080i, where the "i" stands for interlacing. A TV that's 1080p doesn't display a picture using odd and even lines, but rather the entire image is seen at once, similar to movie films. Digital high-definition (HD) TV sets boast 720 or 1080 lines that make up the image displayed, which gives a higher resolution. Since 1080p is smoother than 1080i, it does a better job, especially when capturing sports events and other action footage.[1]

The downside of higher resolution is that the video file size is larger.  My typical file size for a 2 hour game at 1080p is 10 Gb – that’s GIGA-bytes.

Higher resolutions are emerging.   4K is here and 8K is coming.  4K UHD is a resolution of 3840 pixels × 2160 lines and is one of the two resolutions of ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution targeted towards consumer television, the other being 8K which is 7680 pixels × 4320 lines.  These higher resolutions make beautiful video but will expand the storage needed significantly. I don’t personally think you need a camera with this level of resolution for the purpose of game films or recruiting videos, though over time that will change.  There is some benefit to using a 4K game video in a recruiting video in that we can zoom in during post-production and maintain HD quality.

Memory – you need enough memory (aka, storage) to record a two hour game.  The exact amount of memory you need is a function of the recording format (e.g., MTS[2], mp4) and resolution.  Look at the technical specifications on-line to assess this. 

Cameras will typically have one or two options:  internal memory or memory cards, referred to as SD cards (Secure Digital Card).  SD cards are an extra expense, but can also give you a larger storage capacity.  They function a lot like an external hard drive on your personal computer.  My JVC camera has two SD slots, each with 4 hours of recording space at 1080p.  My Sony cameras use internal storage, and both work for a standard length game.  Internal memory does cut it close sometimes, though.

Auto – unless you plan to become a video professional, you will probably use only the auto setting on your camera so be sure the camera comes with it.  All cameras in the consumer or prosumer categories will come this way; many consumer cameras come ONLY this way.  I’ve never found a need to go off the auto mode when recording sports games made for coaches or for recruiting videos.

Remote zoom control –zoom is my best friend.  I constantly zoom in and zoom out to adjust the size of the viewing field.  Assuming you are filming from the middle of the field or court, you’ll want to zoom in closer as play moves to one end and zoom out as the play moves closer to you to maintain a consistent view.  I find 12x (optical) zoom to be sufficient for a game filmed on a playing field the size of a football field and filmed from the stands.  The same concept applies if you are filming a specific player.

The other factor is “remote”, meaning the camera should include an input jack for a remote controller.  If you are holding the camera (not recommended, see part 2 of this issue of the blog) then this isn’t necessary or useful.  However, if you are using a tripod or monopod to support and stabilize your camera (as you should) then a remote zoom controller will make the zoom much easier to manipulate. 

Light sensor size – bigger is better.  Generally this won’t be a deciding factor, but note that more expensive cameras often have larger light sensors.  Larger light sensors capture more light, differentiate colors better, provide more depth of field, and will perform better in low light[3].  An in-depth discussion is beyond the scope of this blog, so let me direct you to two articles:



Next time we’ll continue this discussion, talking about some cameras and how to best frame the shot for a recruiting video.  Stay tuned.



[2] MTS:  MTS is a file extension for an AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition) video clip format for high-definition video.  This is a common format for consumer and prosumer video cameras. 



Bill PratherComment