Which Video Camera should I buy for sports filming?
Back in 2014 I put together a series of Blog posts with some tips on Equipment and Software to get started in Videography and applying those in the world of Sports filming to help get the most out of your video analysis for your chosen sport.
I’ve been working as a Videographer for just over 10 years now, starting with Royal Engineers RFC. After filming a couple of matches as a favour I developed a real interest in the video side of things and began to edit highlight packages and promotional montages on my old Windows computer.
Back then I was filming on a small JVC Camcorder which was only standard definition 4:3 format but I enjoyed filming games and also putting together promotional videos and wanted to explore more of this line of work.
I have worked with several military sports teams for a number of years now, either focusing on the more analytical side of things or producing motivational/promotional montages. Most recently I have spent the last few years working with the Army Rugby Union team as their analyst – filming Matches and Training Sessions and working with the Coaching team to edit packages for review as well as uploading and tagging full games on the Coach Logic platform.
I have been fortunate to travel to many great places with several teams, such as USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong & Europe and produced work for the USA Eagles, Samurai International team and worked with many Army Sports including Tennis, Hockey, Netball, Water Polo/Swimming & Football.
So what has changed since 2014?
Three years is a long time in the Technology world and Video/Editing has come a long way since 2014. 4K video is well established now and is supported by popular video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo (who even support up to 8K now!) – I’ll talk more about this later in the blog to see if recording in 4K would benefit what you need from your video camera.
In terms of video cameras for sport, they are now more affordable and accessible than ever. Even if you are working with a small budget for your team it is pretty easy to pick up a good quality camera, with accessories and Tripod to enable you to video games and training.
It can be a bit daunting when searching through video cameras and picking out something that will suit your needs. Equipment isn’t cheap and you want to spend wisely to buy a camera/tripod, etc that is good quality and will last you for many years. That being said, you don’t need to fork out thousands of pounds on a camera when something cheaper will do the job just as well to meet your needs.
For the moment I’ll focus mainly on Camcorders for this blog touching on some of the other accessories you may need – but I will take a more in depth look at other useful equipment in the next blog.
So what to consider before starting out?
If your team is just starting out and looking at a budget camcorder you can pick up a decent quality camcorder for a few hundred pounds. Before buying, it is important to factor a few things into your budget;
- The Video Camera itself
- A good Tripod
- At last one spare battery
- Memory Card (SD Cards)
I’d say those are the key items for a basic set up, and there may be other accessories you may wish to add after a while of using your camera, such as a waterproof cover, but I’ll go through accessories in the next blog.
A site such as jessops.com is a good place to start when looking at camera models and prices. You can use search filters to look at camera in a particular price range and also check out accessories for different models. I’d also suggest looking at other websites to shop around and check out the best deals for any model you might have your eye on. CVP.com is also a site that I have used previously which offers a wide range of cameras/accessories, etc.
An example of a good camera to start off with is this Panasonic model – HC-V770.
It’s a compact camera that will enable you to travel light that comes in with a price tag of £400. It’s Full HD, with an Optical Zoom 20x great for getting full coverage of sports pitches with image stabilisation. It is simple to set up and use and records to SD Cards, meaning you can swap out a card when it’s full and quickly carry on shooting.
This is just one example of a good starting camera, other makes such as Canon, Sony offer their own line at a similar price point. Each has their own array of features which may suit your needs better than others. An example is the use of slow motion – some camcorders offer a ‘Slow Motion’ mode which can record at frame rates up to 120fps (frames per second) which provide smooth playback and may be suitable to capture things such as bowling technique during training, or Tennis swing, etc.
Most cameras offer a few different shooting modes for frame rate – 30, 50, 60fps. I usually shoot at 60fps on my main camera – this allows me to slow the footage down, if needed, whilst still getting a good smooth playback – it’s worth noting that if you have an older computer it may be a bit slower when dealing with footage taken with a higher frame rate when it comes to the editing process. For shooting sports it can be handy to go with a higher frame rate, either 50/60 fps, but not essential if you can only film at 30fps.
Models such as this are relatively affordable and still give you a good range of recording modes and ability to make changes on the go. Some of the smaller models may not have a great selection of connection ports so it’s worth checking if you have a particular need, such as external audio options if the camera you are looking at can provide them.
Could Coach Logic make your team better?
Coach Logic is a collaborative video analysis platform for sports teams. Our software improves the use of video in performance analysis and brings teams closer together by putting learning and engagement at the forefront.
I need something better than an Introductory camera!
If you’re looking at a slightly higher spec model and have a bit more to spend then something like this JVC model may be an option.
As you can see from the image, it offers a bit more in functionality with more in built camera options and additional audio support for external microphones with XLR ports. A Focus and Zoom ring are also available which can be easier to control with the larger dials at the front of the camera, along with an ND filter, for use on sunnier days when out filming. It also offers 4K recording if you wish to use it. All round it is a good mid range camera model with a price around £1,200. Again, other manufacturers are available with their own similar models, this is just to give you an example of a camera around this price point.
There are a great selection of high end models which come with their own high end price tag. Most of the ‘Run and Gun’ Video Camcorders which come with the larger body start off just under the £2,000 price bracket and rise from there. Sony, Panasonic and Canon offer a selection of 4K camcorders offering higher end shooting modes, such as 4K 60p.
The Sony FDR-AX1 and Panasonic HC X-1000, shown above, are examples of the higher price range of camcorders. Again, it is worth looking at your needs as a team and researching yourself into the specifications of the various models. For most, the higher end cameras won’t be necessary, particularly when just starting out with video analysis.
A good low-mid range camera will generally suit most teams fine and allow you to capture Full HD or 4K footage allowing you to record your team and playback in great quality.
Are 4K video cameras worth the investment?
When looking at 4K shooting, it is important to first check that the computer you use to edit can handle the larger files that come with 4K video. Due to the greater detail and larger file sizes, older computers can struggle with the added work load during the editing process. 4K can be useful to crop a particular piece of video if you wish and its greater resolution gives a better clarity then HD but, to be honest, shooting HD should be more than adequate for most at the moment.
I use a Panasonic HC X-1000 to film as my main camera – It can shoot 4K at 60fps, however I tend to shoot HD 60fps as I find that suitable for my current needs. It’s good to have a 4K camera for the future when no doubt I will use 4K more often but for the moment I find HD is great for what I need.
What to do once I’ve finished filming?
I use a 15” MacBook Pro to edit all of my video footage and upload to Coach Logic – I upgraded a couple of years ago after my older MacBook Pro began to struggle with the increased workload and larger video files. You may prefer Mac’s over PC’s or the other way around – I personally have used a Mac for many years and really like its functionality and reliability and it works great for my needs.
To edit, I use Final Cut Pro X – available on the App Store for £300 (one off payment). It’s a fantastic piece of software that I really enjoy using to edit all of my videos for either breaking down footage for coaching purposes and creating promotional/motivational montages for teams. I’ll talk more about editing software in a future post and other cheaper alternatives.
OK, I’m ready – what final hints and tips do you have?
If you’re new to using a camera I’d recommend getting out and practicing with it as often as you can just to get used to it with your tripod, camera zoom and other functions. You may just be filming a wide shot to cover most of the pitch or you may need to focus on a particular player and follow the action more closely. The more you shoot, the quicker you will get used to using your particular camera and equipment and you’ll get better at framing the action in shot and following as it moves around the pitch.
I have been working with several Rugby Union teams for many years now and really enjoy filming the sport, with its physicality and speed, it’s great to film pitch side close to the action as well as up in the stands focusing more on the coaching/analysis side.
It’s important to stay focused when you’re shooting, keeping your concentration on the action and anticipating where the ball may be going next ensuring you keep a steady shot even during moments of tension and drama.
Different sports come with different challenges and styles of filming but after a bit of practice you’ll feel more and more comfortable behind the camera. By practicing and playing about with your camera settings you’ll find what looks and works best for what you need. You can set up and start shooting straight from the box and then as you become more confident see what more your camera has to offer.
One particular piece of advice I’ve heard and find relevant is that it’s not all about having flashy/expensive equipment, it’s about how you use it and make the most out of what you have. Even if you have a tight budget you can still get a lot out of video to film, edit and ultimately help your team become better in the coaching process.
I hope this has helped to give you a bit of an insight into cameras and where to start if you and your team are looking to get more involved in video analysis.