With school sports back in full effect, the volume of sports packages being rented is at a seasonal high! To ensure our customers the very best support, we reached out to pro sports photographer Matt Maniego to see if he could recommend an ideal video kit to create high-quality keepsake memories of your kiddos on the field. Read on to find out what his years of experience have to teach you to stay ahead of the curve!
Shoot Professional Quality Video for Children’s Sports
When approached by BorrowLenses to explain how I would shoot track and field sports, my first instinct was to go into detail about how great cinema cameras are. But then I realized that they could be quite technical and certainly not lightweight! Instead, I reverted back to a saying I learned when I first started shooting: Keep It Simple Stupid or, in short, “K.I.S.S.”
It didn’t take me long to narrow down my selection to a Sony a7S. It is by far one of the best cameras for video right now as it’s easy to use and it has an articulating screen. The only drawback about this camera is battery life, but we’ll chat about that a little later. I also opted for a Metabones adapter so I could mount my previously-owned Canon glass, the Canon 24-105 L and Canon 70-300 IS L (saving me a little extra money).
The Sony a7S has had unprecedented success among users who shot video on DSLRs, like the Canon 5D Mark III, mainly because the sensor technology is so much better. Essentially, it’s a downsampled 4K video file, meaning it’s capturing at 4K and squeezing the image down to 1080p, which results in sharper footage. For increased benefit, companies such as Metabones have introduced adapters that allow Canon lenses to mount onto Sony camera bodies, avoiding the expense of new glass. (Nikon FX to Sony NEX adapter is in the works.)
The Dynamic Range on this camera is crazy! The short film above was filmed only by moonlight. The Canon 5D Mark III simply can’t touch this camera in terms of Dynamic Range.
Interested in slow-motion made popular by the iPhone’s easy-to-use camera function? Don’t sacrifice quality for convenience on this one. The Sony a7S records in a higher bitrate resulting a cleaner image for home videos with much better quality.
Most reviews will be in favor of the Sony except for its battery life. On a Canon 5D Mark III you can shoot all day on about 2-3 batteries, depending on usage. The Sony a7S doesn’t meet this mark, so make sure you have or rent extra batteries and/or a battery grip if you plan on shooting longer than 3 hours continuously.
The benefits of having much better footage outweigh the battery issue tenfold. You’ll be very happy shooting your videos on this camera and, with the added benefit of shooting in slow-mo, you’ll be able to create ESPN-like highlight reels just like on TV.
For lens selections, I would first go with the Canon 24-105mm f/4L for its good zoom range and parafocal quality, meaning you can set focus then zoom in or out and it will still be in focus. Not too many photo lenses do this. The maximum aperture of f/4 is great for action since your focal plane isn’t too shallow. Technically I would recommend shooting between f/5.6 – f/8 if you can to allow room for error, especially when shooting at a wide angle of view.
If you are struggling with dim lighting and a narrow aperture, a wonderful aspect of the Sony a7S is that you can increase your ISO without fear of having the footage becoming too grainy. On the flip side, if you are shooting outdoors in bright daylight, you might want to bring an ND filter to help prevent over-exposure.
If you aren’t able to be close to the field, or you’re interested in a longer focal length, I would suggest the Canon 70-300 IS L for its Image Stabilization (IS) and parafocal quality. It will allow you to get close to the action without being there physically, i.e. you can shoot from the stands without getting in the way of the other spectators. Shooting with a telephoto will take a bit of practice but it will isolate your subject from all the surrounding visual distractions.
One last component for quality image capture would be a video monopod. It’s compact and allows you to be in many different situations without a large footprint. Coupled with the Image Stabilization on the Canon 70-300 IS L, you will have a very stable setup. I like to position myself on the opposite end of the field when shooting with this lens.
When navigating up your camera settings, I would recommend shooting 120 FPS @ 1080p for the duration of the game to give you optimal selection of footage to convert into slow motion afterward. Just make sure you have a 64GB UHS-3 SD card and you’ll be good for about 2-3 hours of shooting. The other positive aspect of shooting 120 FPS @ 1080p is that your video editing program will play the footage back in real time with audio. If you manipulate the footage to be played back in “slow-mo” it can make for some epic cheering moments with the section sounding like monsters, which can be pretty funny.
Always have your shutter speed set to double whatever frame rate you are shooting. This reduces motion blur that you might find when shooting at slower shutter speeds. For example if you shoot at 120 FPS, choose a 1/250th of a second shutter speed.
Now that you’ve got all your gear and settings down, here comes the fun part: shooting! One epic shot is to get up close and personal while shooting with the wide end of the Canon 24-105 f/4L – for example, during warm up or practice. Shooting wide and getting close to the action makes for some pretty awesome slow-mo shots, too.
When shooting with the telephoto Canon 70-300mm f/4 lens at the long end of the focal length, I tend to capture more detail shots. Think about focusing on hands, feet, facial expressions, sporting gear, etc.
Keep in mind that since you’re shooting in 120 FPS, you’re actually capturing 20x more information than normal. Try to limit your shots to when your team has a possession, or anticipate your team getting the ball. Moral of the story is that shot selection is important because you’re going to have to sort through all the footage back at home. So make each shot count.
And when it’s all said and done, you should have a final product that can represent joyful memories of a game, season, or even lifetime career! If you have any tips or questions, please share below. Check out our other sports package recommendations for the gear that best suits your needs.
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