(Or more appropriately, how I shoot high school basketball video)
My first real journalism job was as a sports writer at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore. Shortly before I got that job the paper had discovered I could shoot and edit video.
Of course I could do them both together, right?
Until then I had just shot news video, so when I got the assignment to start shooting high school basketball that winter (almost three years ago) I went everywhere I could looking for tips. I hit the B-Roll.net forums, SportsShooter.com and anywhere else that listed even a few hints.
So now, three years later, here’s what I wished I had known then.
Location, Location, Location
No matter how good your camera or how polished your skills, your basketball video will look terrible through the back of the ref’s neck or sitting on a shacky set of stands.
Most college and NBS shooters set up under the basket and shoot sitting on the ground. I’ve found in high school that doesn’t work as with fewer refs the zebras claim the whole baseline as their playground. And many high school gyms have one or both baselines as a walkway. So while possible to claim that area (because you’re a professional journalist doing your job, damn-it!), it’s not always the easiest spot.
I always claim a corner, normally at the bottom of the left baseline. I stay a few feet back and to the left (back, and to the left …). Make sure you have a clear shot of a scoreboard and hopefully the two benches.
The other option of course is to go up stairs and shoot from the middle. I’ve never been a fan of this. It takes you too far from the emotion of the game. You’re reaction shots are going to be looking down, not at the same level of the players. If you think of the replays you see on ESPN, normally you see the u-top to start and then the second on is from the floor to show emotion. That’s what you’re looking for.
Always use your sticks
While a lot of sports shooters like to go sans-tripod, I always use something for basketball. Where I set up is usually out of the way and my tripod doesn’t claim a lot of real estate. If it doesn’t feel safe enough with three legs, there are a lot of goof mono-pods that can do the trick.
Having a steady shot just adds a look of professionalism to your shots. There isn’t that shake that can be jarring, especially when following a quick game like basketball.
Framing and following
Basic, but I normally try and keep full bodies in the shot with a little shooting space. Once the ball is in the air follow it as best you can. When someone drives to the basket pull out a little bit and be ready to follow the rebound.
When teams are trying to set up a shot always follow the ball, not the player. That ball is what we’re all there for anyway. It will help keep the shot steady because you won’t be falling for every crossover and ball fake.
Follow the shooter
This is part of the emotion I was talking about when I going over shooting from the floor.
After every basket follow the scorer for a few seconds. It will help set up the voice over and every once in a while you’ll get a nice scream or a chest bump that will help the video pop.
Shot lists are a must
I’ve never shot a game without a notebook and never left without a complete set of game notes. If you’re putting together highlights a strong set of notes are absolutely irreplaceable.
My notes normally end up looking something like this:
1241 32-12 S 23
Basically it’s just timecode, score, team and player number. When I get back to the office to edit I pick around 15-20 plays, find the timecode and load the 15 seconds prior into Avid.
And having everything written down really speeds up the process of writing voice overs and deciding what plays to keep. Take a few minutes at halftime to look over your notes and see where the ark of the game has gone.
There’s more to the game than the game
In Salem ever high school has a cheering section, but Sprague has developed a reputation as the oddest and most entertaining of the area.
While it’s almost required at each high school that a group of seniors show up in ’70s era short-shorts and jerseys, Sprague takes it to another level.
There is the sumo wrestler, the shaker of salt, afro-man and of course Pooh Bear. Not only are the costumes good but the chants aren’t half bad either.
These guys are tailored made intros and help break up what could otherwise be nothing but highlights. Same goes for coaches and other fans.
Fans are also good when (especially in girls games) free throws start deciding things at the end. A free throw is often boring. A fan reaction almost never is.
Still, know a little bit about the game
It’s always good to know a little not only about the game of basketball but th two teams playing. Are they an uptempo matchup, or will there be lots of post play? When the point guard has it at the top of the key is he trying to swing it outside or push it down low? This can help you anticipate action and make sure you know where the big play is going to be.
Here’s my most recent video. Not my best, but I think you’ll see some of the things I was talking about.