Here is a short conversation with our founder, Carl Schneider, on shooting sports video.
What’s your background and how did GoodSport.Video result?
I started out as a still photographer – that was over 25 years ago. I began in high school by shooting the professional beach volleyball tour, which was based in my home town of Hermosa Beach, California. From there I expanded into shooting other sports and grew to the point where I was regularly shooting major ad campaigns for some of the largest Fortune 500 companies.
As I saw changes happening in the photography industry, I made the shift to directing video. Shifting to shooting video of sports was a very natural progression since the subject is so perfect for this medium. A still photo can capture a moment, but a video clip (and especially an edited sequence) can really tell the story much better. GoodSport.Video was launched out of this newfound excitement of shooting sports in this new way.
In your “about us” on the site, you say that you’re in the business of promoting the benefits of sports. How so … apart from providing amazing sports footage being used by some pretty great brands, of course?
I see our role as larger than just providing great sports footage. I recognize the countless benefits of sport and our mission is to promote all of these benefits to the end viewer. The athletes we work with are incredibly inspirational to myself and my goal is to capture this inspiration and use my footage to inspire others to participate in sports.
How do you approach your shoots?
I try to capture the entire experience – from preparation, to the peak of the action, to the final moments and the trip home. Everyone has different reasons for doing sports. For some, it’s an escape, for others it’s exercise, the thrill, the challenge, the camaraderie. For most, it’s some combination of these elements. I always try to figure out what makes my athletes tick and then capture their whole experience and the range of emotion that goes along with it.
What kinds of sports imagery is most commonly requested today?
With video, clients really want to tell a compelling and believable story. It’s always about the story. Video can really put the viewer in the middle of the action and in the shoes of the athlete. What’s it like to be that person? What is their experience? What does it feel like to slide down that monster wave or mountain? It is very aspirational as well as inspirational!
Footage buyers are always looking for authenticity. It only takes half a second to know if an athlete is faking it. We never fake it or would ask our athletes to. We only shoot expert athletes in each sport and would never ask an athlete to do a sport or movement that they are not already doing every day. When we set up our shots, even though we may ask our athletes to do the same move dozens of times, we don’t make it easy for them. We want to capture their full effort on every take. We work our athletes to complete exhaustion and that’s a good thing. Often the final takes are the best since they show more desperation in the expression of our athletes.
Now first-person (aka point-of-view) video is normal and expected. It’s experiential filmmaking and it puts the viewer in the middle of the action. A few years ago this was still novel and unique. These shots are more common now, but when done well, they are still a very effective tool to help tell the whole story.
What do you specifically like about shooting sports (other than promoting its benefits)?
I love the unexpected randomness of sports. It is always controlled chaos – you can never completely control or anticipate what will happen. I’m always looking to capture something that’s elusive and fleeting. It’s these fleeting moments that summarize the experience of playing sports. I’m not always exactly sure what I’m looking for, but I know I’ll recognize it when I see it.
I also love the sculptural forms that the human body makes and how energy is transferred through the body and into objects (balls, boards, etc) and the environment. It’s the ultimate mix of science and art. When an athlete is at the top of their game, their movements look completely natural and their energy appears to flow naturally and effortlessly. Expert athletes know how to transfer and leverage energy through their bodies with perfect form and without any wasted effort.
We do extensive pre-production planning before every shoot. We have all of our shoots pre-planned with detailed shot lists. However, during a shoot we only use these shot lists as a starting point and outline. We know that there will always be moments, angles, and action that is even better than what we had planned and we do a lot of improvisation as we go. We are constantly looking for these moments and push ourselves – as well as our athletes – to capture them.
What are some challenges specific to shooting sports?
Outside of our camera work, our single most difficult logistical challenge is avoiding logos. Of course, all sporting goods equipment and clothing are covered with logos. We have developed a props and wardrobe department with all kinds of sporting goods equipment and clothing that we have modified to deal with the logos. We also have a huge art department kit that we bring on every shoot full of every color and kind of tape and generic labels that we had custom made. It’s not good enough to just remove or cover logos. Since the viewer is used to seeing logos all over sports equipment and clothing, it would not look natural to just remove or cover them. We must deal with them in other creative ways and make generic-looking logos where appropriate.
Any favourite element for shooting: surf, sand, snow, streets, playing field? How so?
My single favorite element when shooting sports is the unexpected. Next to that, it is the intangible. I have learned to look for certain things from each sport and location while shooting, but there are always great surprises. Experience has taught me how to find and recognize these surprises when they present themselves – to expect the unexpected – and then capture them in camera.
After the unexpected and intangible, it all comes down to lighting. When shooting water sports, for example, I love how the light plays off the surface of the water. This light is constantly changing. I used to avoid what I thought was “bad light”. However, I have come to the conclusion that there really is no such thing as “bad light”. All lighting can be worked with and it comes down to what the filmmaker does with it. Sometimes a bump of fill light can make a big difference. Other times, adjusting my angle a bit to find the specular highlights can turn an otherwise plain shot into a very dramatic one.
What are your three must-haves on a shoot?
1. great athletes
2. amazing locations
3. interesting lighting