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How to Shoot an Action Sports Video

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How to Shoot an Action Sports Video

Capturing the raw energy and excitement of action sports in a cinematic fashion is a challenging and rewarding experience. It demands a delicate balance of technical skill, artistic vision, and a deep understanding of the sport. Throughout my journey as a filmmaker, I've had the privilege of filming a variety of action sports, from parkour to base jumping, for both personal projects and branded content for companies like Canon and Red Bull. While every day I'm still learning and growing, I'd like to share some insights from the last 10 years of filming action sports.


How to Shoot Amazing Sports Videos

Capturing the essence of action sports on film demands more than just pointing a camera at the action. To shoot amazing sports videos, filmmakers and videographers must delve deep into the heart of the sport, understanding its rhythm, its athletes, and the stories waiting to be told. This blog kicks off with essential tips designed to guide you through the process of creating visually stunning and immersive action sports videos that not only showcase breathtaking athleticism but also tell a compelling story. From developing a strong concept and narrative, mastering composition and framing, to utilizing cinematic camera techniques and focusing on lighting, each tip serves as a building block towards producing a masterpiece. Whether you're capturing the fluidity of a skateboarder in motion or the high-flying antics of a parkour athlete, these tips will ensure your videos resonate with viewers and leave them on the edge of their seats. Let's dive into the art of filming action sports, where every frame is an opportunity to inspire and amaze.


Filmmaking Tips: How To Film Action Sports

Here are my essential tips to create a visually stunning and immersive action sports video that leaves the audience on the edge of their seats.


1. Develop a strong concept and narrative when making an action sports video

Before you start shooting, it's essential to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Develop a strong concept and narrative that will guide your video, whether it's an athlete's personal journey, a dramatic competition, or a showcase of jaw-dropping stunts. Having a cohesive story will provide a framework for your visuals and make your video more engaging. For example for a film I made for Canon with Storror, the concept was for Storror to get from europe to asia by parkour. You can watch it here:


2. Master the art of composition and framing when filming action sports

Cinematic action sports videos rely heavily on powerful visuals. Mastering the art of composition and framing will elevate your shots and create a more immersive experience. Experiment with different angles, focal lengths, and camera movements to find the most dynamic and visually striking compositions. Use the rule of thirds, leading lines, and symmetry to guide your framing.

3. Utilise cinematic camera techniques when shooting action sports

To capture the intensity of action sports, you'll need to employ a range of cinematic camera techniques. These may include slow-motion, tracking shots, aerial footage, and point-of-view shots. Utilizing a variety of camera movements and perspectives will keep your audience engaged and showcase the sport from different angles.

4. Focus on lighting when filming action sports scenes

Lighting and colour play a crucial role in creating a cinematic look. Utilise natural light effectively, and plan your shots around the best times of day for optimal lighting conditions. For example, I try and avoid filming in the middle of the day when possible as this creates harsh shadows on the subject. Instead, I love to film at sunrise and sunset, also known as golden hour because the warm, soft light during these times creates a magical and cinematic atmosphere. The long shadows and diffused light enhance the visual depth and texture of the scene, making the action and emotions of the athletes truly come alive on screen.


5. Capture high-quality audio when filming action sports and invest in sound design

The sounds of action sports can be just as exhilarating as the visuals. Creating a cinematic action film isn't only about the visuals; sound is 50% of the viewing experience. Invest in high-quality audio equipment to capture the sounds of the sport, as well as the athletes' reactions and the energy of the crowd. In post-production, layer your audio tracks to create a rich soundscape that enhances the overall viewing experience. Spending time on sound design will make your film feel more cinematic, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the action.


6. Pay attention to pacing and rhythm when editing action sports videos

Cinematic action sports videos should have a strong sense of pacing and rhythm. Edit your footage to create a dynamic pace that complements the energy of the sport, using a mix of quick cuts and longer, more contemplative shots. Consider the rhythm of the music and the beats of the action when making your editing decisions.


7. Choose the right music for your action sports video

Music is a powerful tool that can set the tone and evoke emotion in your action sports video. Choose a soundtrack that complements the visuals and enhances the narrative. Consider working with a composer to create an original score for your film or license tracks to create a unique and memorable experience for your audience. Sites such as Music Bed, Artlist, and Epidemic Sound are great places to look for original music.



8. Collaborate with action sports athletes and other filmmaking creatives

Working closely with athletes and other creatives can greatly enhance your action sports video. Athletes can provide insights into the sport and help you capture authentic and intimate moments. Collaborate with other creative professionals, such as sound designers, colorists, and editors, to bring your vision to life.


Best Video Settings for Action Sports

To capture the electrifying thrill of action sports, your video settings need to be dialed in perfectly. Here's how to ensure your footage looks great and isn't blurry:

  • Embrace high frame rates: Go for at least 60 frames per second (fps) or even higher. This gives you incredibly smooth video and enables those epic slow-motion sequences that reveal the beauty of complex athletic movements.
  • Freeze the action: Use a shutter speed that's at least double your frame rate (e.g., if shooting at 60fps, your shutter speed should be 1/120th of a second or faster). This minimizes motion blur, guaranteeing sharp, detailed images.
  • Go wide: Wide-angle lenses give your viewers a sense of immersion, showing more of the environment and how the athlete interacts with it.
  • Light it right: Adjust your ISO for the ideal balance of light sensitivity and image quality. Be prepared to tweak this frequently if you're filming outdoors where conditions change rapidly.
  • Focus matters: Use a fast, responsive autofocus to keep up with unpredictable movements. However, for scenes with predictable action (like a skateboarder always hitting the same ramp), switch to manual focus to lock in the sharpest results.

By mastering these settings, you'll be able to create action sports videos that truly bring the exhilaration to life.


What Makes a Great Sports Video?

A great action sports video captures the adrenaline and artistry of extreme sports through a combination of stunning visuals, dynamic editing, and immersive storytelling. It showcases the athletes' skills and the intensity of their performances with crisp, high-frame-rate footage that allows for smooth slow-motion replays of breathtaking stunts and sequences. The use of creative camera angles and innovative filming techniques, such as drone footage or POV cameras, brings the audience into the heart of the action, offering perspectives that heighten the excitement and scale of the sports. Effective storytelling is key, weaving together the athletes' challenges, triumphs, and the sheer thrill of the sport into a narrative that captivates and inspires. The soundtrack also plays a vital role, with music and natural soundscapes enhancing the mood and pacing of the video, ensuring that it resonates emotionally with viewers. A great action sports video is not just about documenting feats but about conveying the passion, culture, and community behind the sport, making the viewer feel as if they are part of the adventure.


Creating Cinematic Action Sports Videos

Creating a cinematic action sports video requires an expert balance of technical skill, artistic vision, and passion for the sport. By focusing on strong storytelling, powerful visuals, and immersive audio, you can craft a thrilling and unforgettable experience that will captivate and inspire your audience. Keep these elements in mind as you embark on your next action sports filmmaking project.

Written by Sebastian Solberg

Sebastian is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose credits include One Breath and the BAFTA-nominated film The Eagle Huntress. His passion for fostering emerging talent led to the creation of the Documentary Film Academy, an online community and educational platform designed to empower the next generation of filmmakers.

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