Monday, 1 March 2021

OT - Sports Video & Photography

Some people have asked me about the setup I use for filming & streaming live hockey matches (although this would apply to most live sports).

So the first thing to say is that I'm very much an amateur & beginner myself, but I've picked up some good tips from those around and done a fair bit of research and trial & error.




Setup

The setup is a mix of software and hardware, some used pitch-side and some used from anywhere.

One thing to remember is that video files get big quickly, very much dependent up on the video source resolution & format, and the compression codecs used, I film at 1080p 50 frames/second MPEG4 35mbps which generates about 16GB of data files per hour. Not only does your camera need to have enough storage capacity, but remember the time take to transfer files from cameras to PC, the storage needed to keep both these 'raw' files and the subsequent processed files.

Many cameras, including mine, will seamlessly split a single recording into multiple files, so for a 1hr match I will typically have 5 files of circa 3.2GB each - later these will need to be joined/concatenated into a single file as part of processing before uploading to an analysis / sharing service.  

Notes

I have 3 distinct sets of kit:

    1. The video match recording
    2. The live streaming
    3. Stills photography

Not all of the equipment below is needed although it's all found it's way into my bags.

Most of the points would work with many different makes of cameras.

Video Equipment

Video camera

Canon XA35 

https://www.canon.co.uk/for_home/product_finder/camcorders/professional/xa35/

A great video camera, with strong optical zoom, multiple control points, great audio controls & inputs, and dual HDSC cards for vast storage

Lenses

XA35 standard

Wide angle Canon WA-H58

https://store.canon.co.uk/canon-wa-h58-wide-attachment-lens/8640B001/

Microphone

Quickly I realised it was good to have a directional microphone to focus noise pickup towards the game and action (away from the side-lines), but also to minimise environmental noise (wind & rain). RØDE was an obvious choice re quality, cost & ubiquity (spares, interop etc). The VXLR+ minijack adapter was only needed to use with the pro audio interfaces on my XA35 camera.

RØDE VideoMic Pro+ Compact Directional On-camera Microphone

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0749GV5L3/ 

RØDE VXLR+ Minijack to XLR Adaptor with Power Convertor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B071LNDKBJ/

RØDE DeadCat VMP+ Artificial Fur Wind Shield for the VideoMic Pro+

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07D14L3LH/ 

Tripod

Manfrotto Befree GT Carbon

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/befree-gt-carbon-fibre-tripod-twist-lock-ball-head-mkbfrtc4gt-bh/

Tripod head

Manfrotto MH055M8-Q5 Photo-Movie Tripod Head

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/magnesium-photo-movie-tripod-head-with-quick-release-plate-mh055m8-q5/

Camera Quick Release Plate

Neewer Rapid Connect Quick Release Sliding Plate Camera Mount with 1/4" and 3/8" Mounting Screws for Manfrotto 501HDV 503HDV 701HDV MH055M0-Q5

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MNA7E7W/

Magic Grip

Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/super-photo-clamp-without-stud-aluminium-035/

Magic arm x 2  (1 for monitor & 1 for mobile phone)

UTEBIT Magic Arm 11 Inch Adjustable Articulated Arm Camera Arm with Super Clamp Max Load 3KG Magic Arm Camera Mount for DSLR Rig Camera, LCD Field Mon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07KS9VVVT/

LANC controller (for remote zoom/focus/record control)

Varizoom VZ-Rock Zoom Controller

https://www.proav.co.uk/vz-rock-zoom-controller

Monitor

Feelworld LUT6 6 Inch 2600nits

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08F9ND8RQ/

Mobile phone holder

Neewer Cellphone Holder Clip Desktop Tripod Mount with Mini Ball Head Hot Shoe Adapter for 14-inch and 18-inch

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07D3K9C8R/ 

USB Capture

DIGITNOW! Video Capture Card HDMI to USB 2.0 Audio Video Capture Cards HD 1080p

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0895N9KM5/ 

OR 

ExtremeCap UVC - BU110 (works well as a more expensive equivalent capture card)

https://www.avermedia.com/gb/product-detail/BU110 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/AVerMedia-ExtremeCap-Uncompressed-Supports-BU110-White/dp/B0745KP298/

You will also need an Android Mobile phone for capture input and live streaming (I use a Google Pixel 4XL but most android phones will work) - Apple phones will not work (I know blame 'Uncle Steve').

Cables

Duttek Mini HDMI to HDMI Coiled Cable 4K 2.5m

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B087T5N9NM/ 

HDMI <-> HDMI Coiled 2.5m

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B087TPD2R2/ 

USB 3.1 (female) <-> USB C (male) 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B077FY7831/

Software

Shotcut - open & free video editing & encoding, for post match video work

https://shotcut.org/ 

Coach-Logic - for post match coding, analysis and clipping to players

https://www.coach-logic.com/

CameraFi - for live streaming of matches

https://www.camerafi.com/camerafi/ 

YouTube - for live stream viewing and restricted on-demand playback

https://www.youtube.com/ 

USB Camera - Connect EasyCap or USB WebCam

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.shenyaocn.android.usbcamera 


Other photography equipment

DSLR Camera x 2

Canon EOS 6D

https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/dslr813.html

 Lens x 3 (main use)

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM

https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/ef345.html

Canon EF 500mm f/4.5 L USM

https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/ef307.html

Monopod

Manfrotto Element Monopod Aluminium Red MMELEA5RD

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/element-monopod-aluminium-red-mmelea5rd/

Monopod head

Manfrotto MH496-BH 496 Centre Ball head - Black

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/496-centre-ball-head-mh496-bh/

Stool

Mini Max Stool

https://www.minimaxstool.com/

Bags

LowePro 

LowePro ProTactic BP 450 AW II

https://www.lowepro.com/uk-en/protactic-bp-450-aw-ii-black-lp37177-pww/



Positioning

For filming, height is good here, both being as high up as possible, and in keeping the camera position as high on the tripod as possible.

For match analysis, most coaches will say end of pitch views are better than side-on views as there should be less camera movement.

If there is a filming tower, and you have permission and know how to use it safely then this is normally the best option - some have camera mounts, some have tripod spaces, some you need to be creative with. But always remember to take a drink with you as it's normally 90mins up a tower.

If the pitch is a fully caged one without a tower (as often found at education facility pitches) I tend to film from a couple of metres behind a baseline corner flag, but paying a lot of attention to the live game and moving balls!

For stills photography, couple of points here

    1. Remember where the sun is in relation to the pitch, to avoid 'wash out' or glare
    2. I tend to find close & very low to the pitch works best for capturing the 'being part of it' aspect
    3. If you're looking for general images the centreline can be fine, but if you want action (or using a long lens) then pick an end of the pitch and shoot from there (I tend to find somewhere around the baseline to 23yr works well)
    4. Always remember to keep clear of the sidelines to allow players, coaches & officials free passage
    5. Always pay attention to where the ball is and where it is going, hockey balls hurt & can be very expensive when you don't avoid them!

Weatherproofing

A good pair of 'mechanics' gloves are useful during the cooler pitch days - thin enough to operate controls but good enough to prevent frostbite :)

But it is key to weatherproof your electronic equipment as much as possible, most good lenses have a good degree of weather proofing, but only the top end commercial cameras tend to have proper weatherproofing needed during a typical hockey season weather. I've already had to send my XA35 to Canon's pro service centre due to rain damage on a zoom control button - great 2 day turnaround CPS service but £180 I'd rather have kept in my account.

For my EOS cameras I use Canon ERC-E5M

https://store.canon.co.uk/canon-erc-e5m-camera-rain-cover-medium/1759C001/

For the XA35 camera I use CamRade WetSuit XA30/35

https://www.camrade.com/products/wetsuits-rain-covers/camrade-wetsuit-xa30-35

For everything else, and for when I don't have the above, I use these bags with a hole torn and elastic bands:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07TXRMVY6/

Filming & Sharing

Always ensure you have permission from all clubs & officials in order to film - this is best arranged via email in the prior week (we do it when the captains message each other re logistics etc)

Always ensure that you following SafeGuarding and GDPR guidelines with all footage - some events, venues or leagues will require that you complete additional paperwork here.

Whenever I film I also offer to share a copy with the opposition coach, and also with the umpires & officials, it's useful for all. Indeed there have been several times where the umpires have asked to review the footage during/immediately after a game, other times where I've had to prepare normal, slow-mo and zoomed versions of footage for people after a game.

Hints & Tips

  • Be careful when filming behind fences - whilst you can easily control the focal length on the DSLR lenses, the auto-focus on the video camera loves to focus on the fence not the pitch. I found this out the hard way when we had a new extension catch fence in front of the camera tower!
  • Remember you're filming the full field of play and not playing "follow the ball" - try and keep as many of the players in view as possible, it's these formations & player positioning that the coach needs to be able to see
  • Manage the optical zoom of the video camera to keep both side-lines in the view where possible - I use the Varizoom VZ-Rock control (mounted on the video head pan/tilt arm and connected to the remote input on the XA35) to make it easier to control the zoom - but this does need practice!
  • Keep the pitch in view, you don't need the skyline, surrounding areas or spectators etc
  • Batteries run down a lot quicker in the cold, in my bags I normally have 10 fully charged DSLR batteries, a couple of fully charged batteries for my video screen monitor, and 6 of so extended capacity video batteries. I tend to find for a full match I might use 3 DSLR batteries between 2 cameras, 1 video monitor battery and 2 video camera batteries. For streaming you also need to remember a power backup for your phone as the streaming is fairly heavy on the battery.
  • Remember you're filming the match not watching it - it's easy to be still thinking / looking at something and not to notice the game has moved on
  • Remember the microphones pick up everything - including the noises you make behind / beside the camera, and also the noise of a DSLR shutter!
Live Streaming
So for me at the moment, the live streaming setup breaks into a number of areas:

  • Camera to Application
  • Application to Platform
  • Platform to Viewers 

Camera to Application

So I use my Canon XA35 camera connected via HDMI to the "DIGITNOW! Video Capture Card HDMI to USB" card which in turn is connected to the Android phone via USB. This then allows the video camera to appear as an input device on the phone. It needs to be Android as Apple devices don't support USB input in the same way at all :(

 Application to Platform

The application I use is CameraFi Live https://live.camerafi.com/ which allows me to take the video camera USB input as a live source, 'top & tail' it with intro effects etc, add overlays such as a scoreboard and then export the stream real-time over the network (using the phone's 3/4G or wifi connection) to a streaming platform (currently YouTube, but looking at https://restream.io/ for multi channel broadcast)

I'm still  very much learning with CameraFi Live, as it's got a lot of functionality.

https://blog.camerafi.com/

https://blog.camerafi.com/2020/02/faq-camerafi-live-faqs.html

A couple of overview links re how simple a setup you can do from Camera to Application:

https://youtu.be/CSB4J53f6gs 

 Platform to Viewers

This is as simple as sharing the link to the user community and them watching it on the device & location of their choice. 


What's next?