How To Film Extreme Sports

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Apple Store on Regent Street in London with Jamie Barrow on ‘How To Film Extreme Sports’.

Jamie talked about his background as a Team GB athlete, his injuries and his reason behind wanting to these speed records. I then went on to explain how we go about filming them, the equipment I use and the challenges I face doing this in extreme environments.

The event was really fun and we met some brilliant people – thanks to everyone that came!

Here are some pics from the event:

If you’re interested in the content of my section of the talk, here are some notes on the things I talked about:

So Jamie usually comes up with the idea for the video and we’ll then brainstorm as many crazy ideas as we can around the concept.
We then focus on what we want the end result to look like.
We make a Plan A for the video – this is the main reason for the film, what’s the message we’re trying to get across, what style do we want the video to have?
We then make a back up Plan B – if something goes wrong we can fall back on this.
For each of these plans, we will create a storyboard, a chronological run through from start to finish of what we want to happen in the film.
This storyboard allows us to then create a shot list, a list of every single shot I need to get for the video.
The shot list includes things like interviews, establishing shots, action shots, different angles.
All this is beneficial for Jamie as he can see his video coming together and work out what he needs to do.
It’s beneficial for me because I can work out what shots to get, how I’m going to get them and what gear to take.

Talking of gear – as I said earlier, we make these videos without braking our bank balance. We don’t buy or rent the most expensive gear. I own affordable gear or we borrow it from friends.
It’s important to take only the necessary gear with you up on the mountain as usually the day involves lots of hiking and skiing. 
Try and get light gear but important to choose durable products as we’re working in extreme environments – you don’t want your important gear to let you down. I always look for weather sealed cameras.
I use a Nikon DSLR to do most of the filming. Ideally I take two, I borrow one from a trusting friend!
Lenses – kit lens (18-105), zoom (80-200), fisheye (8mm), prime (35mm or 50mm).
Tripod – CamLink, lightweight
GoPro – Hero 3+
DJI Phantom 2 – provided by DJI as they sponsor Jamie
Loupe – really useful to magnify the LCD screen and help you make sure you’re in focus.
Audio – iPhone + headphones along with the iTalk app or an external mic like a Rode. 
Batteries and memory cards – at least 3 of each.
Walkie Talkies.
Laptop and case.
Dakine Rucksack.
Cleaning kit.
Hand warmers.
Filming Tips and Techniques

Have your shot list printed out or on iPhone with you whilst filming.
Filming – 1080p in either 30 or 60fps on DSLR – up to 120fps on GoPro.
Always test both video and audio – audio can ruin a great video if not done correctly.
Stability – tripod with fluid head, shoulder rig, glidecam.
FCPX has a great built in video stabiliser if video is still shaky.
To prevent graininess (noise), use good lighting and a fast lens.

The athlete needs to concentrate on what they’re doing and I need to be focussed on being ready to go when they are. Learnt this from experience, so have camera set up and ready to go. All the athlete wants to hear when they are ready is that I am ready too, they don’t want to have to wait for me to change some settings on my camera.
Really get to know your gear. Be prepared for something to just stop working and have your backup camera/battery/memory card easily accessible.
Communicate constantly with walkie talkies and be clear with messages.
Weather conditions – cold, always carry lens cloth and hand warmers.
Keep hydrated, wear suncream.
Gear – packing, keeping things light.
Getting permission to film.
Funding, Marketing, Sponsorship, Promotion, Social Media.
Backing-up footage.

Once you have backed up and organised your files, I like to go through all the clips (usually when travelling home) and make an index with the file name and content. The index then comes in really useful during editing.
Import into Final Cut Pro.
Ideally have separate drives for original footage and final cut pro files. I use G-RAID and G-Drive, SSD are ideal, super fast.
Leave edit for a day and look again, get second opinions.
Use things like Dropbox to share edits.
At the end of the day Jamie and I have a great working relationship and we have a lot of fun making the films. It’s really satisfying when we’ve finished editing and we post the videos online and see what reactions they get.

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