Filming football was my first ‘proper’ filming job. Canvey Island FC were looking for a media manager, and I applied and got the position of Video Content Manager. I had done filming before but nothing live or sports related – and I had never watched a game of football before, the first full game that I watched was the first that I filmed!
Firstly, filming football or any sport will give you an insight into all areas of video production; lighting, sound, visuals and even some journalism if you fancy it. This doesn’t mean though that you need access or the skills in each area. Lighting for example wasn’t my strongest point when I started although you quickly learn what works and what doesn’t. Working on a low or effectively zero budget, actually further helps as you will have to make the most out of what is available. One of the best skills to have is to not be a fan of the sport that you’re filming as you should be focussing on what it looks like from a video perspective, rather than focussing on the performance of the players. Likewise for the goals, if you jump up and cheer when one is scored, then you’re not paying attention to the visuals and this could become a problem when it comes to editing your footage.
Camera quality isn’t everything – or is it?
Something that makes our video highlights at CIFC stand out from the crowd is the quality of them. In comparison to other clubs, we film in high definition and polish this off in post-production with professional looking graphics. Although HD is a generic term for 1920 x 1080, the camera makes a massive difference, which is why some are priced at £200 and others at £2000 and beyond. Therefore a more expensive camera will give you a better look and show that the club are serious about filming, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved with a low budget camera, because it can, and very well. Graphics are essential as your audience need to know the score during the match and even something such as the opening titles can really boost the quality. If you’re filming on a lower end camera, then investing on audio equipment can make a big difference.
Football is great at preparing you for live production as if the camera isn’t pointing in the right direction when a goal is scored, they won’t re-do it just for you! Being live means that you have to pay extra attention to what you’re doing as it can’t be recreated. You also can’t really rehearse what’s going to happen either, as you don’t know where the ball is going to go, so you need to get familiar with being able to pan and tilts quickly. Practise will make perfect and you’ll soon pick this up after a few matches. If you can film a live shoot well, then that’ll prepare you much more for non-live recordings as you’ll have plenty of time for them and from a directing perspective, when you’re filming football, you need to think quickly about what shot you want and what one you’ll be coming to next. Doing this in a split second will help you for projects when you have longer periods to plan.
Lighting and Sound
When watching football games on TV, they could sometimes have over 60 microphones scattered around the pitch, picking up the sound of every kick, grunt and cheer. Of course that comes at hefty price although you can achieve decent audio on a much smaller and cheaper set up. It’s essential that the audio isn’t neglected over the visuals as if you can only hear strong wind then it won’t be bearable to watch. I use a Rode NTG 2 inside a Rode Blimp. The blimp is something essential as this cuts out all of the wind and this decent audio can make up for poor visuals to an extent, plus it can also make your highlights stand out from others as most low budget filmmakers have audio issues. Lighting is also as important and it’s hard to light a football pitch. At Canvey, I rely on the floodlights when filming the matches, as they ‘flood’ the pitch with light. My camera is very good in low-light situations and the flood lights are turned on quite early during dark evening games. Interviews can be harder to light depending on where you do them, although if you do one on the pitch afterwards, careful positioning of the camera and interview subject can make this an ideal place. LED lights can be a cheap option for filming subjects inside.
Easy to get in
Getting into filming football isn’t impossible, especially for non-league clubs although it’s obviously a bit harder to get into the likes of Chelsea or Arsenal with no or little experience! Non-league clubs are a great place to start. The atmosphere is often very close with regular faces of staff and fans alike. You can also interact more with the players as it’s important that they’re comfortable with being filmed, particularly when you’re interviewing them and all eyes are on them. Some non-league clubs don’t have any video coverage or just a fan who will film occasional snippets. Offering your services therefore can’t do any harm to the club. They get more publicity online and the players can feel a little bit ‘famous’ – something they love! You may not be paid (I’m not at Canvey FC) but if you enjoy filming and you’re not too much of out pocket then this can be a great starting place. I’ve gone on to my current job, working on ITV News, Channel 4 News and 5 news, and filming football definitively helped me and made me stand out from the crowd.
Big match, big audience
A big match means that you have a big audience which gets more views for your video. This can be an exciting but busy time as it gives you the option to film more bits. You can push the boat out a bit and film promotional videos for them, both adverts before hand and extended highlights afterwards. Adverts for a match can get the hype going and it’ll definitely be a boost for a non-league club. It also gets your name out there as people will ask “who did that video?” – and they will be told your name. Your audience is also bigger as some of the supporters will want to watch the moment back and see themselves in your video. If you’re going to an away match then that also gives you the opportunity to make contacts with other people, as you never know who might want a video made. Wonder goals can also be a lucky time for you. When filming a match last year, a wonder goal was scored by Met Police and the video was featured in The Guardian’s top goals of the week and attracted over 100,000 views on YouTube.
Marketing is something that I don’t really get involved in at CIFC; I’ll tweet when highlights or an interview goes online but that’s about it. This doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in marketing, because you can and it’s an essential skill to have. There’s no point in filming if no one is going to watch them so this is where marketing and promoting your work comes in, and knowing how to market something effectively on a low budget is a big plus for any organisation. Making the most of trends can be a good way of marketing. Getting involved in something such as the Ice Bucket Challenge will draw people to watch that particular video and then they are more likely to view others videos or content on your website. It also keeps them engaged in what is happening with the club.
So there you are, from my experiences, football is a great way to start your career in video production, whether that is film, TV or any other branch such as corporate or music videos. If you have any questions then feel free to drop a comment below or contact me.