Norm originally posted this on Wrestling911.com. I thought it was a great article, and I wanted to report.
In my last post “Let There Be Light” I sort of kicked some urn ashes in the face of wrestling promoters who use consumer grade video cameras to tape their shows.
Don’t get me wrong — you can actually get outstanding HD results from today’s top consumer grade video cameras like this one:
This is the Sony Handycam HDR-CX12. This particular camera will yield Blu Ray quality video, provided the light and the guy operating the camera are both good.
For the American Championship Freefighting screener, we went all out and used two Canon XH-A1′s:
This is a pro camcorder used by TV networks like The Discovery Channel and Nat Geo.
But you don’t have to. We did because we were pitching a TV show concept to a cable network and we knew right away one of their first questions would be, “What did you shoot this with?” and if we told them, “A Sony handheld that we bought from Best Buy,” they’d roll their eyes and throw our proposal in the garbage.
But if you’re just shooting indy shows to put up on YouTube, a consumer camera like the one I mentioned above can yield TV quality results if you do the right things.
So here’s a list of eight tips to improve the quality of your match videos:
1. Put light on the subject…and lots of it. Our eyes work a heck of a lot better than today’s digital cameras. You ever notice that when you take a picture of something indoors that looks perfectly good to your naked eye, it looks terrible in your picture? That’s because our eyes perform much better than cameras in low light. Cameras need lots and lots and lots of light to work properly. That’s why pictures taken outdoors in the morning look so much better than pictures taken indoors.
2. Use a tripod, monopod, or camera stabilizer. Low light video is really, really bad. Even worse is shaky video. Shaky video screams, “Newb!” more than anything else. When shooting a wrestling show, you want at least one of your camera guys to move around the outside of the ring to capture shots, yet you still want the shots to stabilized. In this case, use a monopod or a camera stabilizer. A monopod is like a tripod except it only has one leg and moves around a lot easier. Photographers on the sidelines of NFL games use them all the time.
A camera stabilizer looks like this:
It braces the camera against your camera man’s shoulder but still allows him to move around freely.
Trust me on this — do NOT shoot your videos with the camera just held in your hand! Stabilize!
3. Fill the frame. By this I mean, the frame of the camera should be filled with the subject. In this case subject is the two guys in the ring. When you watch the video, the bodies of the two guys in the ring should fill up the entire frame.
Here’s an example of what I mean. This sucks:
This does not:
The first picture was taken by a total newb who made one of the most common fatal mistakes of photography — trying to capture too much with one shot. The second picture was taken by the same photographer after she had learned the ropes. Notice that she crops lots of things out of the picture — the girl’s lower legs, feet, and even the head of her racket! That’s OK, though. The viewer’s mind can extrapolate that she’s holding a tennis racket. No need to see it.
See the difference? Fill your frame! Read more on this subject here: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/fill-your-frame
4. Avoid zooming in and out. This is another classic newb mistake. Amateur videographers just love to zoom in on this and then zoom out on that and then zoom in on that over there. The resulting video is enough to make the viewer seasick. Ever watch the show “Cops”? The videography they employ is very much like that of indy pro wrestling. And you know what? They zoom very little. So zoom in and out only when 100% necessary.
5. Get closer to fill the frame. You know now that you need to fill your frame from the advice from tip 3. But be careful of using zoom on your camera to fill it! Oftentimes it’s better to just physically get closer to your subject to fill the frame than to zoom. Why? Because the more you zoom, the shakier your video is. Instead, get up on the ring apron, hang the camera over the top rope, then zoom in the remaining amount until your frame is filled with the bodies of the guys in the ring.
6. Use manual exposure. This is another newb mistake. Lots of guys just grab their video camera, pop in a tape, hit RECORD, and let the camera do the rest. This often yields terrible results because the camera then uses its auto exposure feature. When you use auto exposure, your camera — a dumb machine — guesses how bright each shot should be. So let’s say your shooting two guys about to run the ropes. Your camera is focused on the two guys. The camera sets the exposure and everything looks fine. But then the guys start running the ropes and you pan the camera to follow the action. As you pan, suppose you pass by one of the fluorescent light up in the ceiling. Well guess what? Your camera is going to say, “Hey! That’s too much light!” and it darkens the scene, meaning your subject — the guy running the ropes — suddenly gets real dark. Once you pan the camera away from the light, the scene gets bright again. This looks awful. Avoid this by setting exposure manually. You should set the exposure on the wrestlers in the ring and then lock it in. If you pan the camera and pass over a light source, that light source will appear really bright for the second or two that it’s in the frame, but that’s OK.
7. Use an external microphone. The mic on your camcorder is terrible. Don’t use it. Get a decent external mic from Radio Shack and mount it onto the camera. Another option is to get a quality lapel mic and clip it to your camera man’s shirt. The lapel mic will pick up the sounds of the action in the ring so long as the camera man stays close to it.
8. When moving, walk like your camera is a scaldingly hot cup of coffee. You know how you walk down the hall at work when carrying your cup of java back to the office? Walk the same way when shooting and your moving shots will be much less shaky.
So there you have it — eight tips to better indy wrestling videos.