Skaters and non-skaters alike can agree that there’s not much more spectacular than seeing someone pull off a death-defying grind or a complicated heel flip on camera. Filming your tricks, tutorials, and skate sessions can help share your gift with the world. But where to start? You can learn to get the right equipment, set yourself up for capturing the best possible angles and tricks possible, and some editing tips to make a professional looking product with your good footage.
Getting the Equipment
Buy a Mini-DV camera. Primarily, the most cost-effective and high-quality cameras that you can use easily are Mini-DVs that record digitally to tape. The quality is high enough, the tapes are easy to store, and the cameras are widely available and cheap enough that it’s usually the best option. A small Panasonic or Sony camcorder usually runs between $300 and $500. Sony premiums are the most popular Mini-DV cameras among skaters, useful for their portability and quality. More expensive options might include the Sony vx1000, vx2000 or a vx2100, which are professional-quality, but probably excessive for the beginner.
Make sure you have a Firewire 400 port on your computer. Ideally, Mini-DVs should also use LP mode for maximum quality of the footage.
Use a fisheye lens for the camera. Fisheye lenses is useful for keeping both the skater and the obstacle in the frame, allowing the lens to maximize the width of the field of vision, giving the impression that we’re both very close to the action and far enough away to see everything happen. It also helps smaller objects appear somewhat larger, or taller. It’s a common trick that’s both practical, psychedelic, and just plain cool.
Get some basic video editing software. You’re not going to be able to edit on the fly while you’re trying to skate around, do tricks, and finding an easy-to-use editing software will help make your video professional and straightforward. Before you film anything, make sure you’ll have an easy way to edit it.
There are lots of free editing options, like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Avidemux, all of which are standard or available for free. While not necessarily as professional, these programs are simple to use and should result in high-quality videos that are perfect for beginners.
Professional options, like Final Cut Pro, VideoStudio Pro are available if you want a wider variety of options during the editing process and a higher-quality video product in the end.
Find good obstacles for filming. Before you go out filming, do some scouting to find good places to shoot video. It’s no use to waste time carrying around a camera while you and your friends look for a place to make a video. Do that work ahead of time. Find a good spot with good easy-to-film, but challenging obstacles, so that you’ll have something worth remembering.
Ideally, it would be good to find a place with several different varieties of obstacle. A good grinding rail? A good set of concrete stairs? A gap? Try and find a park or a plaza with everything you’ll need for some good tricks and enough space to do them in.
Make sure that wherever you’re planning on filming is skater friendly and that you’re not trespassing on private property. It’s more traditional to film in locations that aren’t full-on skateparks, to illustrate your ingenuity and creativity, but a skate park would be a fine place to film, as well.
Film a group of skaters. It’ll be more time-efficient to film many skaters at once, who are all trying to do the same, or different, tricks. If you’re trying to film your friend do a 360 hard-flip, it might waste a lot of camera battery and space to keeping waiting for re-starts and recoveries. If you can keep filming different people, though, you’ll end up with a lot more good footage that you can edit together in the end.
Get backups. Try to always buy and bring two of everything to a filming session. Get two batteries, two tapes, even consider getting an extra lens if necessary. Because it can be so difficult to coordinate getting a bunch of skaters together and getting the trick worked out to a filmable quality, you don’t want to have to cut the day short because you’ve run out of batteries. Never miss that critical shot by staying prepared ahead of time.
Filming a Skate Session
Focus on your own skating. If you’re the designated camera-person, make sure that you focus on your own skating and stay safe, regardless of who you’re filming or how many skaters you’re filming. Don’t look through the camera lens and pay too much attention to your camera work, focus on staying on your board and balancing.
If you’re filming yourself, consider setting up your camera on a tripod. Mark the spot on the concrete that’s the center of the frame with sidewalk chalk, so you’ll know where to pull your trick.
If you’re skating and filming others, don’t try to get too fancy with your footwork while you’re doing it. Just focus on smooth skating and keeping the camera steady to give their tricks the camerawork they deserve.
Stay out of the way. Whether you’re standing still or skating along with the people you’re filming, you want to make sure you don’t get too caught up in the fun of filming and lose track of where you’re going. Becoming an obstacle between you and your buddies pulling off a trick is a good way to get your camera cracked, your face busted, and to lose some skater buds. Even if you’re posted up at the bottom of a set of stairs, toward which your friends are jumping, stay curled up and stay in one place. Don’t move elsewhere to try and find another spot. Stay steady and let them work around you. Stay far enough back from the staircase to give them room enough to land the jump and roll for a few feet without hitting you, giving yourself enough time to get out of the way if necessary.
Keep the camera running. Start filming early and keep filming late. When someone stomps something big, always keep the camera rolling. You’ll never have too much footage. You always want to do this to avoid missing those rare moments of brilliance because you’re too concerned about your tapes. If you go out with a blank tape, make sure you come back with a full one. Don’t try to edit on the fly. Worry about editing together the footage later. Just think of yourself as a collector of moments for the time being. Your job isn’t to finish the video today, it’s to make sure you get all the best shots.
Film the fails, too. Don’t just worry about filming the tricks. A roll full of nothing but spinning boards get dull after a while, so it’s a good idea to film your friends talking smack, comparing scraped knees, and joking around. Perform for the camera.
Keep the whole skater in the frame. Footage of disembodied feet doing a trick isn’t much fun to watch. It’ll look jerky, confusing, and less impressive to only see half of your friend pulling off a sick trick, so it’s important to set up your camera to keep the whole skater in the frame during the entirety of the trick. Let the viewer appreciate the full range of motion and athleticism necessary in pulling off a trick.
Try not to zoom while using a fisheye. Most are designed to be used in the telephoto position and zooming will cause it to go out of focus. Messing around with the zoom too much will also make the film appear super-shaky. Don’t try to get too fancy with it, just be there to document the tricks and catch the magic.
Don’t film with a fisheye for everything. Specially, fisheye lenses should be used for big gaps or sets, not more compact tricks. If the trick is going to be big, use a wide angle or fisheye of .63x – .3x is suggested for an added wide-angle flavor and for making sure that you get the full range of side-to-side grinds and other things that will require a big range of motion.
Use manual focus. Don’t turn the option of steadyshot on with a fisheye, it will distort the vignetting.
Film the stairs, not the skater. A common mistake that beginners make when trying to film tricks is moving the camera too much to try and focus on the skater, rather than letting the trick come into the frame. Focus the camera on the stairs or whatever other obstacle will be involved in the trick, until seconds away from executing the trick.
Point the camera up so you have both the body of the skater and the entire stairs in focus.
A common successful angle is at . from the bottom of the stairs, out of the passing way with you crouched down so camera almost touches the ground. Start recording when the skater is about . away from the top of the staircase.
Help the skater stick the landing. Leave as little ground in the frame as possible, if you can, to make the trick look much better. If your bud’s having some trouble sticking the jump, having less of a reference point for the after-trick wobbling and balance-grabbing will make the footage look that much better. Frame it so that we see the skater upon landing, and not much else.
Capture a grind by skating at the same speed. Another classic shot will require you to move while you film, preferably skating. If your friend wants to try a long grind, or a set of tricks along a line, you’ll need to hop on your board and run parallel to the trick. Set the camera to focus on the skater, setting the depth of the field so it won’t be blurry. Try to maintain the same distance from the skater as you film.
It’s important to film instead of jogging or walking quickly, since the footsteps will jostle the camera and make it difficult to watch. Skating will help the footage to stay nice and smooth.
Be creative. There are the common ways to film, but the choice of the angle, the way you want to edit, and the shots you choose to keep is up to you. Practice until you get it right. Keeping track of the distances you are using, and the distance that gives the best picture.
Try filming at different times of day. This will give you more footage to work with later when trying to add diversity to a full length film.
Editing Skate Footage
Upload the raw footage and save it. Use the Firewire port to hook up your camera to the computer and upload the footage. The specific process will depending upon the type of editing software and the camera that you use, but you’ll always need to upload the footage to the computer first and save a copy. Never start editing away footage until you save the footage. If you make a mistake, or decide that you want to use another take of a certain trick, you want to make sure that you’ve got the original to work form. Alternatively, you might leave the raw footage on the tape until you’ve edited it thoroughly, before clearing it off the tape itself. This will help you to save hard drive space.
Start by trimming out the unnecessary footage. The first and most important part of the process involves trimming out the repeats, the dull bits, and the otherwise unusable footage. Start trimming the fat and cutting everything into the best bits. Save the funniest parts, the most successful tricks, and some intro footage of all of the skaters involved just skating around, looking cool.
The best skate videos will have a mixture of different types of scenes and tricks, high spots and low spots to create drama and tension to the video. A skate video of all insane tricks will be hard to watch.
Save some epic fails to edit in, as well. If your friend face-plants, it can be a good scene to include, reminding viewers what skaters risk each and every time they hop on the board.
Save some sound. For the most part, skate videos are given soundtracks to be played with music, rather than featuring the found-sounds during the filming process. Since the sounds are mostly repetitive whooshes and wheel-on-concrete noises, it’s not the most interesting stuff to listen to. It’s good to vary the sound, though, and keep a bit of the natural sounds around to cut in if you want to. Especially big cheers when a trick hits, helps to make a video seem cool and fun.
Probably don’t worry about including external microphones and other types of recording. Just let the camera record natural sound.
Adjust your colors and white balance. Lots of skate videos are too dark or washed out, which means the colors and contrast will need to be adjusted in the editing process. You want to make sure that a viewer can see all the details clearly and the video quality is sharp and high-quality as possible. Don’t mess around with goofy filters or other effects in the editing software. Using silly transitions make videos look amateur. Even if all you’re going to do is put it on YouTube, it’s worth making it look great.
Organize the clips into the desired order. You don’t have to stick to the order that the tricks happened in originally. Put them in whatever order you want to make the video seem exciting, dramatic, and fun. Start slow and work up to the biggest, most dramatic tricks. Let us see some big fails and scraped knees before finally hitting a big jump, or nailing a kick flip. Make the viewer want to see you succeed.
Be careful not to make your video too jerky, or too quick. Beginning editors have a tendency to want to cut off the trick immediately when it ends, or just as it begins, which can make the viewer feel a bit nauseated. Leave a bit of lead-up to the trick and let the scene go a beat farther after the skater lands the trick. This will help to build up the suspense more, and the viewer will appreciate what we’ve seen much more easily.
Choose a soundtrack. A good skate video needs a great soundtrack, and most editing software makes it super-easy to cut in your own music and back the video. What were you listening to that got you all psyched up for skating originally? You might go with the originals, or go with some standbys of the skate genre. Pick what you like.
So-Cal punk, instrumental hip-hop, and thrash-metal would all be perfect skater soundtracks. There’s no perfect record, but you can’t go wrong with some OFF! or Gizmos. Skate videos should be rebellious, humorous, and fun in equal measure. Pick a soundtrack that’ll make that clear.
Bring additional skaters. Many will feed of the energy of each other skating better and giving you more to film.
Remain still and keep the camera steady.
Never say anything to the skater when you notice that they are getting frustrated with their trick.
Do not talk or cheer during filming. It may be hard to resist congratulating your skater, but it’s definitely better than having ruined footage because of your cheers. If you cannot resist the congratulations, try hold it in for a while to leave some roll away space, then proceed to get up and head over to the skater for some high-fives.
Make sure that you have a full battery, tape, and an easy carrying camera case.
Try to stay a distance away from the skater. Broken cameras are expensive to fix.
How to Repair Stairs
How to Switch on a Skateboard
How to Caveman on a Skateboard
How to Do a Hardflip on a Skateboard
How to Ride Down a Grassy Hill on a Skateboard With No Wheels
How to Perform a Trick on a Skateboard
How to Do a Revert on Your Skateboard
How to Kickflip on a Skateboard
How to Fall off of Your Skateboard Safely
How to Create a Unique Ride on a Skateboard
Sources and Citations
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