Nearly everyone who has wakeskated before has borrowed their dad’s camcorder and taken it out for a session or two. Seeing yourself on film helps out your riding tremendously and also is a fun way to document your progression and all the good times you are having. More and more people are making videos these days, which is exactly what needs to be happening. If you got some friends that rip, don’t be afraid to put in some time, pick up a camera, and make some movie magic. But before you do that, read up on these tips to put you a few steps ahead.
1) Open your eyes.
This is the first step to seeing what you film.
2) Know your stuff…at least a little bit
The most important things are lighting, the camera, and filming basics. Remember that the light is always best in the morning or towards sunset, when the sun is lower and lights up the rider better. Always try to shoot with the sun to your back (so it is shining directly on your subject), unless you’re trying to get super artsy with some sunset shot or something.
Know your camera; the higher end ones often take some time and practice to totally get dialed. Reading the owner’s manual is key, but it also helps to have someone be able to show you the ropes.
And know your basic wakeskating filming techniques. The best way to learn is to watch videos and notice how they are filmed, and then take those ideas and add your own style to it (that’s right, you can have style in filming). Also, think a little bit about how you might want to edit something before you film it, that way you may have a better idea about how you want to film.
The zoom is the first thing after the record button that people seem to look for to start filming. The best advice I can give about the zoom is BE CAREFUL! A shot with too much zooming in and out is never a good thing, but there are also ways to make it work incredibly well. If much zooming is necessary, try to make it as steady as possible in order to reduce any possibilities of viewer motion sickness. Also, be warned that auto focus can sometimes ruin a shot with a zoom to it, which is why it is important to use manual focus. Zooming too much is just as big a problem as not zooming enough. Try to create a steady shot with a nice frame around the rider, not too much, not too little.
3) Know your riders
It really helps to know the people you are trying to film so you can better portray their style and riding the best way possible in your film. It can make a bigger difference than you think.
4) Know what you want to film
Just like how wakeskaters dream all day about what tricks they want to try and how they are going to ride later, filmers need to do the same thing. Always be thinking about new angles, different shots, and other creative ideas to make your work stand out.
5) Take it off anything that starts with “auto”
This goes hand in hand with knowing your camera. You have a God-given brain that allows for abstract thought, your camera only understands what it has been programmed to do. Auto focus and auto iris can ruin so many shots because they aren’t able to comprehend fast enough the change in light or other variables that constantly happen when filming wakeskating.
To set your focus: zoom in as close as you can to the object you are going to be shooting, then set your focus so it is clear. Now you should be able to zoom back out and it will still be clear. You are now able to zoom in and out as you please without having to adjust the focus.
To set your iris: This takes some trial and error. The iris is the basic brightness of your subject. You definitely need to know your camera in order to set your iris right. When I film, my finger is constantly on the iris scroll wheel and I am turning it up and down the whole time. You want to stay mostly constant for each shot (don’t change it up too much unless it’s between shots), because that way it becomes harder to adjust lighting in the editing stage. Also you need to learn the difference in how it looks through the camera versus how the shot will look on the computer or television. There is oftentimes a slight difference. For example, I always film a little bit darker than it seems like would be right because it shows up slightly lighter afterwards. You just have to know your camera.
6) Always plan for the worst.
Because the worst can happen. Always start recording earlier than you think necessary, and always stop recording way after the trick is landed. This allows for much more leeway in the editing stage. Also, if you are not ready and the rider is, just tell them to wait. They won’t mind, after all, that’s why you’re there is to film. Of course, if at all possible try to avoid that, but it’s better to tell them to wait than to miss a shot. Plan ahead: charge your batteries and buy lots of tapes. You can never have too many tapes, and if you do, just go record a time lapse or something. Most likely you will learn all of those things above the hard way.
7) Encourage your riders — be the director.
If you’re trying to make a movie, you have to take charge. The riders are there for you, and you are the one making the calls. It will oftentimes make you sound and feel like an asshole, but that’s just how it goes when you gotta get stuff done. It’s your responsibility to wake everyone up, make sure everyone and everything is ready to go, and to plan ahead. It’s also real important to keep your morale up. If you get negative, it turns the whole vibe against everyone. At all costs stay positive and make the best of any situation. Don’t be afraid to make executive decisions. People aren’t going to take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously.
8) Be unique. Create your own style.
This just takes time and practice. Just like how you can have style in wakeskating, you can certainly have style in filming and editing. Add that in to the main point, “What are you trying to convey?”
9) More than anything, you have to practice.
Just like with wakeskating, practice is what will make you better. Don’t get discouraged if you mess up a shot or two, it happens to the best of us. But learn from your mistakes and always keep filming. Live and learn, you’ll never know if you don’t try.