Steve "Jocko" DiGiacomo of WAKEtv gives Wakeboarder.com users the rundown on how to properly shoot video of wakeboarding to get the best results. There are some obvious things, but a lot of subtle tips that can really help improve your video footage.
Jocko not only has made 13 hour long wakeboarding videos in the WAKEtv series, he also has years of experience shooting professional video for the Nickelodeon and other networks, as well as editing footage and training cameramen.
1. First lesson, shoot all the time, shoot everything from when the rider gets up till after they fall and the boat has already begun to turn around, don't stop early and hold your shot.
2. Learn from watching what you shot and what you did right or wrong.
3. Don't just keep the rider in the frame, keep the rider in the center of the frame. Picture a little box in the middle of the frame and keep them inside of it. (How I know how stable the footage is, when you fast forward on a tape shot by a really stable cameraman, the rider stays right in the middle of the picture the whole time enough to focus on, even in fast forward, no matter how tight he zoomed in.)
1. Shooting from the towboat, when the rider is up, zoom in tight on their binding or vest and hold it still to get a good focus, then switch it to manual focus and tweak it only if it moves out of focus. This is critical to keeping the picture focused and not letting the auto focus get fooled by the spray from the side of the boat. The rider will not get any farther or closer to you if you're always 75' away from each other.
2. I stand up to shoot, always. If you're sitting, all the shock of the boat goes right up your spine and the only isolation the camera has is through your arms which can be fatiguing. I use my legs to kind of surf the boat, one knee is against either the motor cover or back seat, this lets me know where the boat is going, faster slower, left or right. The other leg is the shock absorber, sort of floating me to keep my whole body still. This frees me up to zoom in as close as I'd like to at any given moment. I can go in quick for a facial expression and still be in focus and in frame and still come back out for the next trick.
3. Keep the rider in the center of the frame all through the trick and the landing. Anticipate the trick from the cut and follow them as they go up
and out. When the rider lands, don't follow the shot down into the water, know where the water level is and know the rider will stop there. Don't tilt down on all the landings.
4. Set your zoom and leave it alone. Don't go in any closer than you can handle and still keep the shot still. The better and more stable you are, the closer you can go during critical action, but start with a wider shot that is more stable.
1. Holding the Camcorder, it's not like beer in one hand and Sony in the other. Left hand palm up, place camcorder atop of left palm, this is your tilt control (that's up and down) This is also your stabilizer. Right hand, through strap, this is your pan control (that's left and right) These two hands operate as one to hold the camera still, especially on double-ups (See Video 202 below).
1. Double-Ups, when you line up on approach for a double-up, go really wide in anticipation of the shock. Don't lose the rider when the boat goes through the wake, unless you have a loaded down X-Star that doesn't budge. Then, you have that much time to go in closer as long as you can see the rider through any spray as they approach. Hold the camera still for the next 2.2 seconds (66 frames) and you're going to be a hero. Don't zoom, don't tilt, don't pan, just lock on to the rider's vest and stabilize yourself to get a good shot, then send it to WAKEtv. You're buddy will thank you. And you'll get a free sticker.
Now, some lessons I learned the hard way:
1. Don't playback the video until you get home. When you stop it and rewind it then re-cue it to the end, sometimes the timecode will reset to 0:00. To prevent this, IF YOU MUST rewind it in the boat, before you do make a 5 second throwaway shot at the end of where you need to re-cue the tape. This always happens when someone lands something HUGE and people want to see it right away. Just make the throwaway shot to pad the trick footage or it's much harder to figure out when you're logging the tape later. (When making just one Issue of WAKEtv, I was juggling almost 1600 different video clips and when I need to find one of them on tape somewhere, continuous timecode on the raw footage really helps. It's an editor thing.)
2. Don't let Rob Hyatt throw his hands up in front of your camera lens when Shaun Murray jumps off of the Fox houseboat in front of 15,000 people at Boardstock. Have a clear understanding with anybody who's sitting in front of you that they will swim back to the dock whether they are wearing a cast on their arm already or not.
It's not hard to shoot good wakeboarding video, just understand the basics and what's important. And always go back and watch what you shot. It's the best way to get better. Good luck.
For actual examples of the footage shot by Jocko, check out WAKEtv.com