How to Shoot Action Sports Cinematography with Motion State

Wed, Aug 22, 2018

“With sports, we filmmakers have a great opportunity to create an immersive experience out of what we shoot. If we’re going down a mountain with an athlete, or moving with them side-by-side, those close-up action shots can make anyone feel like they’re right there with the athletes.” - Corey Koniniec, Co-Founder & DP at Motion State.

Sports cinematography can be very challenging, especially when it comes to shooting extreme sports out in the field. While mainstream sports like basketball, football, tennis, etc. have the luxury of being in contained settings like stadiums, outdoor sports like skiing, cycling and auto racing are a whole different beast, requiring different techniques to capture compelling video.

But while filming may be difficult to achieve, when done right, you end up with incredible video that can wow just about anyone. So what’s the secret to shooting extreme sports?

Corey Koniniec, who recently worked on the Tour de France, Burton Open Snowboarding Championship, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” & “Perfect”, shares with us his secrets for doing what he does best.

Passion Projects

“Motion State was founded in 2014 by the three of us: me, Ryan Haug and Sam Nuttman. This was around the time that Freefly released their first stabilized system, the MoVI. We were some of the first people to test them out. I met Sam working on a 4-episode web series with Burton Snowboards called Burton presents [Snowboarding], which was the first major production completely shot on the MoVI. Soon after, we were called to be operators on the first ever music video shot with the MoVI, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ White Walls, and that’s where we met Ryan Haug.”

“Sam came up with the idea to combine all of our strengths together and start a production house that specialized in stabilized systems. That’s how Motion State was born.”

“I personally came from an action sports background, and while Motion State isn’t limited to this kind of cinematography, it’s definitely what we’re known for now."

Up Close and Personal

Burton US Open 2017 - MoVI Follow Cam from Motion State on Vimeo.

One of the biggest perks of being on gimbals is the ability to be close to the subject. Motion State takes this to a whole other level, following directly behind athletes to capture them at angles that no one else achieves.

“The biggest part of what we do is trail right behind the athletes as they go through their motions. We go down the halfpipe with skiers and make the same jumps that they do, all while keeping the camera completely steady on a MoVI. This allows us to capture angles from right underneath them as they perform their stunts and capture angles that give you the feeling like you’re going down the halfpipe with your friend.”

“Doing this isn’t as simple as it sounds. At the Burton U.S. Open this year, we were doing a live production that was being broadcasted to over a million viewers at home. Our video feed needed to be piped to the TV truck behind us live while cam ops went down the slope with each athlete. We set up video village at the starting point, where we had a Teradek Bolt 10K mounted to the highest point possible taking in feeds from the Bolt 3000 on the camera.”

  • Sony FS5 camera + MoVI Pro gimbal
  • Teradek Bolt 3000 Transmitter
  • Teradek Bolt 10K Receiver
  • SmallHD Monitor
  • MoVI Controller
  • Sigma 18-35 Lens with Full MoVI FIZ Control

“As the camera traveled with each athlete, the 10K sent a feed to my SmallHD monitor which I used to pull focus remotely with the MoVI FIZ Control. From my monitor, a very long SDI cable took the video to the broadcast truck. There are a ton of things going on at the same time, so we’re constantly juggling all of the moving parts. Being right next to the athletes is just one part of the process.”

This isn’t limited to live productions though. For their production with Fox Motorsports, Corey and Ryan rigged a MoVI M15 stabilized head to a Dactylcam cable cam, capturing elevated, high-speed close-ups on the RED Dragon. Wireless monitoring was done with the Teradek Bolt 3000.

No Other Way to Do It

“The biggest challenge of filming action sports is knowing what to capture. You can ski down the slope with athletes, but knowing exactly when they’ll perform the stunts and the best way to capture that is key. These athletes do tricks that are super hard to execute. Unlike actors and actresses on sets, there aren’t any second takes.”

“The answer to this is to always be prepared. Whether that’s memorizing the route beforehand or having the right tools, planning ahead saves you a ton of headache for when things might go wrong on location.”

“99% of our work in action sports revolves around the Bolt 3000s. We’re moving our cameras in insane ways: strapped to drones, cable cams, handheld MoVIs. There’s no way any of this is possible without wireless video gear, because we need a way to monitor so we can pull focus remotely.”

“We always have the Bolts and Teradek RT gear with us on every production. The RTs give us the super long range and versatility we need for our outdoor shoots. At the Tour de France last month, I had a 1st AC pulling focus for me at the preshow. But during the races, I was a one-man operation. So I plugged the RT Thumbwheels to have my own focus and iris controls, and capture the sexy slow motion shots that NBC needed for their bumps.”

“At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the content that your clients want. We took the latest in film tech and applied them to our cinematography skills to make our signature close-ups possible. This results in videos that immerse viewers into the sport and create engagement that no other sport has.”

Check out more of Motion State’s work at www.motionstate.com.

And check out their Instagram: @motionstate

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