An amateur's guide to recording technology for kids soccer

My son plays in a year round soccer club. The pandemic shut down games for all of 2020 after March. When games resumed in 2021, only one parent was allowed to attend. I was already recording practices for my son to review using my phone when I decided to level-up my technology to record his games. I figured with a bit better technology, I could capture the boys' games and share the video with all the parents via YouTube. Everyone was very appreciative and a couple parents asked about the technology I use. So let's break it down.

Before we get started, I want to be very clear that I knew absolutely nothing about filming before this year. I wanted entry level technology because I didn't want to spend thousands of dollars only to find out that filming wasn't for me. I am still very much an amateur but I am really happy with the results so far.

Filming

Technology

When I first started looking into cameras, I was drowning in differences between camcorders and DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The price tags were also intimidating. And sometimes you had to buy the lens separate from the cameras. And sometimes the lens cost as much as the camera!

Then it hit me. This is Seattle. It rains here 9 months out of the year. Games are all played outside. I need a camera that can handle rain.

I'm brilliant, I know.

I originally dismissed action cameras, like the GoPro, because I read somewhere their wide lens distorted the game. The argument was that action cameras were for those doing the action; not those capturing the action. But I needed a water resistant camera and the more I read about the new GoPro HERO9's features the more I thought it might just work.

I purchased the HERO9 Black Bundle because it included a spare battery, hand grip and a 32 GB SD card for the same price as without. I'm brilliant, I know.

I experimented with the HERO9 by recording soccer practice. I quickly learned that the wide lens setting did distort the game, just like the reviews said it did. But the linear + horizontal-leveling lens setting was pure magic. I didn't need a tripod or a gimbal. I mounted the HERO9 on the hand grip, pointed it at the action and the software in the camera smoothed out the video. Without horizontal-leveling, the video bounces around as I track the ball on the field and the result is nearly unwatchable. With horizontal-leveling, I can dodge errant soccer balls and dip around assistant referees blocking my shot and you can barely tell I moved. Magic.

I settled on recording at 4K/30fps. 4K looks beautiful and 30fps captures the motion of the game without bloating file sizes. I may switch to 60fps when I finally figure out how to integrate slow motion shots. But that's a topic for post production. Besides 4K videos are plenty big no matter the framerate.

Which is how I learned that 32 GB was not going to be enough storage to record two 25 minute halves. After a bit of research on the GoPro website, I bought a SanDisk Extreme Pro micro SD card from Amazon. I splurged on 400GB because an extra $50 was totally worth knowing that I could fit 12 hours of video on one card. For example, at a tournament over Memorial Day weekend, I recorded four hour-long games without fear of running out of space. The only thing I do have to worry about is power.

In cold weather the battery drains faster. I can get a whole game in one battery but there isn't much left in the winter. Fortunately, the HERO9 Black Bundle provides a spare battery so I start every game with two fully charged batteries. The problem is you can only charge one battery at a time when the GoPro is plugged in. That made the HERO9 Dual Battery Charger a no brainer. I now have a total of 3 batteries and can charge them all at the same time.

The end result is a small, light weight camera mounted to a short hand grip that I can easily hold in one hand. I've learned to lock the elbow of my camera arm to my side and turn my whole upper body while watching the game. I am very mobile on the sidelines and horizontal-leveling smoothes everything all out.

It wasn't until I recorded a friendly 30-minute scrimmage that I learned I neeed one more piece. Many (most?) cameras split videos into 4 GB chunks. That means before a longer video (like the scrimmage or a real game) could be uploaded to YouTube, I had to find a way to stitch the 6 or so 4 GB video chunks back into a single video. Enter postproduction.

Postproduction

Technology:

Postproduction is where I went completely overboard. There are simple tools out there that will stitch multiple videos into a single whole. Then there are full on video editing software programs, like Adobe Premiere, that can do just about anything with your video. I was intrigued by the idea of video editing.

I mentioned to my son how it would be cool if I could add a scoreboard to the video. The way his eyes lit up told me I had to find the way to float a piece of text over the video to track the score of the game.

I looked at Premiere but the way Adobe charged a subscription to access the software gave me pause. I still wasn't sure how long I'd be filming games and even less sure I'd want to edit each one. Then I discovered Blackmagic Design's Davinci Resolve

Davinci Resolve is professional video editing software. Like commerical, music video, movie video edit software. It's freaking complicated and totally awesome. And the base version--which has everything I needed and way more--is totally free!

Suffice it to say, with Davinci Resolve I was able to figure out how to stitch my videos back together and add a scoreboard to the first game. Over the next few games, I refined the scoreboard to include a game clock, goal announcements and a clean look with team colors. My son loved it and said it made his games "look like the professionals".

Davinci Resolve Studio is the commercial version of the software that costs $295. I was thinking about buying the software because I loved using it so much. Then Blackmagic Design announced a specialized "keyboard" for Davinci Resolve called the Speed Editor. It looked like so much fun to use. Then they announced if you bought the Speed Editor, you'd get a copy of Davinci Resolve Studio for free. The price of the Speed Editor? $295. Let me just say, the Speed Editor makes editing games using Davinci Resolve just a little bit more fun.

Fairly recently, another parent started sending me video he recorded of the games using his iPhone. So I learned how to incorporate multiple cameras into Davinci Resolve and can switch to the camera that best captured the action. It is interesting to note that the iPhone footage doesn't look nearly as good as the HERO9. He also has to keep the iPhone stable using a tripod.

Which leads me to the future.

Future

The next season of soccer is just starting here. I'm now considering what is next for my new found hobby. I always stand at midfield, with the GoPro in hand. I'm now thinking about investing in two more GoPros plus a couple tripods to place cameras closer to each goal. That'd give me three angles of high quality video to use during postproduction.

I've browsed ebay a bit, looking for a couple older, used GoPro HERO6 or newer. I don't need the HERO9's horizontal-leveling feature because the extra cameras will be mounted to tripods. But another part of me thinks buying a couple more HERO9s may be worth the cost so batteries and accessories are interchangable. I don't know.

In the meantime, the one GoPro HERO9 has served me well. This weekend is another tournament and another opportunity to refine the process and dream about new ones.

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