Introduction: How to Video Sports With a Phone
- Phones need minimal interaction so you can watch the game while you record
- Videoing is simple with a phone
- Zoom is done with a screen tap so you are watching the game instead of fiddling with the zoom
- Budget friendly (~$140 of equipment not including phone)
- No editing necessary
- Sharing on the internet is easy and viewers don't need to be tech-savvy
- Only people you give the link to can view provides privacy
I have a second instructable on an elevated version of this system: http://media.nbcmontana.com/Elevated-Sports-Video-Camera
The Galaxy S10 comes with a built in 2x zoom lens. For an experiment I recorded a soccer game while sitting and was surprised at how easy it was to record and how good the video turned out. The phone makes recording easy because you can change the zoom with a tap on the screen and the field of view is wide enough that the phone can be pointed in the general direction of the play and catch everything. The next game I tried a selfie stick and then upgraded to a hand-held stabilizer. The videos with the stabilizer are really good. Sorry, I don't have any I can share right now because they are of minors. I'll try to make a few clips where the kids are far away or figure out how to do some blurring so I can share.
Step 1: Equipment
Phone: A phone with fast focus and good image stabilization is needed, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is my current favorite. I recommend making some short sport videos to see if the results are acceptable. You can hold two phones overlapping except the camera to record a video at the same time to compare them at 2x zoom. Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10, S9, S9+, Google Pixel 3, Huawei P20 Pro, iphone XR and iphone XS Max have been tested, below is my ranking for soccer video quality.
Recommended Phones Ranked
- Samsung Galaxy S10: fast focus and good image stabilization on both 1X & 2X lenses
- iphone XS Max: fast focus and good image stabilization on both 1X & 2X lenses. Con: no native pause function
- Google Pixel 6 Pro: best focus and good image stabilization. 2x is digital zoom, isn't sharp.
- Galaxy S9: fast focus and good stabilization. Lacks 2X lens, the digital zoom is not as sharp as the S10 or XS Max optical zoom
- iphone XR: fast focus and good image stabilization. Lacks 2X lens, the digital zoom is not as sharp as the S10 or XS Max optical zoom. Con: no native pause function
Not Recommended Phones
- Galaxy S9+: The 2X lens does not focus well at least for soccer
- Google Pixel 3: doesn't focus fast enough for soccer
- Huawei P20 Pro: The 3x lens has poor focus and poor image stabilization. Also 3x is too much zoom in my opinion.
This site helped me choose phones to test, I tried to find affordable phones with a high video score.
Stabilizer: Zhiyun Smooth 4 ~$100
Tripod/Monopod: Recommended: Dolica TX570DS Ultra Compact Tripod with Professional Ball Head and Built-In Monopod (Black) ~$45.
Tripod/Monopod:OK: Eocean Selfie Stick Tripod, 54 Inch ~$22
Buy a gimbal stabilizer that can handle a large phone and has a 1/4 inch thread on the bottom so it can be mounted to a monopod or tripod. I chose the Zhiyun Smooth 4, it is one of the few stabilizers that can handle large phones in high wind and has 1/4 inch thread. It is also budget friendly, about ~$100. You will see a lot of complaints about buggy stabilizer apps for Android phones, don't worry because you won't need the app for videoing sports.
Buy a monopod/tripod that will hold the phone just below eye level. I have both of the monopods/tripods below, the Dolica-TX570DS is better but is heavier and costs more.
Dolica-TX570DS (excellent monopod/tripod)
Eocean Selfie Stick Tripod, 54 Inch Extendable Camera Tripod (ok monopod/tripod)
This is the one I started with, it is lightweight and collapsible. Make sure you get the 54" one, they have some shorter models.https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FF3NYKP/ref=...
Step 2: Swivel Mount
For the Dolica a 1/4-20 coupling nut and a 1/4-20 screw are used so the stabilizer will spin smoothly. The head of a long 1/4-20 screw was cut off with a hacksaw. Two regular nuts are tightened against each other on the long screw to provide a stop when you screw it into the stabilizer. (Picture 2 and 3) I bought the longest coupling nut I could find at Ace Hardware, it's about 1-3/4" long. A long nut and screw minimizes the wobble.
Step 3: Video Tips
There are only 2 controls on the stabilizer that are needed for sports. Set the 'Mode Switch Button', to 'PF' (Pan Follow). Use the top of the back trigger to put the stabilizer in 'PhoneGo' mode. PhoneGo locks the phone to the stabilizer which is good when the action is close to you. It's useful for nearby throw-ins or players running close to you. It is also good for adjusting the up/down tilt of the phone, hold down the PhoneGo trigger, tilt the stabilizer so the phone is at the correct angle (far sideline in the middle of the screen while using the 2x lens), and then release the trigger. Video should be set to 1920x1080 30fps, the files will be too big if you shoot 4K.
Set the pan speed for the stabilizer as high as possible, 120degrees per second for the Zhiyun Smooth 4, see video below.
If you can video from the coaches side so you can pick up the coaches instructions. The audio will help the players when they view the video. You will get better results if you are not shooting into the sun.
When to use the 1x lens
- Ball closer than ~50ft
- For nearby throw-ins don't worry about getting the thrower in frame, it's more important to video where the ball will likely land
When to use the 2x lens
- Ball further than ~50ft
- Most free kicks and goal kicks. I usually don't video the kicker, only where the ball will likely land.
- Only extend one leg of the tripod making it a monopod.
- Use the 'pan follow' button on the back to set the video frame right at the top of the backboard
- Use the 1x lens if you are standing court-side
- If you are high enough in the stands you can use the 2x lens the entire game, though it will take some work to keep the action in frame
- Another option is to use the 1x lens when the players are spread out moving up the court and switch to 2x as they get closer to the basket
On a ~90 degree day my phone was exposed to direct sunlight, overheated and locked up! My solution was to keep the phone shaded by a canopy or baseball hat brim.
Step 4: Prep and Share on the Ineternet
Prep for Internet Upload
The The Galaxy S10 can record an entire game in one file. Older versions of Android will automatically make a new file when it reaches 4GB which is about 40 minutes of recording.
Before uploading to the internet the files will need to be 'stitched' together, below are 3 options.
- If you have Windows 10, use the Microsoft add-on 'Simple Video Trim and Merge', it's free and gives you a progress meter, takes about 30 minutes with a decent pc.
- Movie Maker comes with Windows and will do the job but it doesn't display progress.
Share on the Internet
After the video is stitched to one file, upload it with a free Youtube account. Change the privacy to 'Unlisted' so only people you give the link can view. The upload will take a long time, mine take about 1 hour per gigabyte and most games are between 4 and 6GB. I have the minimum speed cable internet in my area. It's a good idea to start the upload right before you go to bed so you don't cripple the internet connection. If the upload stops for some reason, it can be restarted by trying to upload again, it should restart where it left off.
Tip: If the uploads are crippling your internet connection, you can try to throttle your upload bandwidth if you use Chrome. I kept on playing with the setting while my teen was playing fortnite, I had to throttle it to 1000kbs (1Mbs) to make the lag go away. My total upload bandwidth is 5Mbs. How to: https://thegeekpage.com/limit-your-upload-speed-i...
An alternative is to setup 'QOS' on your router to limit the upload speed, but it's difficult to get it right. Try about 1/4 of your total upload bandwidth. I set the upload bandwidth limit on my upload pc to 1.2Mb/s. Uploads take longer (~8hrs) but it doesn't cause poor internet performance for other users.