How to Film High-Quality Snowboard Footage
Learn how to make your snowboarding footage really wow the viewers this season with some tips from Snowboard Expert Gaelen Mast!
So you want to make your snowboarding videos look good—like really good. Well luckily for you, getting that beautiful professional-quality video production isn’t so far-fetched, even if you're a beginner. What’s even better is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on equipment or be a camera genius to get flex-worthy video content for your Instagram. All you need is a bit of practice and the following tips!
Let’s address the elephant in the room: camera gear. You could be the best snowboard filmer in the world but without a camera, you aren’t going to get very far. To film high-quality snowboarding videos, you don’t necessarily need a high-quality camera. Sure, four-figure cameras will provide stunning results, but you know what else will? Your phone. Presuming you have an iPhone or some other brand of smartphone, you already have a powerful camera in your pocket. Most smartphones shoot in at least 1080p HD and 60FPS, and many can even provide 4k and up to 120FPS. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, or any money for that matter, just start out with your phone!
If you want to take it up a notch from a phone or if you just want to use a “real camera,” a GoPro is an amazing option and arguably one of the best amateur cameras for filming snowboarding! GoPros are intended for action sports, meaning they’re tough as nails and are also waterproof. You could accidentally drop your GoPro off the chair lift into the snow and then watch three little kids run it over, but it’d still be perfectly fine by the time you retrieve it. GoPros also have auto-stabilization which is essential for snowboard footage (more on that later) and can shoot in very fast frame rates while recording high-quality visuals. They also come with tons of accessories such as helmet mounts, grips, and poles to mount your GoPro.
There are plenty of different camera choices out there and everyone will have their own preference. The smartphone and the GoPro are just two options that seem to work very well for the majority of amateur filmmakers. Whatever camera you decide to use, just make sure it checks off three critical boxes. 1. It should first shoot in high resolution—720p at the minimum, but ideally 1080p or 4K. After all, no one wants to watch footage that is grainy and pixelated. 2. It should also have a fast frame rate to ensure the footage looks smooth. 60FPS or more is your best bet, and if you can get a camera with 120-240FPS, you’re looking at some buttery slow motion capabilities! 3. The last thing is that the camera needs to be durable and at least water-resistant. You’re going to have a real bad day if you take your fancy new camera out and it slips and falls and breaks because it wasn’t durable enough. Typically small cameras without moving parts are the most durable. On top of that, make sure your camera has some sort of protective casing because even if you’re holding it the whole time, snow/water IS going to get on it.
While your camera gear is important, the angles you choose to use WILL make or break how your footage looks. While I’ll admit that half the fun of filming snowboarding is finding creative angles to film a clip so the shot is more interesting, the footage can also go south quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. Therefore, when in doubt just follow these four rules:
1. Buttshots Are a Crime
First and foremost, do not film buttshots! This is by far the most important rule in filming snowboarding and if you commit this atrocity, people will scroll right by your clips. When filming a snowboarder, the best place to be filming is their front side and not be behind them. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, especially if the rider is doing spins in the video, but try your best to be on the correct side of your subject and your footage will instantly be twice as good!
2. Closer Is Better
Second, the closer you can get to a rider the better. Obviously, this is easier said than done but if you can get as close as you can while also keeping the snowboarder's whole body in the frame, it’s going to look pretty dang good. Footage that is filmed from far away often just doesn’t do as much justice to the terrain a rider is hitting and is overall just less exciting to watch because the viewer feels far away from the action.
3. Filming from Low Down Makes Things Look Bigger
Third, filming from low angles typically is going to look the best, especially for footage of riders in terrain parks. Videos from a low angle make obstacles appear larger and give more justice to just how big something is. It can also make the rider look bigger and more powerful which makes the video more intense and engaging to watch.
The best practice is to try and get as low as is needed and then aim the camera upwards so you are looking up at the rider. Make sure to keep their whole body including their snowboard in the frame. If you’re able to get a close-up angle that is also low to the ground and aimed up at the rider, this is just chef’s kiss.
Getting low and close can be intimidating especially if you’re new to filming snowboarding, but there are some solutions. Some camera lenses can capture a wider angle (called a fisheye) and therefore make it easier to get up close without worrying about being too close, and you can also get attachments like filming sticks to get your camera closer to the action without putting your body in the way.
4. Keep the Rider in the Middle of the Frame to Keep the Viewer's Attention
The fourth and final tip is to try and always keep the rider in the center of the frame. Your viewers don’t want to see where the rider just was or where they’re about to be, they want to see the rider in action! Trying to keep the rider in the center of the frame is especially crucial if you’re making an edit (clips strung together) because it adds more flow to the video. If you have an edit where the position of the rider jumps around every shot, it becomes distracting and annoying to the viewer who has to adjust where they’re looking every few seconds. On the other hand, if the snowboarder is almost always in the middle of the screen, the video flows much smoother. This may seem like a small detail but it can make a huge difference whether you and your audience realize it or not.
Another crucial piece to making sure your footage doesn’t look like it was filmed on a flip phone from 2007 is the lighting of your video. Lighting can seem like an intimidating aspect of filming because it can get complicated and there’s a lot of terminology to learn, but the good news is it’s not that hard.
The one huge takeaway with lighting is to never put your light source (the sun) behind your subject (the snowboarder) when filming. If you’re filming your buddy cruising down their favorite trail and the sun is directly in front of them, that footage is going to be terribly washed out. If you can remember that one golden rule, that’s all you need to know about lighting your videos.
A final important part of filming is learning to keep your camera steady. This is most easily achieved by staying stationary and filming the snowboarder by hand or with a tripod. However, sometimes you want to get that follow-cam filming action which makes getting a steady shot trickier. The good news is that many phones and cameras will have auto-stabilization features and you can even correct some shakiness in post-production editing. If you really want your footage to be ultra-steady, you could consider purchasing a gimbal or drone, but this certainly isn’t essential to getting a smooth video. If you’re riding along with your subject, going slower will provide a smoother shot and reduce the vibration of your riding and therefore the shakiness of the footage.
Feel free to switch things up once in a while. All the tips and tricks above are going to help you get some good footage, but don’t consider them concrete rules. If there’s an angle you think would look good or a certain lighting technique you like, don’t be afraid to try it out!
Experimenting with different filming styles and capturing the rider and the scenery in a new perspective is going to make you a better filmer overall and will provide a more dynamic and interesting video for viewers. Just think about your favorite snowboard movie or documentary, they never use the same angle the whole time.
Good luck and happy filming! If you have any unanswered questions about filming snowboard footage or just need a new snowboarding jacket that will really pop in the footage for your next edit, reach out to a Snowboard Expert on Curated—we are here to help!