Fun fact about me.
I come from a family of tennis players. My dad, most of my uncles, my mom, my brother all play and I used to play when I was in high school. While we’re not professionals, as a family sport, it’s a great way to bond and I was not particularly terrible.
I bring this up partly because it’s a fun little insight into my personal life, but mainly as a cheap introduction to this week’s post which is as you’d guess, about a tennis athlete.
It’s the beginning of the year again, which means the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is starting up its ‘Go Green’ features project highlighting some of Hawaii’s top college athletes in a profile that runs every Thursday. Since last year the print and web stories have also included a video package shot and edited by myself and others in our video team.
This week, I had the opportunity to go out in the field and do a sports feature piece on Marina Hruba, a freshman at UH and an up-and-coming star for the Rainbow Wahine tennis team.
At 6’1, Marina is easily the tallest member of the team, something that’s helped her reach an 8-0 record in singles competition. Her story is particularly fascinating because prior to 2016, she’d never come to America let alone Hawaii. Her first time to the United States was to play tennis for UH. For most, leaving your home country to live, study, and play tennis in another might be extremely daunting, but Marina seemed to take it all in stride.
For the shoot, along with the usual camcorder gear, I decided to experiment with the video functions of my new Canon SL1, a small DSLR with supposedly solid video quality, and my new 50mm 1.8 STM lens (btw it’s a great lens at a VERY affordable price).
So on a hot Tuesday afternoon, I lugged two cameras, two tripods, and a bunch of audio equipment down to the tennis courts at the University of Hawaii.
The shoot itself wasn’t anything too crazy. Since I was mainly using the SL1 as a b-camera, I basically set the functions I wanted (always in Manual mode!), pointed the camera to where it needed to be, and just let it roll. However, since the recording limit for DSLRs are generally 30 minutes, I would occasionally have to double back and check to make sure everything was working.
My main camera was the XA20 which is much more of a run-and-gun camera, a style I immensely prefer as a videographer.
The shoot consisted mainly of me running around with the camcorder, filming the athletes doing a series of exercises practicing volleys, drop shots, forehands, backhands, and then serves while occasionally running back to my SL1 to either check its settings or move to a different location.
After practice, we got to sit down with coach Jun Hernandez and Marina and have the interview.
Something you’ll notice in the video is my cutting from one shot of Marina to another, but from a different angle. This was another experiment I was trying since I had two cameras with me. I set the XA20 far enough for a medium shot of her and the SL1 a little closer for a close-up. It was sort of my way of breaking up the action so that the viewer doesn’t have to continually stare at one long take (let’s be honest. Our attention spans are way too short for any scene longer than 5 seconds). Hopefully the cuts look natural and don’t cause too much distraction.
Believe it or not, hardest part about the entire shoot was syncing up the audio from both cameras in post processing. Since I don’t have an external audio recorder for the SL1, I did the hand-clap sync thing that I’m sure looked so silly. But after fiddling with Premiere Pro for a little bit, I eventually got it perfectly synced. I can only hope audio syncing in the future will be just as smooth.
My biggest critique looking back on the video is probably during the interview when I overexposed Marina’s face a tad. I shot in manual with the SL1 and in Program mode (like a noob) with the XA20 and hadn’t gotten the settings the same for both cameras. The result apparently is two different exposers of the same subject with her face being more overexposed in the SL1 than in the XA20. But thankfully while it was slightly noticeable, it her face wasn’t so bad that it was completely unusable. Definite teaching moment.
Overall though, after months of not shooting video, it was nice to be out in the field again, doing what I enjoy. I got to go out and shoot sports, interview a young up-and-coming athlete, and experiment with two cameras. Sure, it was a tad hot outside, but I can’t complain too much about it.
And maybe I’ll pick up may tennis racquet and hit a few balls again.