How to Film Skateboarding with a Fisheye Lens
The fisheye lens and skateboarding have been inseparable since the introduction of the Sony VX1000 camera and MK1 fisheye in the late 90s. Look back at any of your favorite skate videos and you will see a majority of the clips are filmed with a fisheye. This wide-angle format allows filmers to capture skateboarding in a personal and exciting way and in turn, makes watching skate videos far more entertaining. If you are new to filming with a fisheye or want to improve your filming, you've come to the right spot. In this two-part guide, we cover both stationary filming and follow filming.
- PART 1: How to Film Skateboarding Stationary with a Fisheye Lens
- PART 2: How to Follow Film Skateboarding with a Fisheye Lens
1) Hold the camera low and angle it up at the skater
Positioning the camera low to the ground will make the rail, stairs, gap, etc. seem larger and make the tricks look even more impressive. A handle for your camera is recommended if your camera doesn’t have a built-in handle. This gives you the option to hold it from the top to get the camera even lower.
2) Get close to the skater
Get close but be careful not to get too close. Your goal should be to keep their entire body in the frame. Take a minute to find that sweet spot distance before you start filming. Flying boards and carcasses coming your way is inevitable so it’s a good idea to get comfortable ‘filming blind’. This means you are watching the skater as you film rather than looking through the viewfinder or at the screen.
3) Use smooth camera motions
Moving the camera slower and smoother will make the footage look crisper and less blurry. Try using both hands and turning the camera from the front, not the back. Imagine the pivot point is on the lens of the camera and swivel the camera around that as you move it. This way you can capture the skater entering the frame, mid trick, and landing with one camera motion.
4) Film from the front
In general, filming from the skater’s front side is better than getting excessive butt shots. But this is not always possible and depends on the spot. If the trick involves a 180, figure out if you want the roll-up or roll away to show their front or back.
5) Clean your lens
It goes without saying that taking care of your equipment is a crucial part of getting footage that you and your subject are proud of. Carry a dust blower and microfiber cloth to clear and debris from and particles from your lens.
6) Avoid getting yourself in the shot
Having a wide-angle lens has its benefits but one downside is you have to take more care to not get yourself or other unwanted parts of the scene in your shot. Your foot in the corner of the frame as the skater rolls away is distracting but it’s not the end of the world and you will get better at avoiding this with practice.
7) Experiment with different angles and camera motions
Remember the reason you started filming is the same reason you started skateboarding. Don’t stress and have fun getting creative with your friends. Swoop in from side angles or try some rolling shots. And when you get extra comfortable you can try filming a follow line which we cover in part two, below.
8) Bring the hype
Share in the stoke of your friends landing a trick and offer words of encouragement when they are 40 tries in. Burritos are always a great incentive.
Follow filming with a fisheye is tricky but the finished product can be rewarding and highly entertaining to the viewer. The distorted effect puts the spotlight on the skater and the obstacle at hand. Not knowing what’s coming up in the line keeps things extra exciting.
1) Set up a filming board
Soft wheels are essential because they will make your ride less noticeable in the audio, help keep up your speed, and allow you to roll over debris easier. You can film with hard wheels on smooth ground but rougher spots require softer wheels for more stability and less background noise.
2) Plan your line
Figure out where the skater is going to start and end their line and the best spot for you to be following them from at all points along the line. You also need to figure out how you are going to start. Will it be stationary or rolling? You want to make the filming as smooth as possible so it’s a good idea to minimize pushing in the line when possible.
3) Get low and stay close
We briefly covered this in part 1 but keeping the camera as low to the ground as possible is best. This makes the skater look better because the gaps appear larger, obstacles look bigger, and your homey's pop is higher than ever.
It's also ok to drift away from the skater for a second but try to make it part of the line so it doesn’t look awkward or unplanned. You will also want to adjust your speed to match the speed of the skater. Dragging your foot at times or taking quick pushes here and there is the best way to do this.
4) Keep the camera steady
Always easier said than done but avoid camera shake whenever possible, especially if you are following on foot for part of the line. Lightweight cameras such as GoPros are more difficult to keep steady but adding some weighted attachments to the handle makes them easier to control to get smoother footage.
5) Learn to film with your opposite hand
You may have to switch the camera over to your other hand depending on the spot or line. Practice filming with both your right and left hand so making those quick adjustments in the future isn’t a big deal.
6) Avoid excessive butt shots
Yet another reason to know the line ahead of time. Try to stay out in front and film the skaters front side when possible. You can even switch sides on the skater if they do a 180 in their line.
7) Decide how to end the line
Are you going to give the skater a crack at some extra flip tricks at the end of the line? Do you need to come to a quick stop at some stairs? These are some questions to keep in mind. One tip here is to keep the last obstacle at the edge of the frame as the skater rolls away from their last trick. This gives more impact to the clip and brings more closure to it.
8) Contain your excitement
Keep it cool when your friend lands the trick they have been trying for three hours straight. As excited as you are to give your arm and back a rest, excessive cheering from behind the lens never bodes well for the edit. Cheering from the homies or pedestrians is always welcome though because it’s organic and part of the scene.
Try out different angles, crosses, and paths to make the line more interesting and pleasing to the eye. Swerve around other objects in the line, try different panning techniques, and get creative.
10) Spread the stoke
Skateboarding and filming are all about having fun. Get your friends stoked to land their trick and then get them to film you!
Now that you have all the tips to film skateboarding with a fisheye you should get out there and do it! Get your friends hyped to make their tricks, put together an edit, host a local premiere of your new video to showcase your new fisheye skills. And if you are looking for more tips you can always contact fellow skateboarders on our customer service team.