Video Essentials

Make Your Videos Extreme: Tips for High Action Shooting

If you want to give some energy to your videos, get out of the office and start shooting in rough conditions.

That’s what Paul Cronin, owner of White Cap Video in Jamestown, Rhode Island, does everyday. Cronin specializes in shooting on boats and helicopters, getting action shots that others can’t. We spoke to him to get tips on shooting in extreme conditions.

Cronin has been shooting on boats and helicopters for over 30 years, so it’s a subject he knows well. Prior to his videography career, Cronin was a professional sailboater, and then a coach for the Olympic sailing team. He incorporated video into his coaching and learned to drive a boat while filming at the same time. Before he knew it, he had a new calling.

Here are a few tips from Cronin on shooting on water or in the air:

  • If you’re using a small camera on a boat, you can drive and shoot at the same time. Just be sure you’re aware of anything that’s happening on the deck.
  • If you’re shooting with a bigger camera on a boat — Paul uses a Sony XDCAM HD PMW-500 — you’re going to need a driver, one that you can trust. ┬áCommunicate with your driver on what you’ll need for each shot. If your driver doesn’t know what you need, you could get tossed around the boat — not something you want when you have $80,000 equipment on your shoulder, says Cronin. Poor communication could also result in you only getting 10 minutes of useable footage for an hour’s filming.
  • When shooting on an unsteady surface, such as chasing a sailboat upwind in rough water, do everything you can to brace yourself. Squat down and lock your feet in place. Cronin is thrilled with the Fujinon TS-P58A image stabilizer, which he tried recently and hopes to purchase this year. He likes that it isn’t an all-in-one stabilizer: you can remove it easily and use your own lens for better clarity.
  • If you’re shooting in a fast-moving situation, such as sailing downwind, you could take on a lot of water. Have your camera protected ahead of time. Cronin likes Kata camera covers, modifying the fit with Velcro. He keeps one hand dry and under wraps holding the camera, while the other had works the controls from the outside and gets wet.
  • In helicopter shooting, the key to getting great results is team coordination. Cronin has been hired to shoot a low-altitude shot of a sailboat racing upwind at sunset. “You have to have a good team,” he says. “It’s not only the guy with the camera on his shoulder.” He relies on Bose headsets to keep his team in sync.
  • When you’re starting out, don’t spend yourself into a hole. Just learn your craft slowly. Cronin has seen many aspiring videographers purchase a lot of high-end equipment and charge a premium for their services when they still don’t know their skills. Instead, purchase little by little, as you can afford it, and understand that you’re not a seasoned professional yet.


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  1. Good tips, high action shooting is certainly challenging but these words of advice are very useful for filmmakers, directors, and videographers! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Jeremy Campbell | August 31, 2011, 11:19 am
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