How to get those awesome shots
Filming skateboarding is not as simple as it may seem. In fact, most filmers were at one time reasonably good skaters who for whatever reason decided to go behind the lens. There are several pieces of equipment a filmer needs in order to do his job well. We will start with the board you need to build. Zip Zingers by Krooked make great decks for filming, and an even better option is the larger Zig Zagger. If you decide to go with a more traditional shape, eight inches wide or larger is ideal because you will want the most stable platform possible to ensure balance, which leads to smooth filming. After the deck, you will need trucks and riser pads. Risers are important because filmers typically run large soft wheels, which we will discuss later, and thusly require more space for truck to lean. Riser pads let the trucks turn more sharply without wheel bite. The standard trucks are Independent Highs, but almost any normal truck will work fine. As mentioned before, wheels are very important to the art of skateboard filming. Do not go smaller than 60mm, and try to find softer wheels as opposed to harder ones, which will make more noise and vibrations while filming. Bearings are also important, invest in good ones.
Now that your setup is set up, its time to talk about camera equipment. The easiest and cheapest way to get into filming is a recent innovation called the Go-Pro HD. This tiny wonder is basically a high def camcorder, fisheye included, in a tiny gray box. Buy one of these, a tripod mount, and fashion a makeshift handle out of a steel flat bar and your good to go. The downsides of the go pro are twofold. It has no viewfinder, and it does not perform well in low light situations. However, its ridiculous ruggedness and ease of use ensure no trick will ever go unfilmed. For those who want to delve deeper into skate videography, the go pro simply is not enough. For these people I would recommend any of the smaller high definition Sony or Panasonic camcorders coupled with an Opteca fisheye. (fisheye lenses by the way are what gives skate videos their unique warped look). For those with money to blow, the better setups include professional cameras like the Panasonic HVX 200 coupled with high performance lenses such as those made by century optics.
Also, recently, many filmers are switching to DSLR video for the convenience of interchangeable lenses and shallow depths of field. This option will give the average user the most artistic options when it comes to capturing footy. The canon 7D is the current leader for HD video on DSLR format, but that is likely to change as more models come out.
When filming a skateboarder, one will either be moving with them filming a line, or staying still filming a single trick such as an ollie down stairs. When filming a moving line, make sure you are low enough that your camera is looking up at the skateboarder. The camera itself should be no more than three feet above the ground for a standard shot. If you need to slow down or speed up, you will need to do so gently in order to keep the shot smooth.
For non-moving shots, you will either be close or far. For close shots, you’ll probably want the fisheye attachment, and you will need to crouch down. A tripod is ideal. For farther shots, such as a manual when you want the full pad in view, a fisheye is not a good idea. Still, you should try to use a tripod. Make sure all your equipment is fully charged before going out, as some tricks can easily take twenty tries and more. BE PATIENT! No skater likes to work with an annoying filmer. One of the most important skills you will learn is how to egg on a skater who is close to giving up.
Hopefully, you can take these tips and become your crews designated filmer. If you hang out with great skaters, they will get noticed through videos shot by you, meaning you will be noticed as well. Many a pro filmer came to their position by way of this concept. Good luck and get that footy