Carl Schneider founded GoodSport.Video out of his love for sports. But it’s not just about shooting great footage, it’s about sharing the benefits of sports and the inspiration he gains from the athletes he works with.
Tell us about the evolution of GoodSport.Video.
I started out as a still photographer — that was over 25 years ago. I began in high school by shooting the professional beach volleyball tour, which was based in my hometown of Hermosa Beach, California. From there, I expanded into shooting other sports, until I was regularly shooting major ad campaigns for some of the largest Fortune 500 companies.
As I saw changes in the photography industry, I made the shift to video. The transition to shooting video of sports was natural because the subject is so perfect for this medium. A still photo can capture a moment, but a video clip (and especially an edited sequence) can tell the story much better. GoodSport.Video was launched out of this newfound excitement for capturing sports in this new way.
What do you like about shooting sports?
I love the unexpected randomness of sports. It’s controlled chaos — you can never completely control or anticipate what will happen. I’m always looking to capture something that’s elusive. It’s these fleeting moments that summarize the experience of playing sports. I’m not always exactly sure what I’m looking for, but I know I’ll recognize it when I see it.
I also love the sculptural forms the human body makes and how energy is transferred through the body and into the environment and objects (balls, boards, etc.). It’s the ultimate mix of science and art. When an athlete is at the top of their game, their movements look completely natural and their energy appears to flow so effortlessly. Expert athletes know how to transfer and leverage energy through their bodies with perfect form and without any wasted effort.
What do people look for in sports footage?
Clients want to tell a compelling, believable story. It’s always about the story. Video can put the viewer in the middle of the action and in the shoes of the athlete. What’s it like to be that person? What is their experience? What does it feel like to slide down that monster wave or mountain? Sports footage is both aspirational and inspirational!
Footage buyers are always looking for authenticity, too. It only takes half a second to know if an athlete is faking it. We never fake it, nor ask our athletes to. We shoot expert athletes and never ask a person to do a sport or movement they aren’t already doing every day.
When we set up our shots, even though we may ask our athletes to do the same move dozens of times, we don’t make it easy for them. We want to capture their full effort on every take. The athletes work to complete exhaustion and that’s a good thing. Often the final takes are the best because they show more of the athletes’ desperation!
As well, first-person (point-of-view) video is now expected. A few years ago, this style was novel, but these days it’s the norm. Putting the viewer in the middle of the action, this experiential filmmaking can be a very effective tool to help tell the whole story.
How do you approach your shoots?
I try to capture the entire experience: from preparation, to the peak of the action, to the final moments, and the trip home. Everyone has different reasons for doing sports. For some, it’s an escape. For others, it’s exercise, the thrill, the challenge, the camaraderie. For most, it’s some combination. I always try to figure out what makes my athletes tick, then capture their whole experience and the range of emotion that goes along with it.
Before every shoot, we do extensive pre-production planning, plotting shoots out with detailed shot lists. However, during a shoot, we use these shot lists as a starting point and outline only. We know there will always be moments, angles, and action that are even better than what we’d planned, so we improvise a lot. We’re constantly looking for these moments and pushing ourselves — as well as our athletes — to capture them.
What are the challenges of shooting sports?
Outside of our camera work, the single most difficult logistical challenge is avoiding logos. Of course, all sporting goods equipment and clothing are covered with logos. It’s not good enough to just remove or cover them — people are used to seeing logos all over sports gear, so it wouldn’t look natural. We must deal with them in other creative ways and make generic-looking logos where appropriate.
So we’ve developed a props and wardrobe department with all kinds of sporting goods equipment and clothing we’ve modified. We also have a huge art department kit we bring to shoots, full of every color and kind of tape, as well as generic labels we had custom made.
Do you have a favorite element for shooting: surf, sand, snow, streets, turf?
My single favorite element when shooting sports is the unexpected. Next to that, it is the intangible. I have learned to look for certain things from each sport and location, but there are always great surprises. Experience has taught me how to recognize these surprises when they present themselves — to expect the unexpected — then capture them in camera.
After the unexpected and intangible, the most important element is lighting. When shooting water sports, for example, I love how the light plays off the water’s surface. It’s constantly changing. I used to avoid what I thought was “bad light.” However, I’ve come to the conclusion there really is no such thing as bad light. All lighting can be worked with — it comes down to what the filmmaker does with it. Sometimes a bump of fill light can make a big difference. Other times, adjusting my angle a bit to find the specular highlights can turn an otherwise plain shot into a dramatic one.
What do you like about shooting stock footage?
I love having complete freedom to shoot whatever, whenever, and however I want. With assigned contract work, which I’ve been doing for over 20 years, the filmmaker must shoot to a shot list provided by the client. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it limits creativity. However, when I shoot stock footage, I have absolute artistic freedom.
What are your three shoot must-haves?
- Great athletes
- Amazing locations
- Interesting lighting