How To Capture High-Speed Subjects on Camera

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

A version of this article appears on Assignment Desk

Some of the most difficult projects to work on as a DP are the ones where objects are moving at very fast speeds. Go To Team’s experienced Director of Photography Roger Woodruff has tackled some pretty incredible high-speed shoots. His project resume includes NASCAR, INDYCAR, Major League Soccer (MLS), and downhill skiers.

Here are some tips from Roger on how to keep your footage sharp:

Determining Your Lens:

It might sound obvious but in order to get the shot, you want to have the right lens to execute the vision.  You will need to take into consideration some key factors prior –

  • How far away are you?  
  • How quickly is the subject moving?
  • Is the subject moving towards you or parallel to you?  

Once you have these answers picking the right lens should be easy.  A good “Long” lens or telephoto lens is usually the right choice. Preferably one with a variable focal length.

Camera Settings:

Once you have the right lens on your camera and understand the potential movement of your subject, it’s time to dial in some settings on your camera.  There are two settings you can dial-in to help get sharper footage –

  • The first setting you should consider adjusting is your aperture.  A slower aperture will increase the depth of field. This will give you a better chance of nailing the focus.  
  • The second setting you should consider changing is your shutter speed.  Faster shutter speed will send less light to the sensor. This will decrease motion blur, but it will help highlight the movement in the shot.

Pro Tip: If your camera can shoot at higher frame rates such as 60fps or even 120fps consider using that to your advantage. You could slow the footage down in “post” for a slow-motion effect.

The bottom line is that different projects require different camera methods, even when it’s the same subject matter. It’s important to take this into account when you’re in the field.  A good DP will talk to their producer in advance about what they want and plan accordingly. At the end of the day, it is all about what the client wants and good communication!

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About the Author

Assignment Desk
Assignment Desk
From camera crews to producers, DPs to grips, gaffers to makeup artists, Assignment Desk provides virtually any production element-worldwide. Quality is at our core, and we ensure that the freelancers we hire have the creativity, technical ability, and experience that is perfectly suited to your needs.

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