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Filming your routines for a Virtual Event

This is a comprehensive guide for support programs in filming their routines for a virtual event which is based on pre-recorded routines.

We’ll break this guide up into five main parts: Equipment & Apps, Position Your Camera, Video Settings, Audio Settings and Recording. This guide won’t go into the uploading process, as that has its own article which can be viewed here.

If you have questions about the rubric for judging or any EP requirements, please reach out to the Event Provider directly, Cheercast is only responsible for collecting and collating routines, and handling production on the day of the live stream.

Equipment & Apps

We want to make the process of filming your routines should be as easy as possible, and we understand the need to strike a balance between getting good quality footage (which makes it easy for the judges to do their jobs) and using equipment and technology that is accessible to most programs.

Firstly, on equipment, we’ll take you through two possible options for filming:

Smartphone Cameras

Using a modern smartphone to record your routines is definitely the most cost-effective and high quality option. Modern smartphones generally have excellent sensors and with the right app can record video that rivals many DSLRs and given most people have one, they’re the best option for filming your routines. While there are so many different brands and models, we will be providing instructions for Apple iPhones and Android devices only, given they make up the overwhelming majority.

The only minor downfall of using your smartphone is getting it positioned correctly. Unless you have a smartphone tripod, you might have to get creative in the way you position your phone so it sits correctly at the right height. In the next sections, we’ll go through in depth how to use your smartphone to capture high quality footage.

Recommended minimum specification smartphones are as follows:

iPhone 6s/6s Plus and newer
Google Pixel 2/2 XL and newer
Samsung Galaxy S8 and newer

DSLR or Video Camera

DSLRs and Video Cameras are generally easy to come across these days, if you don’t have one at your program, chances are pretty high that a family member of one of your athletes will and can help you film your routines. Most modern DSLRs are able to capture high quality video, with smaller video file sizes and have the added benefit of being able to be mounted to a tripod for easy and stable positioning.

There are two things you need to consider before deciding on using a DSLR or Video Camera. The first is the focal length (or zoom) of the lens of the camera. Most DSLRs have changeable lenses which can be optically zoomed in or out, while Video Cameras often have fixed lenses. You want to ensure that the camera you’re using can capture a wide angle so you can fit the entire Cheer or Dance floor in the image.

The second thing you need to ensure is that the camera can record at a resolution of 1920×1080 at a minimum of 30 frames per second progressive (we recommend and prefer 50 frames per second). This resolution is often written out as 1080p30 or 1080p50. Please note, we ask that you DO NOT film in an Interlaced format (i.e. 1080i50). This will impact the quality of the final file and make it harder for judges to adequately judge your routine.

Smartphone Apps

For both iPhones and Android devices, you can either use the DEFAULT camera apps, or one of the below apps which will allow you extra control over some settings to get high quality footage. The following apps have been tested by our team and provide the additional settings necessary to capture great footage.

ProMovie (iPhone, Free/$4.49 to remove watermark)
The ProMovie app is the cheapest video app that has all of the features recommended to ensure you get high quality video. Technically, the app is free, however all videos on the free version have a small watermark in the bottom right hand corner. We recommend purchasing the $4.49 in app purchase to remove this watermark.

Open Camera (Android, Free)
Open Camera is an open source app that allows you to access a number of additional settings not found in the default Android camera app. Depending on your device, you get access to resolution, frame rate, bitrate and brightness/colour settings, which is everything you need to capture a high quality routine from your Android device. To get the most out of this app, you’ll want to click the settings cog in the top left and change the Camera API to Camera2 API.

Position Your Camera

This section goes into detail in how to setup and position your camera to get the best quality recording.

Position

In order to ensure judges have the best possible view of your routine and all of your athletes, we ask that you position your camera so that is has a view of the entire floor surface, from as close to centre as possible, and at a height between 1.5m and 1.8m from the ground. We understand that in some circumstances, it might be difficult for programs to fulfill all three of these requirements given the space available at your facility.

With this in mind, the most important requirement is showing the full performance surface and so if you have to position the camera slightly off centre or at a different height to capture the full performance surface that’s fine.

If you’re using a DSLR or Video Camera, it’s likely you’ll already have a tripod to use to get this height and keep the camera stable and level.

If you’re using a Smartphone, unless you have a tripod and an attachment (like this one by Manfrotto) to connect the two you’ll likely need to get creative to get the phone at the right height and to ensure it’s level. Make sure you’re using the rear camera on your device, NOT the front facing camera.

As an example, you can use furniture to get the right height and then use a smaller smartphone tripod (Gorilla-type tripods like this one are great) to keep your phone level and stable. You can also use tripods like the Gorilla one to securely attach them to objects, just make sure it doesn’t move and is as level as possible!

Video Settings

 When setting up your Smartphone App or DSLR, we recommend the following settings. While not all DSLRs will have all of these settings (or some will name them differently), the most important settings are the Recording Format and Resolution & Frame Rate.

If you’re using the default camera apps on a smartphone device, you might not have access to the below settings, so use your best judgement in terms of overall video quality.

Recording Format

The recording format is the file format and quality of the recorded video. When we say quality, we mean how detailed and how much data is used to capture the video (this is called the bitrate). While most smartphones will limit you on what format you can record in, you want to select the format which is the most reliable and compatible.

Without getting too technical on all of the different formats and recording methods, we recommend using a H.264 based format, which generally outputs .mp4 or .m4v files. Most DSLRs and Video Cameras will allow you to select .mp4 or H.264 (some cameras call this AVCHD, XAVC or similar). These files are widely compatible with nearly every player and will make it really easy for us to stream these on the day, as well as put them into our distribution system. Another option is Quicktime .MOV files, however these are generally much larger files than H.264 based formats.

In terms of the video quality, this will vary by the device you’re using and is generally expressed in Mbps (Megabits per second). We recommend a minimum of 20mbps and a maximum of 50mbps.

Please avoid sending us .mts or .mkv files wherever possible. If you need to convert your video into .mp4 or .m4v, you can use the free Windows or Mac application Handbrake. If using Handbrake, ensure that under the Summary Tab, you set the Format to MP4 and under the Video Tab you set the Frame Rate (FPS) to Same as Source and the Constant Quality value to 15.

Resolution & Frame Rate

As discussed previously, we require videos to be filmed at between 1080p30 and 1080p50. This means a resolution of 1920 pixels wide x 1080 pixels high at 30 or 50 frames per second. A frame rate of 50 frames per second will allow you to capture the speed of your routine at high quality and without any blurring when theres fast movement (like during tumble passes or baskets!).

If you notice a flicker in the lighting at your facility, try changing the frame rate until this disappears or is minimal.

In ProMovie on an iPhone, you can change the resolution, frame rate and quality (in Mbps) by pressing the square resolution button under the settings cog on the left hand side of the screen. Set the Resolution at 1080p, the Frame Rate at 50 and the quality at High (Standard is also acceptable if your phone doesn’t have much available space).

In Open Camera on an Android device, click the settings cog in the top left hand corner and scroll down to Video Settings. Set the resolution to FullHD 1920×1080, Video format to MPEG4 H264, Video bitrate (further down) to 30Mbps and Video frame rate to 50 (this option might not be available on all devices, so if you can’t see it, select 60 – or 25/30 if 60 causes flickering).

We recommend recording some test videos with the Bitrate and Frame Rate options, as these might not work for all devices. In your test recordings, you should be looking for the quality of the video (i.e. is the footage clear, easy to see everyone) and ensuring movement isn’t blurry.

Professional Settings (Aperture & Shutter Speed)

The Aperture setting allows you to control depth-of-field and how much of your shot is in focus. For example, a low aperture of f/2.8 will help you isolate your subject and create a nice blurry background. A higher aperture number such as f/22 will put everything in focus, which is useful when shooting landscapes or big groups of people. A higher f number is what we want for shooting routines, to make sure that everyone on the team is in focus and not blurry!

A good rule of thumb for Shutter Speed is that it should be set to double your frame rate. This will help you achieve smooth, cinematic-looking motion. It will also ensure you don’t get any light flicker in your shots. For example, if you’re shooting at 50 fps, your shutter speed should be dialled in at 1/100. For most situations, leaving shutter speed on auto will be the easiest option, particularly to avoid any flickering of lighting.

For DSLRs and Video Cameras, if your auto setting results in clean, widely focused video, go with it, but you might need to modify the aperture, as many DSLRs prioritise getting that blurry background, which we definitely don’t want!

For the ProMovie app on an iPhone, you can change the shutter speed by clicking the Shutter text in the bottom middle of the screen and then using the wheel on the right of the screen. iPhones don’t allow you to change the Aperture, but you can modify the focus setting by clicking the Focus text in the bottom middle of the screen and using the wheel on the right of the screen to select a value that has everyone on the floor in focus.

In Open Camera on an Android device, click the +/- button in the bottom left of the screen which will bring up options for ISO and Exposure settings, which if you change the ISO to a non-auto option, will show you Shutter Speed options. Aperture settings for Open Camera can be found by clicking the three dots in the middle left of the screen and selecting Aperture.

Brightness (Exposure, ISO, Gain)

Depending on the device you’re using to film your routines, the brightness/darkness of the video will be controlled by one or two of these options. On DSLRs this is generally referred to as ISO, on Video Cameras it’s often called Gain and on Mobile Devices it is generally called either ISO or Exposure.

If your facility is particularly dark, you might want to increase your ISO/Exposure/Gain to ensure your athletes are visible across the whole floor, even if this results in brighter areas looking a bit too bright. We recommend recording some test videos to see how these settings impact the overall quality of your recording, as Exposure/Gain settings set too high can result in grainy or noisy footage.

Colour/White Balance

While we aren’t too concerned with making sure the colour of your video is perfect, we’re providing this information in case you do have colour issues or want to know a little bit more about how these settings impact your overall footage.

White Balance (often shown as WB) is likely the most relevant of all of the colour settings, because it controls the overall colour of the footage and is the go-to setting if your video looks too orange or too blue, which is often a result of filming in facilities with varying types of lighting (high bay fluorescents, daylight, tungsten etc).

DSLRs and Video Cameras will have common names for their White Balance settings (i.e. Daylight, Fluorescent Lighting, Indoors) which generally should match the environment you’re in. Mobile devices often express this as a number (i.e. anywhere between 2,000K and 9,000K). You will see as you modify these values how the colour changes which makes it easy to determine the best white balance value for your venue. You essentially want the colour to look as ‘normal’ as possible, without any overly blue or orange tint.

A quick tip for setting White Balance correctly is to hold up a white piece of paper to the camera (in the same lighting as you’ll be using when recording) and adjust the values until the paper looks ‘normal’. Some DSLRs will let you set the White Balance this way automatically.

Audio Settings

While the audio quality of your routine videos is important, we understand it’s likely that most programs will be filming routines in their facilities, with a basic sound system playing your routine music. We’ve outlined a few different ways to get the best audio quality for your routines below, based on your device and what you have available in your facility.

Important: You should check with your EP if they are allowing you to ‘dub’ the music over the top of your routines. Some Event Providers might ask that you don’t do this in order to prevent ‘sideline coaching’. Please refer to your EP to determine if they allow this or if they require you to film the audio as it is directly in your venue.

For DSLRs and Video Cameras which generally have decent built-in microphones, you’ll want to position your speaker or sound system in a way that doesn’t overload the built-in mic. These devices often have somewhat directional microphones that are focused directly in front of the lens (in order to capture the audio of the person in front of the camera). This presents an issue because you can’t place your speaker in front of the camera, facing the camera because you’ll block theview of the camera.

We recommend placing the speaker as close to the camera as you can, pointed toward the camera and in a way that still allows your athletes to hear the music well enough to compete effectively. While this might not be as good as they’re used to, it’s important that your music is as clear as possible for our judges and for the broadcast. Most DSLRs and Video Cameras have onscreen displays for how loud the audio coming into the device is, so check this before starting to record to ensure you aren’t overloading the mic (which will cause distortion).

Another option is to use a 3.5mm splitter, which will split the audio from your iPod/Laptop (whatever you’re using to play the routine music) into two signals, one of which can be connected to your speakers and the other into the mic input of your DSLR. Before doing this, make sure your DSLR can accept a Line level signal, otherwise you’ll run the risk of overloading the mic input. Alternatively, this adapter will allow you to simultaneously connect your music device to both your speakers AND your DSLR at the same time.

For Smartphones, most of the above also applies, but often smartphone microphones are a bit more omnidirectional (meaning they pick up audio from wider) so you might find they pick up music a bit better – and remember that the microphones in most smartphones are at the bottom of the device, so be aware of that when you’re positioning the device and your speakers. Both the ProMovie and Open Camera apps have inbuilt displays of audio levels and can accept an external audio interface or microphone.

Depending on the smartphone, OS version and audio interface, you might be able to connect an external device to ‘dub’ the music live into the recording. We have successfully used the TC Helicon GO Guitar (not the Pro version) with our test device, which will let you connect your music device to the smartphone for recording and simultaneously connect to speakers (via the headphone output). Unfortunately, we can’t make any guarantees about any specific devices or whether they will work with any apps, and don’t recommend buying any specific device without being able to test it will work with your setup first!

Like our other suggestions, a good practice is to take some test recordings and play them back to make sure the routine audio sounds clear, doesn’t distort and isn’t too muffled or low. While we love to hear celebrating and cheers from the crowd, this can be a distraction to the judges if it overwhelms the routine music or if the camera mic picks up nearby conversations instead of the music.

Recording

This section goes into detail into the actual recording and saving of files.

It is important that you film the entire routine, from start to finish with no cuts, stops, fading in/out or any modifications to the video file.

Keeping the area clear

Just like at a real competition, you should aim to keep the camera’s view clear from obstructions or distractions, like wandering athletes or excited coaches. We recommend placing the camera so that any spectators are behind it, and ensuring you let everyone in your facility know beforehand not to walk in front of the camera while you’re recording. Note that when recording from a smartphone, be aware of any athletes or supporters sitting too close to the microphone side of the device, to ensure this isn’t picked up by the mic.

When to start/stop the recording

We recommend starting the recording AFTER the team has entered the floor surface but BEFORE they’ve done their set or chant. This should generally be about 5-10 seconds before the routine starts. At the end of the routine, please don’t stop the recording until 5 seconds after the last athlete has stopped a movement. Please avoid recording a large amount of time before or after the routine as we need to keep everything running on time.

Please do not introduce your team unless specifically requested to by your EP, as most events will have an MC that introduces your routine. Unless requested otherwise, we recommend having other athletes or spectators cheering at the beginning and ending as this will add to the atmosphere.

Renaming the file

Once you have recorded your routine and confirmed it is the one you want to submit, please make sure you rename the file in the following syntax, ensuring you do not modify the file extension at the end of the file (.mp4, .mkv etc). If you want to add the division name to make it easier to identify teams with similar names, please add this at the end, like so:

[ItemNumber]_[TeamName]_[ProgramName]_[DivisionNameOptional].mp4

For example, if the routine you are uploading is number 122 on the work order, is being performed by a team called the Little Vegemites who are from the program Aussie All Stars in the Junior Level 1 division, the file being uploaded should be named as follows:

122_Little Vegemites_Aussie All Stars_Junior Level 1

Uploading your recording

For more information about uploading your routines, check out our dedicated support article here

The most important thing when it comes to filming your routines is to ensure we have a clear view of the entire floor. Even if you can’t position the camera perfectly centred, ensure the entire floor surface is visible and that all of your athletes can be seen.

Unsure if your positioning or video quality is right or want to confirm any settings? Take a screenshot of the video and email it to our team and we’ll give you feedback!

Last Updated July 31, 2020
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