Editing Video – How to Make the Best Sport Videos Possible!

Head out to any sports venue on a Saturday afternoon and you will find an infinite number of parents filming an infinite number of children…leading to an infinite amount of raw footage that often sits inside the video camera, unappreciated for an eternity!

While many parents eagerly grab the camera on the way out the door to film a sporting event, a post-production fear seemingly descends upon those same parents when it comes time to edit their footage and produce the final video!  Getting past this phase is critical to enjoying the fruits of your labor, and following just a few easy steps of post-production strategy can dramatically improve your final results and give you the “WOW” factor that so many parents crave.  There are dozens of easy-to-use editing programs available on the market, but the same principles apply regardless of which software you choose.

A basic assumption is that your program enables you to perform “non-linear editing”…that is, the ability to move your clips around in any order you want, “trim” away the parts you don’t want, and then add transitions and music.  Learning these individual techniques is one thing (read the manual!), but knowing how to put it all together is what differentiates the best videos from the rest.  Let’s take a quick look at how you can improve your video editing approach to make the process easier while producing the best possible sports videos!

Get clear on what kind of highlight video you want to produce!

The first step in editing any sports video is to decide what kind of highlight video you want to end up with.  Are you going to tell the story of a game, illustrating the ebbs and flows of the teams as they dueled across the field?  Perhaps you are trying to stitch together season highlights, showing hard-earned victories over the course of the season.  Or are you going to zero in only on your child, showing their challenges and accomplishments and making them look like a superstar?

Gaining clarity on this over-arching decision will provide the navigational beacons for the remainder of your editing project.  Ideally this decision was made before your filmed the game, but regardless of how you actually filmed the event, the same footage can yield dramatically different final results in post-production based on this initial editing decision.  If you decide to tell the story of the game, a lot of pre-game and half-time footage becomes irrelevant for this particular project, along with what would otherwise be cute sideline banter or interesting reaction shots.  Close-ups of players that would make sense for a nostalgic slower-paced film will be used a lot less frequently for this type of video.  Choosing which clips to use becomes an exercise on deciding which plays best represent what happened during that drive, or which scenes display how the offense was unable to get past those two defenders, or how that breaking ball befuddled all hitters.

Conversely, if you want to showcase an individual player, the pre-game video footage moves to the forefront of your priorities.  How they prepared for the game…the intensity on their face as they came out on the field…the jitters on display during the national anthem…all of these video clips become your first choice for building the final highlight reel.  Half-time shots also have more of a role, along with post-tame interaction, celebrations, and condolences.

Once you recognize the magnitude of this initial decision, it is easy to identify when other editors have failed to do so…their videos whipsaw across scenes as they try to put everything filmed into the final video, leading to a nonsensical collision of scenes, close-ups, and game plays.  The process of tackling your project also became a lot easier…the clearer this initial vision, the quicker and easier it is to identify which raw footage no longer makes sense.

A second overarching decision is to determine the pace of your film.  Are you trying to replicate a high-energy MTV-style video, with rapid transitions, hyper-short clips, and the action tightly sequenced to the beat of the music?  Or perhaps you are seeking an emotional, nostalgic feel that your kids will appreciate decades from now as they better understand your gift to them…the visceral experience felt by the parent as they watched their child succeed or fail in competition, learning life lessons as they gave it their all on the field of play?

Again, clarity on this goal drives downstream tactical editing decisions. The rapid-fire MTV style demands many short clips with very short transitions…you may be fitting 25 or more different shots into each minute of final production, and transitions may only be 0.25 to 0.33 seconds long between each clip.  The sequencing of the clips becomes less important, as your primary objective is more of a free-flowing sensory assault on the viewer that coordinates the action with the beat of the music.  On the other hand, going for a slower, more nostalgic video will suggest longer clips…clips that must be properly sequenced to tell a story.  Each clip can have a few more seconds involving a build-up to the action…perhaps your son pounded his fist into his glove before the ball was hit to him, or your daughter turned around just in time to see the soccer ball coming her way.

Getting clear on what you want to produce will make the rest of the process a piece of cake!  Take a few minute extra minutes to think this through up front, and your sports video editing will take less time and become far more effective.

Selecting and Trimming your sports video clips

Most parents are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of footage that they took.  Whether you recorded the entire game without hitting “stop”, or took thousands of 3-second long snippets, either way there tends to be an overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done.  If you followed the first steps toward gaining clarity on the final goal, however, it becomes an easy task to quickly identify and select only those clips that will make the best sports video possible!

Let’s assume you want to make a slower-paced video that focuses primarily on your child.  With that goal in mind, the only team clips that now interest you are the best scoring plays and memorable defensive stops, along with your child’s reaction to those events.  You can fast forward through all of those minutes where the your child’s team hit a double but never got the run in…where the soccer ball went up and down the field but never in the net…where both basketball teams made lay-up after lay-up with no spectacular shots in the process.  Instead, the clips that matter most are the ones with your daughter lacing up her cleats…your son making sure his hat is on straight…your child running off the bench and nervously adjusting to the pace of the game.  A few team clips can help provide an intervening backdrop, but only those that made a difference…and if you remember when those key events took place during the game, you suddenly have a lot less raw footage to sift through before finishing your project!

In short, over 60 minutes of video footage quickly narrows down to the 3-5 minutes of clips that best support your objective…it’s easy to select when you told yourself what to look for!

Trimming the clips also becomes a much easier exercise when you gave yourself a strategic vision.  Having decided on a slower-paced video, for example, each clip can be at least four seconds long, and you easily have the latitude to drop in a few 10-15 second clips as well.  A slow paced production allows you to include the shot with the trees that slowly pans down to the soccer field with nothing on it, only to then have the action enter the field of view from the left side.  The girls run across your viewfinder from left to right, and then run off the screen, again leaving an empty field. Later you will be able to drop a full 3 second fade transition on top of that empty field, leading to your next scene.  None of this would be appropriate for the high-energy fast-paced genre…but you won’t waste any time or mind share considering all possible options since you know what you’re trying to accomplish!

Sequencing, Transitions, and Music

It’s worth pausing at this point in your editing to compare your video efforts to baking a cake or making a woodworking project…having selected all of your clips and trimmed them down to only the parts you want, you now have all of the ingredients and tools sitting in front of you…everything is “kitted”.  You can ignore the rest of the footage that tends to paralyze many parent editors. Now comes the fun part, that creative component that made you want to tackle this project in the first place!

There are different ways to produce a sports highlight video, and what works for one parent may not work for another.   And, what works for one type of project is not the best approach for a different style video…again, the initial strategy drives the decisions and the sequencing of work.  If you are set on using one particular song, for example, now is the time to put the song onto your workspace and see if you have enough video to cover the length of the song (you need to have 20-30 seconds MORE of video than song length, since you will “lose” duration when you add transitions).  If not, your choices include adding more video clips (which pulls you away from your original goal and purity of clip selection); taking the clips you have and adding back some of the duration that you trimmed away; adding “slow motion” to your existing clips to lengthen their duration; or artificially ending the song early so it matches the duration of your video clips.

You may not only be set on a particular song, but even zeroing in on a favorite chorus or memorable lyric which your child is constantly singing…an anchor piece that needs to align with several key video clips.  If so, introducing the music now and sequencing the clips to align with that critical part of the song becomes the best way to proceed.

Conversely, perhaps you have the selected and trimmed clips in the right order to tell your story.  You may want to leave them in this ragged state for the moment…raw ingredients that may not yet be in the right order…and just let these clips play indiscriminately and jaggedly while listening to different music.  Maybe there are four or five different songs that might work…before spending any more time on video editing or timing, now is the time to see which song fits best.  The lack of transitions may be annoying, but there is more than enough there to make a decision on the soundtrack selection.  Once you make that decision, its okay to take the song back out for the time being (some editing software and hardware memory work best and easiest when they don’t have to manage the musical score after each editing adjustment).  Arrange the clips to best tell your story, and insert the transitions as you see fit.  THEN add the music back in, and see how your visual efforts align with the duration and timing of the music.

Remaining decisions include aligning the clips and transitions to the beat and length of the song, and confirming that the scenes make sense with the flow of the music…especially with lyrics. What sounded good as a backdrop song in the car may suddenly become inappropriate for the sports video clips it is suddenly supporting.

As the final alignment of video clips pares up to different parts of the song, other editing opportunities will emerge.  Perhaps a chord progression introduces a different mood…maybe the five video clips during that chorus would be more impactful in sepia or black and white before going back to color!  If a guitar solo is finishing up, maybe the fade transition you originally put in should instead be a flying window as the guitar trails off and the vocals begin again.  Having stayed true to your original objectives while crafting the production with major decisions around clip selection and sequencing, it’s now okay to tweak and make final adjustments to the final project.

Editing is easy when you know what you want!

What is often an overwhelming editing task leading to inaction (“Dad, when can I watch my soccer game that you videotaped last summer?”) can instead be a quick exercise in using a strategy to drive tactical decisions.  Take a look back at the process we’ve just covered…first, a decision was made on what kind of video was going to be produced, and then whether the action would be fast-paced and high energy versus slower paced and more melodramatic.

These two over-arching philosophies drove all other editing decisions around clip selection, trimming, sequencing, transitions, and music…as well as the order in which those editing decisions were made.  Without that clear picture in mind up front, the editing decisions become difficult and overwhelming…so much so that your footage ends up in your camera for years instead of being enjoyed on screen by your family!  Editing sports videos becomes a much quicker task when those navigational beacon are decided first…meaning you are more inclined to edit that footage sooner, and produce the kind of sports highlight video that makes your child say “WOW!”

Read More in our New Book!

How to Video Your Children's Sporting Events