Artist Spotlight, Pro Tips

Action Heroes: GoodSport Video Brings Its A-Game to Sports Footage


Whether you’re a fan, a team player, a weekend warrior, or an intrepid adventurer, just about everyone loves sports in one way or another. Those nearly infinite perspectives also mean that sports are an area with endless possibilities for inspiring imagery, making them the perfect subject for the aspiring (or professional) videographer. GoodSport Video’s Carl Schneider was drawn to the aesthetics of athletics early on, starting out as a photographer before transitioning to video and founding his agency, which now represents a number of international videographers, in addition to Schneider himself. With more than 25,000 clips in the GoodSport collection on Pond5, there’s a staggering amount of content to cover just about any scenario. We caught up with Schneider to find out how he makes it all happen.


Playing the Field

“I’ve been a sports photographer for over 25 years, up until about six years ago, when I started to make the shift over to video,” explains Schneider. “It was a natural progression, since sports are so action-oriented, and video is as good, or a better way, to capture those moments. I also saw that the market for stills was getting more and more difficult with so much material flooding the marketplace, and video was still somewhat in its infancy. Now it’s grown a lot and it’s becoming more of a mature market.”

Not only that, but the switch to video also opened a new realm of possibilities for creativity behind the camera. “There are so many different ways of shooting sports, from the GoPros and other PoV cameras, to long lens,” enthuses Schneider. “Drone aerial footage is something we’re doing a lot of now. I think the buyer is always looking for that variety. You combine that with a variety of all the different sports that are out there and the different moments that can be captured — not just the action, but the before-and-after lifestyle type shots — and I don’t think the marketplace will ever be completely satisfied. It’s always going to be buyers looking for a different kind of angle, a different look, or a different way of showing these moments.”

Downhill Skateboarding on a Mountain Road by GoodSportVideo

The Importance of Research

“We’re constantly evaluating what we should be shooting and how to shoot it,” says Schneider. “We do extensive research on where the demand is. We try to determine where the voids are in the marketplace, so we can fill those voids and hopefully tap into unfulfilled demand. It’s not easy to determine that. We do a lot of research on what is currently available, where we feel there might be some holes in the market, what the current trends are, what sports are trending, and ways of shooting them that are trending. And we’re always pushing to shoot in a more dynamic way — a way that’s going to convey those emotions to the viewer.”

Then there’s the matter of who the GoodSport team is actually capturing on camera. Exploring different scenarios means using a wide variety of people as subjects, and different subjects require different approaches. “When we work with expert athletes, we try to get inside their heads,” Schneider explains. “We try to understand where they’re coming from, what makes them tick, and why they do what they do. We’ll spend time interviewing them before shoots. Sometimes it’s obvious, you can just see — a surfer who’s flying down a massive wave, you can see that the excitement is just front and center. For other sports, it’s more subtle, and we try to capture all these moments that tell the story of what it’s like to be that athlete and live in their shoes.”

Stand-Up Paddleboard Surfing in Hawaii, Slow Motion by GoodSportVideo
“A lot of our best shoots are not of somebody who would look professional, but of an average person who’s out doing a run, or playing beach volleyball, or mountain biking,” Schneider continues. “A lot of them are just weekend warriors. They’re not all meant to look like expert athletes. That’s a whole range that we also try to capture — from amateurs to experts, from seniors to children. Our genre is sports, so we try to focus on that, but within sports, there are so many different areas that you can cover that it’s really limitless. Obviously it’s easier to work with an individual athlete as far as the logistics of the production go, but we span from individuals to teams, and from small teams to large teams.”

Playing Flag Football on the Beach by GoodSportVideo

The Team Behind the Scenes

“We work with dozens of other filmmakers who submit their footage to us,” explains Schneider. “A lot of the filmmakers are ex-athletes themselves, or current athletes. Through them, we end up getting great access to athletes all around the world who are doing what they do in different environments and different locations. We don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel every time. We would much rather work with filmmakers who do these shoots already than always try to produce something from scratch. We spend a lot of time just scouring the internet for new talent and contacting athletes, or filmmakers who work with athletes, to find out if they’re interested in working with us.”

But while that crowdsourced approach solves many logistical problems, it doesn’t solve them all. In fact, choosing sports as your subject matter comes with its own set of hurdles (figuratively and literally). “There definitely are specific challenges,” Schneider agrees. “When I compare our footage to lifestyle, or to travel, or landscape — or any other kinds of footage — obviously, the difference that stands out the most is the action itself. That’s only one of the challenges, though. The funny thing that most people don’t realize is that probably the number-one challenge, other than capturing peak moments and setting up shoots, is dealing with logos.”

Scoring a Touchdown While Playing American Football, Slow Motion by GoodSportVideo
“We try to minimize or eliminate logos as much as possible, but sporting goods are covered with logos everywhere,” says Schneider. “It’s unlike any other kind of subject matter, where you might have occasional logos. With sports equipment, it’s everywhere. It’s on the tops and bottoms of surfboards, skateboards, snowboards; it’s all over the clothing, it’s all over the jerseys. If we do in-house shoots, we often have jerseys made that are somewhat generic, but we don’t want them to be completely generic. We want it to appear as if it’s game-ready, and game jerseys have logos. Sometimes we’ll make generic-looking logos to apply to sportswear. We do a combination of having stuff custom-made and eliminating the logos as much as we can. That’s one of the unique challenges to shooting sports.”

Capturing Realism

Another challenge is finding the balance between great cinematography and everyday realism. “If it looks too staged and too stiff, it’s probably not going to sell,” Schneider admits. “People want real life. They want unique moments. As much as we strive for perfect, smooth camera movements, sometimes footage is actually too smooth. Sometimes we don’t want to use a gimbal, because we don’t want the footage to look perfectly smooth. We want it to look spontaneous.”

Boy Kicks a Soccer Ball on the Beach by GoodSportVideo
“That’s another thing that seems to be selling, is just real-life moments,” adds Schneider. “Some footage that looks like it was shot with a mobile device is great. It might be better than shooting with a RED camera, because buyers want moments that look like one friend shot the other friend while they were doing some sport. They would prefer that over something that looks like a Hollywood production. Sometimes we’ll do handheld shots where the footage is a little bit shaky on purpose, because we don’t always want everything to be perfectly stabilized.”

At the end of the day, what it all adds up to is constant experimentation and constant exploration — but not at the expense of slowing down production. That’s because there’s a simple truth to this game that Schneider is well aware of. “We’re always pushing to increase both our quality and quantity,” he says. “That’s what stock is, whether it’s photography or footage. It’s a numbers game. The successful players are the ones who can consistently produce and submit great quality and quantity and keep it going. It’s not good enough to have a dozen amazing photos. You might impress some people, but you’re not going to survive in stock with small numbers. It has to be both incredible quality and good quantity.”
Explore more of GoodSport Video’s huge collection of sports footage in their full Pond5 portfolio »

GoodSport Collection