Filmmaker teaches how to shoot action-sports movies and Hollywood turns |

Filmmaker teaches how to shoot action-sports movies and Hollywood turns

Michael Martin said all you need to make an action-sport film is a video camera, a computer and something that can burn a DVD.

You also should know the different camera angles, which natural lighting to shoot in, which editing software to use and how to coach your athletes, protect your camera and make a tripod out of a branch. Don’t forget to get your Forest Service permits, insurance and model releases and to be up to date on your music copyright laws, too.

Martin, an independent filmmaker who has filmed for Warren Miller and The Weather Channel, shared advice and tips he learned from his ten-year filmmaking career Wednesday night with the Alpine Enrichment Program at Colorado Mountain College.

One rule is fundamental.

“Shoot as much as you can,” Martin said. “If you have more than one camera, give it to your friend. Even if they’ve never handled a camera before – hand them a camera.”

Even if the footage you shot doesn’t make it into your movie, it can be used for outtakes and back footage to use in another project.

Martin usually takes three to four cameras with him on location, but has broken only one of them.

“A film camera can weigh about 20 pounds, and you are definitely not always looking where you are going,” he said. “I’ve crashed many times but only broke one camera so far.”

Risk is an inherent part of the industry for both athletes and cameramen. To get a “profile shot,” the cameraman has to match what the athlete is doing, or at least be in line with them.

“You will maybe climb up a tree and jump down from a cliff,” he said. “As a cameraman, every now and then, you put yourself at risk.”

Many athletes suffer from Kodak courage, which can be more dangerous than unstable conditions.

“Kodak courage is the contagious feeling that happens once you start rolling film,” Martin said. Athletes “tend to ramp up, which can be good for film, but bad for their health. As a director, you have to look at how you can maintain the athlete not just for a day, but for the season.”

Choosing which athlete should do what actions is like an art form, Martin explained.

“You have to be able to speak the same language as they do,” he said. “And people have different expectations of what they want to do and what they actually can do.”

There are some on-location tricks you can use, such as slowing down the film or speeding it up while shooting. The “Hollywood turn” is a great way to cheat and get a great-looking shot.

“The Hollywood turn is when the athlete comes up to you, making three turns, and then stops right behind you,” he said.

Many things can act as tripod to sharpen your shots and make them more professional looking.

“You can create a makeshift tripod out of a shelf, a rock or the most common one is a ski pole,” Martin said. “And you can usually strap, mount or Velcro a camera to a tree branch. It takes about five minutes to rig this up.”

To avoid getting water in your camera, Martin suggests buying an underwater case or using garbage bags – cut one hole for your hand and one for your lens.

Every filmmaker struggles with whether to shoot on film or video. Film cameras tend to be heavier and more expensive, but the quality is five to 10 years ahead of video, Martin said.

“It costs about $8 per hour to shoot with video, and it costs about $3 per minute to shoot film.”

A lot of the magic occurs in the editing suite, and you can fix many things in postproduction. Martin recommends using Final Cut Pro, in which you can splice clips to make them look more like what you intended.

He also recommends laying down your music track first and avoiding well-known bands with expensive copyrighted music.

“I advise you to befriend some bands,” he said. “ is a good place to connect with them.”

Filmmakers and film enthusiasts will have the opportunity to see what a lot of time, hard work and practice can produce at the Banff Radical Reel Tour on April 11 at the Steamboat Grand Hotel. Eight action-sport films will be shown beginning at 7 p.m. The cost is $15 a person.

– To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204

or e-mail

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