Pitch Design: Camera and Video Tips
After posting videos from my at-home pitch design sessions, I have been getting quite a few questions on camera setup, settings, and tips for a successful pitch design session. I will briefly go over some of the things I've learned over time to make the process easier. The focus during this session should be pitching and working on your pitches, so running the tech efficiently is important to keep the flow/rhythm of throwing and not having to tinker with the tech while you (or your athlete) is throwing. Check it out.
Most of my experience has been with the Sony Rx10 ii so I will discuss the settings how the Sony presents them. I've had experience throwing on other cameras but never operating them. However, most of what I discuss will be applicable to all cameras. Here are some of the settings that I always take into consideration when I am preparing for a PD session.
Frames per Second (slo mo)- this is quite obvious, but you need to set what frame rate you want to record at. My camera's max frame rate is 960 FPS so that is what I have selected for PD sessions to get all the details of pitch release and finger interaction. For pitching mechanics, I use a step slower because it is slow enough to provide the analysis and it'll be a smaller file.
Video Mode- This section could be different for every camera something similar. The Sony allows me to select a priority mode for how I want to shoot. Those modes include Auto, Aperture, and Shutter modes. Auto mode is what I would recommend for starters. The camera will attempt to pick the best settings for you. I prefer Aperture mode, this allows you to manually change the aperture of the lens.
Aperture (or f-stop)- the numbers on the front of the lens that say f/2.6 or f/16. These numbers control the depth of field and how much light enters the lens.
Lighting- Aperture controls how open or closed the lens is, so how much light hits the camera's sensor. It is very important for these videos because if it is very sunny, the ball will be over exposed and blow out the ball, so it will be hard to see the release/seams. If it is sunny, I pick a higher f-stop (f/12 for ex) to limit the amount of sun that enters the camera. If it is cloudy or dark, I will pick a lower f-stop to allow the camera to capture as much light as possible. This also applies to indoor facilities. It is common for indoor spaces to have poor indoor lighting so a lower f-stop would be recommended.
Depth of field- controls how focused or unfocused you want the background to be. Low f-stop (f/2.8 for ex) will have the hand in focus but everything else out of focus behind it (catcher/screen/wall, etc). Higher f-stop will keep the background in focus. This is particularly important for the seams on the baseball. I usually like to track the seams and how they spin for a majority of the way to the plate, so I try to pick an f-stop that allows that. Personally, I think
the background a being a little out of focus makes the videos look better. Here are two examples of low/high f-stop.
Top- Aperture/F-stop: f/5
-Hand in focus
-Background out of focus
Bottom- Aperture/F-stop: f/16
-Hand in focus
-Background in focus
Considerations: you have to weigh both lighting/focus when you pick an f-stop to shoot at. Personally, I prioritize lighting over the focus. The focus makes the video look better, but in reality, you're going to be able to see the ball no matter what aperture you pick. I take lighting into consideration more because that affects how you can see the ball. On a sunny day, I'm at a high F-stop so the ball isn't over exposed. On a cloudy day, I'm at a low F-stop so the camera has enough light. Normal days I'm in the middle.
Trigger Function: this setting sets when the camera records the video when you press the record button.
Front trigger- You press record and the camera records what happens after you press. This is what we are used to when we use iPhones, other cameras, etc pretty self explanatory.
End trigger- Pressing record and the camera records what happens BEFORE you press. This is a function I was not very aware of before using these cameras. So, you would press record when the catcher catches the ball or it hits a net and it records what happens prior. This is possible because the Sony has to enter "Standby" mode before capturing video so it is continuously capturing video until you press record.
Personally, I absolutely recommend end trigger. This function makes it very easy to keep a reference point on when to click record because it is always when the pitch it caught or hits a net. We want to keep these videos consistent for editing and viewing purposes. If we were using front trigger it is not easy to know when to click during a pitcher's motion because of how fast it is. This would lead to inconsistency in when the videos start and end every time. End trigger is definitely the best option here.
Camera Set up:
This part is very important. Where we set the camera up can play a huge role in how the pitches look as they go towards home plate and getting the right view for release. A rule of thumb I try to use: imagine there's a straight line going through my hand to home plate, aim my camera through my hand on that line. This is usually a trial and error process to get the right angle because every pitcher is different and has difference release points. It takes time.
Here is an illustration I drew up to give you a visual of the camera angle you need (I'm not an artist), along with a good example of what this should look like.
Step 1: Set up camera on a tripod in the general area the pitcher could be releasing the ball.
Step 2: Have the pitcher do a mock throw and stop the ball where he *thinks he releases the ball. This could be a bit different than where he actually releases the ball but it'll give you an idea and you can adjust from there.
Step 3: Once you have the correct angle, record and don't move the camera until the session is over! Keeping the camera in the same spot is crucial for having the same perspective for evaluating the pitches and for overlays.
This process is a pain with the Sony. The videos have to be saved to an SD card and then transferred to a computer/laptop for viewing. Luckily, my laptop has an SD port so I can view them on there easily. The videos have to be trimmed and I store them in a folder with all my high speed videos, classified by pitch type. Edgertronic, for example, has a much easier usability for storing and viewing. Another option is to create a Google Drive and upload the videos there for housing.
Editing can be done on a Mac laptop using iMovie or Quicktime movie, both free softwares. This involves trimming and production of your videos, usually overlays. Overlays are compiling two (or more) pitches on top of the other in a single video. They are a big part of why I have enjoyed doing this pitch design process on my own. It's fun and interesting to view your pitches together, and also helps me by giving me an idea on how well they tunnel off each other. Here is one of my most popular overlays on social media, featuring my slider and changeup. What makes this a great overlay is how long the pitches stay on the same plane and then at the last second break in opposite directions. Hitting is hard!
Here is an overlay tutorial by Watch Momentum co-founder/director of content Taiki Green that is very simple featuring a Mac and iMovie for all you Apple users. Overlays take some time to get them just right but it's easy to get the hang of it.
I hope this guide helps you set up your pitch design sessions and run them smoothly. Preparation is the most important thing when it comes to tech and integrating it into your bullpens. It's important to keep the flow and rhythm of your bullpen and not have that interrupted by tech malfunctions or inefficiencies. Happy throwing.