Battling the fences in baseball

We’re in full swing of baseball and softball season in California. These are probably the two most popular sports in my area of the Golden State outside of football, so I’m busy filming games – two or three games a week in addition to podcasting and blogging and newsletters and story uploading.

And I’ve met my nemesis: The chain link fence.

Every high school ballpark in the area uses chain link fencing for a backstop. And this stuff can be an absolute nightmare to try and film through at the best angles for catching action.

However, there is a way around it. But it comes at a cost.

Following the jump: A little case study of two ways to film a baseball game.

A rough estimate of where these two videos were shot from through the fencing.

Both of the following videos were shot at the same place: Arata Field at Sutter High School in Sutter, Calif. Both were shot with identical equipment. But each game was shot from a different location.

Video A: This video was shot from behind home plate. There are several advantages to shooting behind home plate when you get the chance to. First, it’s easy to get a view of the entire diamond without having to move you camera quickly before trying to zoom. Second, you can easily get both the pitcher and batter in the same shot. Third, since you’re close to the pitching and batting action, you get terrific sound quality, whether it’s the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt or the sound of ball hitting bat (a sound, I will note, sounds quite sickly off metal bats meeting the new BBCOR regulations adopted early in California).

But, the downsides are that the fence is generally distracting. Also, if the camera is set on auto focus, you can kiss zooming in on a play in the field good-bye unless you hit a gap in the fence just right. Haven’t tried to see if going manual focus would be effective at dealing with this. So, because of this, the voiceover commentary becomes that much more important.

Video B: Video B was shot (primarily) through the fence out near the right field foul pole. You have to max zoom the camera to get a decent shot of the batter at the plate, and this does help to eliminate the distraction of the fence. However, you can’t get the pitcher in the same shot, the fence has to be dealt with again as soon as you zoom out for a play in the outfield, there’s not as much sound for popping gloves and batted balls, and this might not be an option depending on the strength of your camera’s zoom (this field has a 295′ right field line, so I’m a lot closer here than I would be as most fields.

So I’m torn on which is the better way to go.

Of course, there’s another option: Film softball. Their fields have shorter fences and I don’t have to deal with this problem at all.

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2 Responses to Battling the fences in baseball

  1. Zuri says:

    When I had to shoot stills for baseball, I got up on the fence as well to shoot through it. (Coincidentally, those pictures are actually my only published photography.) As far as film goes, I’ve generally gone down the third base line where there is usually a break in chain link fences and set up at the edge. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. So then I’d go to plan two and grab a helmet and set up the tripod behind one of the base coaches. I think this is a conversation you could have. Most leagues have marked spots for photographers according to their regulations. You’re just required to ask and wear a helmet. Also, you can’t complain if you get hit. But it definitely requires you talking to league reps and coaches. They’re probably not used to that attention so it would be weird for them to get started with a guy with a video cam on the field. But it never hurts to ask. Through the fence simply doesn’t work.

  2. Robert LaHue says:

    My own personal choice would be to be able to climb up on top of a dugout. In sue-happy California, however, I’m not holding my breath.