How to Video Sports With a Phone

Introduction: How to Video Sports With a Phone

About: Brought to you by the Kuality Racing Team, we're the ones that put the 'K' in Kuality.
  • Phones need minimal interaction so you can watch the game while you record
  • Videoing is simple, anyone can learn how in minutes
  • Zoom is done with a screen tap so you are watching the game instead of fiddling with the zoom
  • Budget friendly (~$140 of equipment not including phone)
  • No editing necessary
  • Sharing on the internet is easy and viewers don't need to be tech-savvy
  • Only people you give the link to can view provides privacy

The Galaxy S9+ comes with a built in 2x zoom lens. For an experiment I recorded a soccer game while sitting and was surprised at how easy it was to record and how good the video turned out. The phone makes recording easy because you can change the zoom with a tap on the screen and the field of view is wide enough that the phone can be pointed in the general direction of the play and catch everything. The next game I tried a selfie stick and then upgraded to a hand-held stabilizer. The videos with the stabilizer are really good. Sorry, I don't have any I can share right now because they are of minors. I'll try to make a few clips where the kids are far away or figure out how to do some blurring so I can share.

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Step 1: ​Equipment

Phone: A phone with built in 1x & 2x lenses is needed, currently a Samsung Galaxy S9+, LG V40, iPhone 7plus, X, XS or XS Max. Huawei P20 Pro has 3x. I've only tried the Galaxy S9+. Cost is ~$740 to ~$1100. The XS and XS Max have optical image stabilization which should be even better than the Galaxy S9+ digital image stabilization. If you are videoing basketball from court-side a phone with a 1x lens will do. Soccer fields are too big for a 1x lens, players are tiny even on a big screen.

Stabilizer: Zhiyun Smooth 4 ~$120

Tripod/Monopod: Recommended: Dolica TX570DS Ultra Compact Tripod with Professional Ball Head and Built-In Monopod (Black) ~$45.

Tripod/Monopod:OK: Eocean Selfie Stick Tripod, 54 Inch ~$22


I use the Samsung Galaxy S9+. It makes great videos, has long battery life and has expandable storage with 64GB built in. The Samsung has a video 'pause' function which is great for dead-balls. I like to pause for any dead-balls longer than 5 seconds. The iPhones do not have the pause function, so if you stop video for a dead-ball it will create a new file. The files can all be stitched together later, but it will be a pain if you have a lot of them. Battery usage is about 10 minutes of video for 8% of battery. Note the Galaxy S9 (non-plus version) does NOT have a 2x lens and has a smaller battery.

Update 4/2019: I tried an XS Max, it focuses better than the Galaxy S9+. With the S9+ 2x lens, try tilting the phone so that the far sideline is in the middle of the screen. If the phone is tilted further down it causes the focus to be off.


Buy a gimbal stabilizer that can handle a large phone and has a 1/4 inch thread on the bottom so it can be mounted to a monopod or tripod. I chose the Zhiyun Smooth 4, it is one of the few stabilizers that can handle large phones in high wind and has 1/4 inch thread. It is also budget friendly, about ~$120. You will see a lot of complaints about buggy stabilizer apps for Android phones, don't worry because you won't need the app for videoing sports.


Buy a monopod/tripod that will hold the phone just below eye level. I have both of the monopods/tripods below, the Dolica-TX570DS is better but is heavier and costs more.

Dolica-TX570DS (excellent monopod/tripod)

Eocean Selfie Stick Tripod, 54 Inch Extendable Camera Tripod (ok monopod/tripod)

This is the one I started with, it is lightweight and collapsible. Make sure you get the 54" one, they have some shorter models.

Step 2: Swivel Mount

For the Dolica a 1/4-20 coupling nut and a 1/4-20 screw are used so the stabilizer will spin smoothly. The head of a long 1/4-20 screw was cut off with a hacksaw. Two regular nuts are tightened against each other on the long screw to provide a stop when you screw it into the stabilizer. (Picture 2 and 3) I bought the longest coupling nut I could find at Ace Hardware, it's about 1-3/4" long. A long nut and screw minimizes the wobble.

Step 3: Video Tips

Misc Tips

There are only 2 controls on the stabilizer that are needed for sports. Set the 'Mode Switch Button', to 'PF' (Pan Follow). Use the top of the back trigger to put the stabilizer in 'PhoneGo' mode. PhoneGo locks the phone to the stabilizer which is good when the action is close to you. It's useful for nearby throw-ins or players running close to you. It is also good for adjusting the up/down tilt of the phone, hold down the PhoneGo trigger, tilt the stabilizer so the phone is at the correct angle (far sideline in the middle of the screen while using the 2x lens), and then release the trigger. Video should be set to 1920x1080 30fps, the files will be too big if you shoot 4K.

Soccer Tips

If you can video from the coaches side so you can pick up the coaches instructions. The audio will help the players when they view the video. You will get better results if you are not shooting into the sun.

When to use the 1x lens

  • Ball closer than ~50ft
  • For nearby throw-ins don't worry about getting the thrower in frame, it's more important to video where the ball will likely land

When to use the 2x lens

  • Ball further than ~50ft
  • Most free kicks and goal kicks. I usually don't video the kicker, only where the ball will likely land.

More Zoom!?!

  • With most phones you can 'pinch' the screen with your fingers to get 'digital' zoom, I go to ~3x zoom when the ball is further than ~100ft.
  • Use ~3x zoom on corner kicks and cut the kicker out of the frame. If it looks like it is going to be a short pass I'll switch to 2x zoom.

Basketball Tips

  • Only extend one leg of the tripod making it a monopod.
  • Use the 'pan follow' button on the back to set the video frame right at the top of the backboard
  • Use the 1x lens if you are standing court-side
  • If you are high enough in the stands you can use the 2x lens the entire game, though it will take some work to keep the action in frame
  • Another option is to use the 1x lens when the players are spread out moving up the court and switch to 2x as they get closer to the basket

Step 4: Prep and Share on the Ineternet

Prep for Internet Upload

The Galaxy S9+ will automatically make a new file when it reaches 4GB which is about 40 minutes of recording. Before uploading to the internet the files will need to be 'stitched' together, below are 3 options.

  1. If you have Windows 10, use the Microsoft add-on 'Simple Video Trim and Merge', it's free and gives you a progress meter, takes about 30 minutes with a decent pc.
  2. Movie Maker comes with Windows and will do the job but it doesn't display progress.
  3. VLC is free and can stitch them together quickly, run this at a command prompt: "C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc.exe" firsthalf.mp4 secondhalf.mp4 --sout "#gather:std{access=file,dst=fullgame.mp4}" --sout-keep (Update 2/2020: VLC fails about 50% of the time for me even on the latest version. Sometimes audio is missing for parts or it will stitch the parts in the wrong order.)

Share on the Internet

After the video is stitched to one file, upload it with a free Youtube account. Change the privacy to 'Unlisted' so only people you give the link can view. The upload will take a long time, mine take about 1 hour per gigabyte and most games are between 4 and 6GB. I have the minimum speed cable internet in my area. It's a good idea to start the upload right before you go to bed so you don't cripple the internet connection. If the upload stops for some reason, it can be restarted by trying to upload again, it should restart where it left off.

Tip: If the uploads are crippling your internet connection, you can setup 'QOS' on your router to limit the upload speed, try about 1/3 of your total upload bandwidth. I set the upload bandwidth limit on my upload pc to 1.2Mb/s. Uploads take longer (~8hrs) but it doesn't cause poor internet performance for other users.

Step 5: Appendix

My opinion on videoing sports with camcorders and cameras

Some cameras and camcorders use a rocker switch to zoom in and out which needs constant micro-managing to keep it at the right zoom and the action in frame. Many have more zoom than you need for team sports so you will spend much of the game monitoring the video screen instead of watching the game, which is why many people dread being stuck videoing.

Cameras may not have a big enough battery to last a whole game. One of my cameras had a small battery so I tried to charge it while videoing but the camera's electronics WOULD NOT ALLOW charging while the camera was on!

I've heard of cameras that STOP RECORDING when the video file reaches 4GB, that's around 40 minutes of recording at 1920x1080 30fps. For a 45 minute soccer half you would have a break in your recording unless you stop/restart during a dead-ball.

Camera and camcorder stabilizers are more expensive than for phones.

There are cameras and camcorders that will do a good job, make sure you do your homework before you buy one.

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    5 Discussions


    Question 9 months ago on Introduction

    What’s the advantage of a gimbal vs a traditional phone/tripod combo?


    Answer 9 months ago

    The gimbal smooths out any jerky camera movement which makes the videos look more professional. Also if you are videoing from the side of the field/court you can pick up the monopod/tripod when a ref/fan gets in the way and the phone will still stay level. Basketball refs get in the way all the time and they are frequently large!


    Reply 9 months ago

    Thank you for your clear response. My son is still very young, so i think i'm just going to film with a wide angle lense from the corner for now. However, I think if he continues to progress, I'll probably end up getting this setup. Thanks!


    Question 9 months ago on Step 1

    You said get a monopod but link a tripod? Which one do you recommend? I’m looking to recorded my sons basketball games


    Answer 9 months ago

    I upgraded the monpod/tripod to a Dolica TX570DS, it's better than the eocean. Both monpods/tripods can be setup in monopod configuration or tripod configuration. If you are videoing basketball court-side I recommend monopod configuration because you may have a small area to stand while you video. If you are in the bleachers use monopod because it is easier to setup but you can later try tripod with different length legs because one will rest on a seat. I updated the instructable with info on the Dolica.