How to Video Sports With a Phone

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  • 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.

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 courtside 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 when they are on the far side.

Stabilizer: Zhiyun Smooth 4 ~$120

Monopod: 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.


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 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 that will hold the phone just below eye level. This is the one I use, it is lightweight and collapsible. Make sure you get the 54" one, they have some shorter models. Eocean Selfie Stick Tripod, 54 Inch Extendable Camera Tripod

Step 2: 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, and then release the trigger. Video should be set to 1920x1080 30fps, the files will be too big if you shoot 4K.

Soccer Tips

Ask both coaches for permission and 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
  • Goalie punts & goal kicks: Start with 1x lens and switch to 2x just before it lands
  • Near side corner kicks: Start with 1x and switch to 2x when the ball is in the air.

When to use the 2x lens

  • Far side corner kicks
  • Ball further than ~50ft

Basketball Tips

Which Lens 1x or 2x?

  • 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 3: 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. If you have Windows 10, use the Microsoft add-on 'Simple Video Trim and Merge', it's free and gives you a progress meter. Movie Maker comes with Windows and will do the job but it doesn't display progress. Stitching time will vary depending on pc power, it generally takes ~30 minutes with a decent pc.

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 4: 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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