When you go to youth sporting events, you’ll see parents trying to record bits and pieces of their kids games.  Usually it’s a phone or sometimes a camcorder, but either way they’re having to concentrate on filming and not as much on actually watching the game.  I know because that was me as well a few years ago, always recording the wrong play in football, missing all these good plays in basketball, missing their goals in soccer, etc.  I finally figured out the solution though to recording youth basketball.

Steph Curry

Wide Angle Action Cameras, the solution

For years companies have been making these cameras that people mount on their head or on a stick, etc, for capturing extreme sport moments while skiing, biking, rock climbing, etc.  I never really paid too much attention because I didn’t want to do any of those things, so I thought I didn’t have a use for the camera.  I was totally wrong though, those cameras do have something I want, a very wide angle lens that’s perfect for capturing a court or field.  Here’s a picture that shows a basketball game recorded from the sideline:

Captured frame from a wide angle video from my action camera

And here’s a video from the Virb Ultra 30 in action:

As you can see from the picture, you can see all the players on the court pretty easily and both sides.  The only places you can’t see are the corners.

Cameras to use

There are two different models I’ve used, one is a Garmin Virb X and the other is a Garmin Virb 30.  The 30 is the newer one but it isn’t perfect.  The Virb X I had first I really like, it’s almost perfect except for that it doesn’t have a screen, meaning you basically have to use your phone for almost all controls on it.  The phone app is very good though overall.  The only problem I ever had with it was that it would occasionally stop recording with a card error if I would check the recording with my phone at halftime.  I don’t know why that was, but I think it had something to do with the wifi connecting to the phone while recording caused some sort of processing overload and caused the card to fail writing.

The Virb Ultra 30 can be bought through my Amazon affiliate link below:

Garmin Virb Ultra 30

There have been times where we needed two cameras due to be split up at different places so eventually we bought the newest Virb at the time, the 30.  The 30 initially seemed like an upgrade all around from the X.  It had a nice screen, was easier to use, took better video, etc.

It does have some minor issues though, like:

  • The charging cable is the old style usb connector.  More durable but not as common.
  • The camera doesn’t want to turn off sometimes and eats battery occasionally because of it (UPDATE:  This is because of the wifi turn on.  Disable this and the battery will not die unexpectedly.  So this was my fault)
  • When hooking to a pc, it can be very flaky on whether it wants to connect or not, whereas the X was so easy since it acted immediately like a USB drive.  The 30 just has a hard time hooking up to PCs sometimes, I’m not sure why.  I tried updating the software and it still has the same issues (UPDATE:  This is because the front USB ports on my pc were loose.  I plug it in on top now and don’t have any issues).

Here’s a picture of the 30’s backside screen.  It’s pretty small but it’s pretty easy to line up the basketball goals on to do the recording.

Backside of the virb ultra 30

More Camera Info

The Virb X had it’s own drawbacks, mainly that it had a habit of getting memory card errors mid-recording if you ever checked the camera orientation via the wifi app.  I had a lot of issues with it until I realized what the problem was.  Once I figured that out, I never had another issue with it stopping recording in the middle of the event.  The other drawback to the X is that it doesn’t have a screen, which makes the wifi issue a bigger problem than it should be.  Luckily, most game recordings are just turn on and forget except for the rare time when the stand gets hit (which mainly happens in basketball and soccer).

Once you’ve got your recordings done, most camera’s will either do one of two things:

  • give you the recording in a several smaller chunks of a 2 to 5 gigs each
  • give you the whole recording in one big chunk

It really depends on the camera’s ability to handle large files, some are better at it than others.  If you get one big file, your job is done, no problem at all.  At 1080p, 30 frames per second each 15 minutes will take about 2gigs worth of storage.  At that size, you can imagine that after a several games you’re going to start having a large amount of files to store on your home computer.  The other problem is sharing those files.  At 10gigs each, depending on your internet connection, they may not be the easiest thing to share.

Sharing Recorded Games Online

What I’ve done is to setup a Dropbox account for $9.95 a month that can hold up to one terabyte worth of data.  At that size, I can upload 100 games before it fills up plus I can give access to all the grandparents/other team parents from there.  My father has really enjoyed downloading the games and watching them at home since he’s hundreds of miles away.  Previously they always had to drive anytime they wanted to watch, now they can watch the next day.

One thing I would recommend if you’re going to go this route is that having a nice big screen tv or monitor definitely helps with watching the games.  Since the camera captures the entire court, the players can be kind of small at times, depending on what sport you’re recording.  Basketball works the best from what I’ve recorded along with younger soccer games on the smaller field.  Soccer on the bigger field is generally the hardest to watch, when the ball gets on the opposite side of the field the players can get really small.  I watch all the games I record on a 120″ screen with a projector, that makes it really easy to see everyone.  Projectors and screens of that size are really cheap nowadays if you have a dark area to use it in.

Recording Youth Basketball Updates (2018)

After the original article above, I discovered that the Virb Edit software can merge and shrink the files by 1/2 without any major quality issues.  So now hour long games take about 5 gigs of space, much easier to upload than a bunch of 10 gig files.

I’ve uploaded an example video of my son’s behind the back pass from last fall.  You can see the power of capturing moments like this.  Plus all the parents of his team love that I’m capturing every game for them for when one of them has to miss one due to a conflict.

I’ve been asked how far away does the camera need to be positioned?  Actually not far away at all.  Like 5 or 6 feet away from the sideline is all you need to get the video below (it’s that wide).  It also has zoom in case you’re too far away.


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