Care and feeding of a team videographer

Monday, November 22, 2021

Congratulations on your team! Do you have a video person yet? Find and build a positive relationship with a great videographer or else risk not having your performance on film.

Special thanks to Eliot Byrd for providing his expertise in this article.

The Fifth Teammate

Your videographer is a part of the team, but their role is different. Camera flyers don’t creep, walk, or fly within the group. But they are right there with you on every jump.

They require special equipment, flying skills, and coaching. They need a camera and camera helmet, and if they are competing, they will need a two-camera setup. Serious videographers will want wings and booties.

If they have a failure, they can lose all of the points for the group. This high-risk level results in a special kind of pressure. Of particular concern is the exit, which is very challenging to master.


Consequences of Ignoring the Video

Which horror stories to convey to emphasize the importance of picking and caring for the video flyer? I have so many.  But I’m only trying to scare you enough to respect the videographer, so I’ll share a single experience from an 8way team at US Nationals.

Mid meet, our practiced videographer had to stop because of an old injury. However, we wanted to continue, so we had to bring in our registered alternate. This presented a choice: our inside rear had done video and but alternate had not. The first option would swap the alternate into the formation and pull our center for video.  Or we could put the virgin camera guy on video and hope his excellent flying skills would be good enough.

After advice from a wise and usually correct mentor (let’s call him Dan AB), we decided to put the inexperienced alternate up on video. After all, how hard can it be?

It didn’t go well. We scored no points on film.

The video slot is specific. Video needs practice with the team.


Video Skillz

The videographers you encounter will have a range of skills. An expert can grab the jump consistently. If they are beginners, they will miss your exits, be far, forget to turn the camera on, lose their SD card, run out of battery, miss the plane, lose a wing, and make a host of common mistakes. You’ll need to weigh the options to determine what fits your team’s needs and resources.

Safe vs. Debreifable vs. Judgeable

Videographer skills fall into three basic categories. The first is safe – if your videographer is landing on you hard, zooming around, or unable to fly in their slots, it is hazardous. At a minimum, a videographer shouldn’t be filming the kind of skydives they couldn’t safely fly within. So, for example, if you couldn’t be on an 8way as a flyer safely, you shouldn’t film it.

Next up is debreifable. This videographer is safe and can get the team on film enough to debrief on the ground. The camera might miss points, be too flat, or too distant, but I can generally see what happened and use it to teach the team.

The final category, and the one you want before a meet, is judgeable. Judgeable requires every point on the video. The flyers are close and steep enough to see the grips clearly, and every point scored is clearly displayed.

Better teams require more precision

The challenge level goes up the more exits a team does, and the faster they start moving on the hill. So if you are in intermediate and choose to launch just a bow, you won’t need someone as experienced as launching 38 different exits and scoring 4 points in 4 seconds.

4way video is specific

It is worth noting that 4way video skills are specific. A tandem videographer won’t necessarily be a great 4way person without practice. Many videographers are awesome free flyers, but a superb freeflyer does not automatically make you good at 4-way video.

Money Matters

What should you expect to pay a videographer? The video has extra expenses and a different role, so the team will cover expenses and provide pay. How much and when involves a lot of factors.

Experience Pays

Even beginner video will generally expect at last their slot and pack job covered. The more experienced the videographer, the more they will typically charge. Experience means they are more consistent flyers, have a broader range of skills, and have competed successfully,

Team Investment

How much to pay can hinge on how invested the videographer is with the team through the season. If you act and treat your video person as a genuine fifth member, you will probably pay less. Involving them means including them to provide the same social and achievement feelings that motivate the whole team.

Alternatively, you can be successful by paying for a “hired gun” who is already excellent and is less connected to your team vibe. This relationship is more of a professional exchange, but you’ll know what you are getting from the beginning of your season. This setup works too, and some videographers and teams prefer this.

Amount of training

How much you are training can affect how attracted a videographer is to a group. A camera person that wants to jump a lot might be willing to give you a break for doing a lot. If you are hiring someone weekend to weekend, there is a good chance it will cost more.

Pay is regional

Regional variations are what make this part difficult to write. Pay for videographers is highly localized. Larger and more professional dropzones tend to expect some pay for the videographer. On the other hand, some states or countries are offended by offering extra payment at all. It just depends on your local norms.

Pay for videographers is highly localized.

Actual numbers

Pay Structure

You can pay your video on a per jump basis, but more videographers are moving to a daily fee. A daily rate is preferable because it is more predictable for everyone.

FS Rates

Talking with some expert videographers around the country, here is what you might expect.

  • New videographer, safe video: Slots and Packs
  • Experienced videographer, debriefable video: Slot, Pack, $150-$200/day ($15-$20/jump)
  • Professional videographer, judgeable video: Slot, Pack, $200-$250/day
  • Events (like big ways) with stills and edited video: slot, pack, expense, $350-$400

Graded Pay

One solution for the new videographer is to increase pay as they gain skills. For example, they might even cover their slot at first. They will quickly improve and expect their expenses covered. If they keep progressing, they can start receiving payments. This grading helps them stay motivated and doesn’t lock you into an unfair deal on either side.


Video Person Love

Don’t neglect their needs

Pay attention to what your video person needs to improve. Assisting them can be a process to help them on the climb out or adjust your count so they can see it more clearly. Videographers should be proactive in asking for what they need, but not so demanding it harms the team’s performance.

Define expectations clearly

Before you sign a videographer, clearly define their expectations. For example, do you expect them to trim videos? Label them for content? Distribute them? Keep an archive for the season? Shoot stills? Manage social media? Make a highlight video? Run manifest? Discuss team expectations openly and early!


Remember they Exist

It is super easy to ignore a video person. They aren’t physically close to the team because they don’t need to be on the creepers or inside the prep. They don’t even present for much of the debrief. This is a side effect of their unique position.

Because they aren’t there, information sometimes doesn’t get conveyed. As a teammate, make a process to proactively communicate important details like meet time, schedule changes, and dinner plans. Please keep them in the loop.


A quick note here if you are a videographer – If they forget to tell you something, it isn’t a personal offense. You aren’t there when the topic comes up. Assert yourself and ask for information as part of your position. You are a part of the team, but it is up to you to be assertive and engage!


If you don’t feed and care for your video person, you’ll end up with a crisis. But if you develop a great relationship, they can add to your team’s dynamic positively and wonderfully. Plus, they make you look good!

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In individual coaching, Christy has an expert eye for the most important thing to improve in your flying. When coaching a team, Christy emphasizes the basics and the repeated success of her teams shows how building from the basics leads to success.

» Tamara Bartlett – Perris Riot

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