Read an Excerpt
The purpose of this book is to teach you to teach yourself a better golf swing using the video camera. If you're going to teach yourself how to swing the golf club properly, you must learn how to use this tool properly.
I've spent much time learning how a certain camera or camera angle affects the appearance of a golf swing. In short, you must be consistent about where you position the camera in order to be consistent in your analysis of your swing. In this book, I will arm you with information I have amassed over twenty years of golf instruction. I suggest that you read and reread this chapter until you fully understand how to position the camera. Do that, and you will have at your disposal the tool that, more than any other, has helped instructors improve their students' golf swings.
Not only is the positioning of the camera important, but so is the camera itself. A number of factors affect a camera's suitability for analyzing a golf swing, and I will discuss these later in the book.
The two primary angles you'll be using to record your swing are "down the line" and "face-on." For a down-the-line angle, the camera is positioned behind the ball so that the camera is looking at the right side of your body and toward the target (photo 1). For a face-on angle, the camera is positioned directly in front of your chest, so your shoulders and hips are perpendicular to the camera (photo 2). These two camera angles will offer you the most assistance when you're analyzing your swing. I use these two angles exclusively in over 95 percent of the lessons I give. All of the information you will need can be derived from these two angles.
Now I will show you how to position the camera for each angle specifically, I'll explain why the height of the camera is important and why it should be the same from both angles, regardless of what club you're using. It's not a bad idea to use masking tape or chalk on the legs of your camera tripod so you can more easily remember how to set up your camera each and every time. Down-the-Line Camera View (photos 3-13)
It is critical that you position the camera correctly in order to gain accurate feedback. In the down-the-line angle, there are three important measurements to remember: 1) the distance between the camera and the ball; 2) the distance between the camera and your target line; and 3) the camera's distance from the ground. If any of these positions is incorrect, the images of your golf swing will be distorted, leaving you with incorrect information. Further, you must position the camera consistently from session to session in order to monitor your progress (and be sure you're comparing apples to apples!). So once you have the camera set where it should be, it's a good idea to write down how far it is from the ball, where it is in relation to your target line, and how high off the ground it is, so you can remember for the next time. After you have had some experience positioning the video camera, setting it up properly will become easy.
Let's start with the camera's distance from the golf ball. It will depend a little on the camera itself, but as a rule, the distance should be about twenty feet. Just remember that your goal is to make sure you can see the complete arc of your swing. You don't want to get so far away that you can't see the clubface angle at the top, and you don't want to be so close that the clubhead swings out of the frame at various positions.
Look at the eleven-frame swing that begins with photo 3. As you can see, the camera is able to pick up the complete path of the club and, most important, the angle of the clubface at the top of the swing. The purpose of the video camera is to allow you to correct any flaws in your swing. If you are unable to see the clubface during the entire swing, you might not be able to identify what you need to address to improve your swing. Again, experience will be your best friend.
Now that you have found the correct distance from the ball, let's determine the line on which you should set the camera that is, the point to which the camera should be perpendicular. There are four common lines used in video golf instruction for the down-the-line angle; the first three are the ball line (photo 14), the toe line (photo 15), and the hand line (photo 16). But I recommend that you set the camera on the fourth line, which is between the ball line and the hand line (photo 17). This point will vary with each club, but as a rule it will be where the end of the grip meets the club shaft.
You can see how different the address position looks in these various camera angles. The two that differ the most are the ball line and the toe line. When you examine the ball line angle, you will notice that there appears to be a large amount of the left side of the body visible. This angle might give the impression that I am set up closed to the target. Now compare this to the toe line angle, and things change dramatically. You are unable to see the left side of the body. In fact, other than the left foot and the left hand, no part of the left side of the body is visible. I am set up the same way and aiming at the same target, yet the address position looks very different in this angle. This is why it is so important to be consistent in your positioning of the video camera.
Looking at the camera screen, you should see the same amount of space to the right of the golf ball as there is to the left of the rear end. This position will allow the greatest amount of information to be captured by one camera angle.
Determining the height of the camera is quite simple. I suggest you position the camera so that the center of the lens is at the height of your waist. The reason is that one of the most important positions in the swing is when the club shaft is parallel to the ground, which should occur on the backswing when your hands are around thigh-to waist-high (photo 18). Because the camera will not change height during the swing, it must be in a location that allows it to capture all parts of the swing, including this critical position, and centering it on your waist will achieve this. First take a tape measure and record how many inches your belt buckle is above the ground when you are in your golf posture. Then place the camera on a tripod and measure from the middle of the lens down to the ground. The middle of the lens should be at the height of your belt buckle when you are in your golf posture. If you are hitting on a range mat, remember to allow for the height of the mat in order to be consistent.
Another thing to monitor when positioning the camera is the amount of space visible at the top and bottom of the frame. There should be only a little bit of space between the bottom of the frame and your feet (photo 19). This will allow for the maximum amount of space at the top of the frame. Remember, you always want to see the entire movement of the clubhead throughout the swing, and if the camera is positioned poorly, you will lose the clubhead at crucial moments. When you adhere to these principles of camera positioning, you'll be able to view your swing in its entirety and see exactly what is transpiring throughout the motion.
Face-on Camera View (photos 20-30)
This angle is the easier of the two to set up, since there are only a few guidelines for positioning the camera. First, it should be mounted on a tripod at waist height. Second, your body should be centered in the frame, so there is equal space in the frame on both the left and right sides of your body. Regardless of the ball position or the club you are using, your body should always be centered in the frame. Therefore, do not position the camera so it lines up with the golf ball. Doing so will produce an image in which many important components of the swing including ball position, weight transfer, and impact are distorted. It is essential to always have the camera centered on your stance so you are consistent with your analysis.
The ideal distance from the camera to your stance line is about twenty-five feet, depending on your height, your swing width, and the length of your golf club. Obviously the arc of the clubhead will be greater with a driver than with a sand wedge. Further, the distance will depend a bit on how much you zoom in the camera lens. But if you use twenty-five feet as a starting point, you can usually adjust the lens to widen or tighten the frame for the perfect position. This positioning will allow you to properly film an eleven-frame sequence of your entire swing, from start to finish (photos 20-30).
There should be a small amount of space between the bottom of the frame and the golf ball (photo 31). Further, there should be enough space on both the left and right sides so that the clubhead and shaft do not go out of the frame at any point in the swing (photo 32).
Finally, the amount of space at the top of the frame should allow you to see the complete motion of the club. When you draw a horizontal line across the frame, it should bisect your body below your left armpit (photo 33). This should provide enough space for the whole club to be seen in every frame throughout the swing. As with the setup, it will depend on your height and the club you are swinging, but this is a good baseline to work from. You will get more comfortable with the proper positioning the more you use the video camera.
Now we get to the essential element of the book the video camera itself. I have had many discussions with my fellow instructors about the video cameras we use in our professional lives, and many of us closely follow the technological developments in video cameras that allow us to provide even more information to our students. Cost and effectiveness are the two most important factors to consider when you're purchasing a camera. I tend to pay more attention to effectiveness, because my first priority is what is best for my students. So is a top-of-the-line camera necessary for the work you will do? You will have to answer that question for yourself, but here are some important guidelines.
First, it is important to have a digital video camera. While some nondigital video cameras can perform nicely and record the golf swing properly, long-term use of the video camera will require that you go with digital technology. You will likely use the camera for more than just filming your golf swing, and digital is the only way to go. Also, if you plan to load your swings onto your computer, it is best to have a digital video camera. A digital camera is the only kind that will allow you to e-mail images of your golf swing. Last, the image quality of a digital camera is much better and the cost is not that much greater.
I recommend a video camera with an LCD screen. An LCD (liquid crystal display) is a screen that flips open and allows you to see what the camera is recording without having to look into the viewfinder. These screens vary in size from camera to camera, but many of the better models have an LCD screen of about two and a half inches square. Some cameras have larger LCD screens, and while that may be of some assistance, it will not make that big of a difference. The important thing is that you are able to view your swing without peering into a small viewfinder, and for this the LCD screen is essential.
Another essential is a remote control. Most cameras these days do include a remote, but you should definitely make sure yours does, because you are going to rely on it more than you might think. Be aware of the need for a remote so you do not make a big mistake and spend hundreds of dollars on a video camera that doesn't include one. Some models operate only with a remote, and on others, the remote has additional features (such as slow motion) that aren't accessible on the camera body itself.
Although the advantages of the remote are many, make sure to purchase a camera that allows you to operate all its functions from the camera itself. This dual operability sounds obvious, but in fact it is not always the case. Some companies will attempt to save you money by not offering this option on their cameras. The problem is that if you break, misplace, or lose the remote, you will not be able to operate the camera. If the remote's batteries run out, the practice session will be a waste. Finally, if you leave the remote at the house, you aren't going to be able to operate the camera on the practice tee. I've made some of these mistakes, and I've always regretted being unprepared. In fact, I've purchased additional remotes and additional batteries to avoid potential problems. So I emphasize these two main points: Make sure the camera you buy has a remote, and make sure it can be operated without a remote. And if possible, buy an extra remote just in case.
Another point to look for when you purchase a camera is the ability to advance your swing sequence frame-by-frame. Some cameras or remotes will not allow you to view the video in this way, but this feature is essential for good swing analysis. You must ensure that the camera you purchase allows you to use the remote to view each frame one at a time.
The final important consideration that I want to address is the camera's shutter speed. The shutter speed determines whether you will be able to view a clear image while analyzing each frame of your swing. I won't get too technical in my description of shutter speed, because it will only cause confusion. Ideally, you want the club shaft to be clearly visible when it is in motion during the swing. If you don't have a high enough shutter speed, the camera will not capture the movement of the club shaft clearly, and the image will be blurry. Note that the higher the shutter speed, the more light you will need to record the image of your swing properly.
The minimum shutter speed necessary to capture the golf swing clearly is 1/1,000 second. I most often shoot with a shutter speed of 1/2,000 or 1/3,000. On a bright day, I will use 1/4,000 or possibly even higher, depending on the time of day and how high the sun is. While the highest shutter speed on the cameras I use is 1/10,000, I rarely, if ever, use such a high setting. The important thing is having the ability to change shutter speeds so you can adjust to changes in the amount of daylight.
Lower-priced cameras will often include a "sports mode" shutter speed option. The exact speed of the shutter in this mode varies with each manufacturer. Typically, the sports mode does provide basic clarity of the club shaft during the golf swing, though cameras that allow you to set the shutter speed numerically offer better clarity. The more expensive cameras have a dial that allows you to set the shutter at the exact speed you desire.
When you purchase a camera according to the guidelines above, it will have everything you need to make an honest and helpful evaluation of your swing.
I advise you to pay close attention to accessories. First, you should have more than one camera battery with you at all times when you are recording your swing. Even with a very high-end camera, it is a common experience to have the battery die while you are out on the driving range during practice. The average battery that comes with a camera lasts about one hour, and chances are you will be practicing for longer than that (I hope!). You can purchase backup batteries that last about four hours I take three of these with me on every lesson. Not that I would ever ask a student of mine to practice for twelve straight hours, but having at least two extra batteries with you will ensure that you never run out of power.
Next, I urge you to have a sturdy camera bag to carry everything you'll need out to the practice range, including extra memory cards and tapes. I recommend having at least two cards and three videotapes, and while you won't need that many, having them in your bag will put you in good shape. Also, I would suggest transferring the footage of your swing to tapes and filing them away. They are a record of your progress, and you may find it valuable to go back and refer to them weeks or even months later. I suggest you label the tapes with the date and a short summary of what you're working on in each practice session. This information will help you tremendously when you review your swings.
Another point of emphasis is the camera tripod. Tripods are made with handles on either the right or the left side. I'm right-handed, so I buy tripods with the handle on the right. If you're left-handed, you'll actually have an easier time of it, since most tripods come with the handle on the left. This is because the majority of tripods are made for still cameras rather than video cameras, and it is assumed that the photographer will need his right hand for the shutter release button. Since we're talking about video cameras, you should simply buy a tripod that has handles on your dominant hand's side (right for right-handers, left for left-handers).
One additional tip: You'll need to determine if you want to save swings onto your computer or simply save the tapes and watch them on a monitor. I do both, but I find it easier to compare swings loaded onto a computer. Various video software programs enable you to view and analyze your swing once you've downloaded it to your computer, but I use the V1 program, which is very common among teaching professionals. I believe that the V1 setup is the best on the market for a variety of reasons, most notably its technological advancement and customer support. Finally, the program is very user-friendly. You don't need to be a computer specialist to understand the V1 system. Navigating from swing to swing is very easy, and you will also be able to e-mail swings, which can be very handy if your golf professional is out of the area. You can view their products at www.V1golf.com.
Copyright © 2008 by Michael S. Breed
- The positioning of the camera and the use of the two main angles for recording the swing (face-on and down the line) are crucial to getting helpful information from the video.
- Mark down the positioning of the camera and the tripod so you can consistently return to the exact same height and location.
- Digital video cameras are a necessity and should be purchased with a remote control, a tripod, extra batteries, and extra tapes.