Care and Feeding of the Team Videographer
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Care and Feeding of the Team Videographer

Care and Feeding of the Team Videographer

Thursday, December 28, 2023

By Christy Frikken with contributions from Elliot Byrd
This article appeared in its original form at

Congratulations on your team! Do you have a video person yet?

For a competition 4-way formation skydiving team, your videographer is your fifth teammate. But their role is different from everyone else’s. They are right there with you on every jump, but they don’t creep, walk or fly within the group. They require special flying skills and coaching. They need specialized equipment—a camera and camera helmet—and if they are competing, they will need two cameras. Serious videographers will want wings and booties on their jumpsuits.

If the camera flyer has a failure during competition, they can lose all of the points for the team. This high risk results in a special kind of pressure, particularly during the exit, which is very challenging to master. So, you’ll need to find and build a positive relationship with a great videographer or else risk not getting your performance on film.

Which horror stories to convey to emphasize the importance of picking and caring for the video flyer? There are so many. Here’s a single experience of an 8-way team at the USPA Nationals that might scare you enough to respect the videographer:

Mid-meet, the team’s usual videographer, one who had practiced with the team, had to drop out due to an old injury. However, the team wanted to continue, so it had to bring in the registered alternate.
This presented a choice: The inside-rear flyer had shot video before, but the alternate had not. The first option was to swap the alternate into the formation and put the inside-rear flyer on video. Alternately, the team 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, the team decided to put the inexperienced alternate up on video. After all, how hard could it be?
It didn’t go well. The team scored no points on film.

Moral of the story: The video slot is specific and the videographer needs to practice with the team.


Video Skillz—Safe, Debriefable, Judgeable

Potential videographers will range widely in their skills. An expert will be able to film a jump consistently. A beginner may miss your exits, be too far away, 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 level of experience fits your team’s needs and resources.

There are three basic categories you need to consider. The first category is “safe.” If your videographer is falling into the team hard, zooming around or unable to fly their slot, it is hazardous. At a minimum, a videographer shouldn’t be filming the kind of skydives they can’t safely fly within. So, for example, if they can’t safely fly in an 8-way, they shouldn’t try to film it.

The next category is “debriefable.” This videographer is safe and can get the team on film enough that they can debrief with it on the ground. The camera might miss points or be too flat or too distant but will generally capture what happened so that the video is a useable teaching tool for the team.

The final category is “judgeable.” This is the type of videographer you want at a meet. A judgeable video requires capturing every point. The flyers are close to the videographer, and the videographer is steep enough that the judges can see the grips and each point clearly on film.

The better your team is, the more precise your videographer must be. For a camera flyer, the challenge level goes up as the team learns and performs a large variety of exits and starts moving faster on the hill. An intermediate 4-way FS team that chooses to launch just the bow exit won’t need as experienced a videographer as a team that launches 38 different exits and scores four points in the first four seconds.

It is worth noting that video skills are specific to the discipline. A tandem videographer won’t necessarily be a great 4-way FS videographer without practice. Many videographers are awesome freeflyers, but being a superb flyer does not automatically make you good at 4-way FS video.


Money Matters

Since a videographer has extra expenses and provides a service to the rest of the team, the team will usually cover expenses and provide pay. How much involves a lot of factors, but even beginner videographers will generally expect their slots and pack jobs to be covered. The more experience the videographer has, the more they will typically charge. 

How much the team pays can hinge on how invested the videographer is with the team through the season. If you treat your video person as a genuine fifth member, they will probably expect less pay because their involvement provides the same feelings of camaraderie and achievement that helps to motivate the team as a whole.

Alternatively, you can be successful by paying for a “hired gun” who is already excellent but 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.

How much your team trains can affect how attracted a videographer is to it.  A camera person who wants to jump a lot might be willing to give you a break if you’re doing a lot of training jumps with them. If you are hiring someone weekend to weekend, there is a good chance it will cost more.


Actual Numbers

Regional variations make it difficult to provide solid numbers for videographer pay. Professional teams at larger drop zones tend to expect to pay their videographer. On the other hand, providing extra payment to a videographer in some states or countries can cause offense. It just depends on your local norms.

You can pay your video flyer on a per-jump basis, but the trend is for videographers to ask for a daily fee. A daily rate is preferable because it is more predictable for everyone. Expert FS videographers around the country say this is what you might expect:

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

One solution for what to pay a new videographer is to increase their pay as they gain skills. For example, a brand-new videographer may cover their own slots at first. Once they improve, they will want their expenses (slots and pack jobs) covered. If they keep progressing, they can start receiving payments. This graded system helps the videographer stay motivated and doesn’t lock either party into an unfair deal.


Video Person Love

Don’t neglect your videographer’s needs. Pay attention to what they need to improve. Assisting them can mean helping them on the climb out or adjusting 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.

Before you sign a videographer, clearly define your 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!

It is super easy to neglect 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 for a jump. They may not even be present for much of the debrief. Because they aren’t there with you all of the time, sometimes information doesn’t get conveyed. As a teammate, create a process that proactively communicates important details like meet time, schedule changes and dinner plans. Keep them in the loop!

A quick note here if you are a videographer—if the rest of the team forgets to tell you something, don’t take it as a personal offense. Understand that you just weren’t there when the topic came 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 videographer, 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!

About the Author

Christy Frikken, D-28865, has made more than 16,000 skydives and was a member of world-class formation skydiving teams Perris Fury and SDC Rhythm XP. She is the founder and owner of Fury Coaching, which provides professional coaching for competition 4-way and 8-way FS teams.

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