The best agility competitors I've talked to tell me they video all their competition runs and study them relentlessly when they get home. Some even video their training sessions. Most have spouses or partners who sit in the stands and operate the camera. At trials, you see bunches of people with hand held video cameras, and a few on tri-pods at strategic locations around the ring or in the stands. Now mine is one of them. I try to video other club members' runs, and ask them to video mine.
Since John bought me a Sony Handycam video camera last Christmas, I finally found the motivation to read the manual in time for Maxie and my first competition runs this past April. So far, then, all of his runs have been videoed from Novice to today (except Friday's Monroe runs which all got lost in the download from camera to computer). I clicked on "remove files from camera after download", it removed them, but then I couldn't find them on the computer. Still don't know where they are.
Video files are huge. They will quickly consume your hard drive. So I purchased 20 gigs of Picasa Web Album space (for $5) where I post club members' videos, just for us to study. Also, I video well known competitors and people with handicaps who are doing amazing things with their dogs. They are all so informative and inspiring.
I also post my own videos in my own separate Picasa Web Album, a public album (linked to under LINKS in this blog). In that, I include videos of other Papillons and some small dogs Max is likely to compete with, too, for future reference.
The decision is whether to use the zoom so you can see the dog's run closeup, or stay zoomed out where you can see the whole course, and most especially the judge's hand signals! You definitely want to know if the judge called a fault or whether the scribe got it wrong, because you can sometimes ask a judge to review your video if you dispute the scribe's records. Loralie and I did this in Hattiesburg with one of her Novice runs with Jenny, and the judge acceded we were right and that scribes often make mistakes. She didn't change the score, though, because Jenny Q'd either way.
If you intend to zoom, it's best to dry-run it 3 or 4 times, so you know exactly at which obstacle you will zoom in and where you will zoom back out again. That takes some practice. The pace of a run is so fast, you can zoom in and suddenly the dog goes sideways and you lose them. Usually if you zoom, you lose the judge. I do practice, but unfortunately the friends I get to video Maxie and me don't get the chance to practice, so our videos aren't the best.
So, that's another goal of mine. To get a steady partner or two who will swap favors with me and take consistently good videos.
Another consideration is placement of the camera. You need to see a run to know where the judge will be standing in the ring. It's easy for your view of the judge, jumps or entrances to be blocked by the A-frame, other jumps, tunnels, etc., sometimes even by the fencing or other obstructions placed around the ring. If there are 2 rings going at once, you need a location where you can swing your lens toward either ring depending on who is running where. Sometimes there are 2 club members running simultaneously, so you are going to miss one.
Hand-held videos are not generally as good as those taken using a tri-pod. But the tri-pod poses its own issues. No doubt you will have to swing left and right to have a picture large enough to get anything more than a speck of dog, but if you zoom you will need to use the up/down feature as well. This join sometimes chatters on my tri-pod. It doesn't swing smoothly. Left/right, up/down, zoom in/zoom out. It's generally too much for an amateur. Lately, I've locked out all features except swinging left/right.
When recording, I learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut! It records everything you say while you are videoing, including everything about the dog and the handler!!!!! I believe I was telling my grandson, who was standing beside me on one: "That dog never completes the weaves in class", just as the dog completed the weaves in the competition so beautifully that I couldn't throw the video away. The only thing I say now is the following, at the beginning of each run:
This is Handler with Dog's Call Name, Class, Day, Month, Year, City.
This is Michele with Maxie, Excellent Standard, Sunday, June 21st, 2010, Monroe
I also like to start the camera rolling just as the dog is being put into position before the Start Gate, and continue running the video until the dog is put back on leash. It is very interesting to watch the interaction of dog and handler after a run.
One of the things I don't like about the Handycam is you can't delete a video at the moment you take it. You hit the REC button prematurely, then stop it. No video you want to keep, but you have to cull thru all the files later to delete it. Big waste of time.
Second, the files are so large you can only fit about 22 1 minute Standard Quality videos on the drive. I have to download them to my computer every evening, which can be inconvenient. It takes me about 3 days after I get home to upload them from my computer to Picasa. That process takes forever, it seems. I want to be able to upload them straight from my camera.