Tripod Tips For Filming – How To Get The Most Out Of Your Tripod
A video tripod has been the standard for maintaining stability for camera gear with photography and videography for many years. While a tripod has seen some competition in many years with the introduction of gimbals and the Steadicam’s for handheld stabilization, there is something to be said about a reliable tripod that can improve any type of filming.
The key to getting the most out of a tripod is to learn how to use a video tripod to its maximum potential, understanding what you can do with a tripod can make a major difference to your filmmaking.
In this article, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of various types of tripods for different types of shooting, as well as some tripod tips on how to utilize a tripod to get the most out of it for filming.
Tripod Tips For Filming - How To Get The Most Out Of Your Tripod
Photography vs. Video Camera Tripods
Tripod Tips – While all tripods are three-legged stabilizing devices, some are made for photography and others for video. There are three major distinctions between photography and video tripods. For starters, video tripods rarely include a central post because they can cause vibrations when panning. Instead, the head will be seated in a bowl.
Second, video tripods are typically stronger than photographic tripods. For example, a filmmaking camera like the Arri Alexa Mini weighs roughly 5 lbs, which is far more in weight compared to a photography camera like the Canon 5D Mark IV (without lenses) which weighs under 2 lbs.
And whether you’re using a mirrorless or DSLR camera for filmmaking, the weight of a monitor, microphone, battery packs, and any other filmmaking accessories will quickly add up. That’s why regardless of any camera you will use for filming, you’ll need a video camera tripod that can support more weight.
Third, the tripod head differs between photographic and video tripods.
Ball head vs. Fluid Head Tripods
Ball Head Tripods
Tripod Tips – Ball heads function similarly to a ball-and-socket joint. They have a wide range of motion and can easily track fast-moving subjects as a result of this. You can screw the ball in place to secure your position, and there’s usually an adjustable tension knob as well.
They’re small, inexpensive to buy, simple to operate and setup. This may make them sound like the ideal tripod head, but they do suffer certain disadvantages, particularly when it comes to filming.
Panning with a ball head tripod is difficult. Because you often adjust the camera by holding it in your hands, there might be a significant number of wobbles in the image. The earthquake effect is a term used to describe this phenomenon.
Ball head tripods work wonderfully for wildlife and sports photography, and useful to make time-lapse videos, but they won’t provide you the stability you need for filmmaking.
Fluid Head Tripods
Tripod Tips – Fluid head tripods use a pan and tilt head mechanism, which allows you to control panning and tilting separately using levers. Although they are more complex to operate than ball heads, they are smoother.
Fluid heads are significantly smoother since fluid cartridges are integrated into the head mechanism. The fluid resists the panning or tilting movement, keeping it smooth and controlled and preventing it from shuddering to a halt. They aid in the professional appearance of your footage.
They are, of course, more expensive and heavier due to the additional engineering and the inclusion of the fluid. But they are worthwhile for any type of filmmaking shot, but not so much for photography.
Related Article: 5 Best Camera Sliders for Filmmakers & Content Creators
Height & Weight
Tripod Tips – Tripods come in a variety of sizes. Tripods differ in height and weight, so some are preferable for taller individuals and others are appropriate for people who travel frequently and need a model that is reasonably light and compact. Of course, what you want and need will be determined by how you plan to use your tripod as well as your personal preferences.
Tripod Tips – Plain rubber feet will suffice for indoor-only shooting. If you’re going to shoot outside, look for rubber feet with metal spikes running through them. The rubber should be retractable, so it won’t leave a mark inside and can provide a solid grip outside.
Placing Your Tripod
Tripod Tips – Before you bring your tripod out of your filmmaking kit and put it up, think about where you want to place it. It’s considerably easier and safer to move a folded tripod than it is to wrangle a fully extended 3-legged monster.
Place one leg toward your subject when setting it down, leaving plenty of room to stand between the other two legs and near to the camera. Always place two legs down the hill when shooting on a slope. It’s a lot safer.
If you need to move your tripod from one shot to the next, remember to close the legs and, if required, remove the camera from it as well. It is always better to be safe than sorry, no matter how pressed for time you are.
Tripod Tips – When erecting your tripod, make sure the legs are fully separated and spread out over their widest region. This will guarantee that your tripod is as stable as possible.
Extending Your Tripod
Tripod Tips – Some individuals will advise you that you should always extend your tripod downwards starting with the thickest legs, which are the top ones, because this provides the most stability.
Others will advise stretching from the bottom to the top: unfastening the locking mechanism and raising your camera upwards is easier than pulling the legs downwards.
To be honest, it’s entirely up to you and whatever is most convenient for you. Just keep in mind that whichever solution you choose, you must use caution.
Leveling Your Tripod
Weight Your Tripod
Tripod Tips – There should be a hook around the center of your tripod to which you may place a weight to ensure that you don’t bump it or that a gust of wind doesn’t capture it.
For the best stability when filming, adding sandbags to your filmmaking kit is essential, but a tote bag with a bottle of water, or even a backpack, will suffice.
Set The Counterbalance
Tripod Tips – In comparison to photography tripods, video tripods include larger plates for attaching the camera to the tripod. This, as well as using the counterbalance mechanism included with most fluid head tripods, greatly improves their stability.
If your camera is lens or battery heavy, the counterweight prevents it from falling backward or front. In most cases, the counterweight is a dial that can be adjusted in increments. If you don’t have a counterweight, try sliding the plate back and forth in its setting until you’ve achieved the best balance you can.
Adjust The Drag
Tripod Tips – You can control how much resistance the fluid in your fluid head tripod provides to your panning and tilting actions. Drag is often regulated by a dial on the tripod head. You’ll probably need to set the drag to zero for a whip pan, but considerably higher if you’re doing slow, steady panning or tilt shots.
Compose Your Shot
Tripod Tips – It’s just as vital to compose a pan or tilt shot correctly as it is to compose a close-up shot. It may be helpful to think of it in terms of a beginning, middle, and end.
Your shot begins with a specific composition and ends with another, also with a precise composition. Then you must carefully travel between the two. You must consider the camera’s speed and angle of movement, the distance you want to maintain between your subject and the background during the motion, and what you want your audience to see and experience as the camera travels.
This isn’t just about going from point A to point B; it has to be done with intention.
A gimbal is a wonderful piece of filmmaking equipment to have if you have the budget, but a tripod is essential to capture a picture or shoot a video!
They’re sturdy, dependable, and surprisingly adaptable. While the more costly tripods are not inexpensive, tripods do not have to be. At the very least, every photographer and videographer should have one.
Check out our gear guide page for the best filmmaking gear suggestions for every sort of video creation.
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About the author: Trent (IMDB | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.