Tripods & Stabilizers: Better Video From the Ground Up


One or two points

artsmith's picture

Here are some comments based upon several years of carrying, at all times, a 'Slik' carbon-fibre tripod:-


(1) As the legs are extended, with any tubular-leg equipped tripod, the smallest diameter lowest section definitely has more 'spring' or 'whip' that the larger diameter upper sections. Work from the top down when extending legs, and if it is at all possible, shoot from a lower position and don't extend the bottom legs at all. The assembly, with thinner legs retracted within the upper sections has a lot more stability and is far less prone to involuntary movement.


(2) If using a tripod anywhere near the sea, especially on wet sand, make it the first thing you do on arrival home, to check that all sand grains have been removed from the screw-up locking mechanisms which set the legs at the best extensions. Many of the threads are of anodised aluminium alloy and are prone to rapid wear from sand, especially if it contains fine quartz dust as the sands on many New Zealand beaches do.


(3) While carrying out step '2', screw any rubber-shod retractable feet to either the the fully up, or fully down position, and give a light spray of 'CRC', 'WD-40' or something similar. Manually run the feet to the opposite end of the thread and do the same again. That will ensure that the next time you use your tripod, especially after an enforced layoff, you will still be able to adjust the feet.


(4) I have a 'fluid-action' head of a well-known and not-so-cheap brand which is well-night useless. It has large friction-surfaces, but when drag is adjusted, in both planes, to slacken off the screws by the required amount, supports the moving portion of the head by only one side. When you have slackened-off the screw sufficiently for drag-free movement, which you sometimes need, the upper portion of the head wobbles all over the place due to insufficient support. Any pan-and-tilt head worth its salt, should be supported on both sides of the 'gimbal' in at least the vertical plane, and preferably both.


(5) Since I usually separate my audio/video in editing, and audio recording direct from my camcorder is impossible for 90 percent of the time anyway, I use the accessory shoe which is left vacant by the absence of an extension microphone, to take one of those handy little moulded plastic bubble-levels which read in both planes. And, if you have the time, level up the fore-and-aft tilt bubble as well as the lateral one. That way you will not encounter any unpleasant surprises at panning time.


(6) And one more thing; when all else fails, there's always 'Mercalli' to fall back upon.