Tips for creative use of small tripods

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    • #37697

      There are constant cries on the forum from new and intermediate videographers for info on whether they need expensive upgrades of equipment to get ‘high quality video’. The answers from the advanced members and moderators always stress, ‘master the tools you have first then move up’. Many times that answer meets the satisfaction of the member asking the question but sometimes I can tell it’s not 100%.

      So for you shooters using small consumer grade cameras now feeling ‘big camera envy’, don’t. Cameras are tools and just like a mechanic wouldn’t use a screwdriver to fix everything on a car, cameras are similar. In my experience I’ve used the ‘right camera for the time’. Depending on the setting, it was a big 3CCD camera with pro lenses or a small handheld rig with alternate lenses and a lens adapter.

      Even if all you have is a small prosumer rig, you’re still in good shape to get excellent footage if you a) have a solid grip on your camera’s basic functions (exposure, focus, white balance, audio), b) understand the basics of composition (rule of thirds, depth of field), c) shot framing (wide shot, medium shot, etc.) screen direction and the 180 degree rule.

      Where you start adding to your video’s production values once you have a grip on the basics is adding camera movements like; pan, tilt, dolly, crane, etc. Again, you don’t need to spend your life savings to be able to do those things. In fact you may already have the equipment to do all of the things I just mentioned if you have a small tripod and or monopod. Here’s a video by Jan Van Der Meer (no not the famous 17th Century painter) as he shows some ridiculously simple techniques for getting advanced looking camera moves using a small monopod and a small tripod.

      TIPS lightweight tripods with small cams. from Jan van der Meer on Vimeo.

    • #167075

      I enjoyed your video on the creative use of a monopod with a ball head.

      A have found a monopod with a ball head also makes a good shoulder steady. Rotate the ball head so the monopod is nearly parallel with the base of the camcorder and along the optical axis leaving just enough room for your left hand. Grasp the monopod handle with your left hand with the monopod shaft on or pressed against your right shoulder and your left upper arm pressed next to your body. Your left forearm forms a triangle with themonopod and your upper body. This triangle steadies the camcorder yet allows flexible movement for hand held shooting. This leaves your right hand free to control the camcorder and a clear view of the screen. Keep your feet about a foot or so apart and further steady yourself against a stationary object if available.

      A table top tripod with the legs extended but not spread can also be used similarly, particularly with a small camcorder.

    • #167076


      I can’t take the credit for the video, but I will say for all my experience I learned as much as you did! Though I have come up with stupidly cheap and innovative ways to get footage with creative camera supports, these simple techniques Van Der Meer used will now be added to my repertoire. Your suggestion sounds like a good idea and I’m glad you’ve shared it with the forum.

      The main thing I try to stress to new and intermediate shooters is these days you are so fortunate because consumer equipment is a) readily available and b) is sooooo much better than the first generation of consumer video cameras! With what’s available now, there is no reason not to be able to make professional looking videos despite having only consumer grade gear.

      Now be advised, your CMOS chip camera (other than the Canon EOS and Nikon N lines of chips) in your ‘flip brick’ will not look like you shot it with a high-end HD or Film camera. There is no way to make your footage look like you did. However, you can still get a good clean image by using proper shooting techniques, lighting (natural or man-made) and adding camera movements like the ones mentioned in the video. The key to learn is the pro’s know when, where and how to put those moves to best use.

      These techniques and tools will serve you well but can be easily thwarted if you don’t shoot to edit. If you don’t shoot with the eventuality of editing the footage all the great tools and camera tricks won’t mean squat.

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