How to set-up a tripod to capture professional level video. Learn the step-by-step process for setting up and stabilizing your tripod.
Amateur video looks the way it does because, a lot of the times, the video is unstable and it’s really, really shaky and hard to make out and, sometimes, it makes us nauseous. This is something you definitely want to avoid. The first step around that process is understanding how to choose the correct tripod for you. The next thing you’re gonna wanna do is to have a better understanding of how to keep the legs straight so you can shoot on the go. After that, you’re gonna wanna take a look at setting the correct bubble and spirit levels on your tripod. The next thing you wanna do is check those levels to make sure before you lock it down, you’re ready to go. The step after that, of course, is actually locking down the tripod. And, after that, we’re gonna look at raising the tripod correctly before you begin your shoots. I’m Tom Skowronski and this is shooting video with a tripod.
Step number one in choosing your tripod is understanding the difference between the two designs. The first one is known as a straight tube design and this is very basic that you’ll see on a lot of consumer level tripods. Another one that is a bit more stable is known as the crutch design, which has three elements per leg, which generally makes pan movements and other motions from the camera a lot more stiff and a lot more supported, which creates smoother and more stable looking video. Another deciding factor when you’re choosing a tripod is the design of the head. So, a lot of the times, you’ll run into a consumer model, which will say something like “fluid like head” on the box and, generally, these don’t work as well as an actual prosumer model, which has a lot more stiffness and durability to it and it’s generally gonna last a lot longer than the consumer level.
Let’s talk about the consumer level for a minute here. The consumer models are generally made with lubricant covering metal plates, which generally oozes out after about a year or so, so the durability isn’t there. Another problem you’ll run into is when the weather changes, a lot of times, when you’re making your motions, it’ll actually stiffen up during them, which is not a very good option. On the other hand, an actual fluid head is generally designed with fluid on fluid in the interior of the head, which creates a much stiffer and much more stable camera motion, which is gonna make it a lot easier to control your shots. Another element you should always look at when choosing your tripod is the rubber coverings at the bottom of the spikes of the legs. Now, most tripods come with these nowadays, and the reason they do is so that you can adjust these coverings over the top of the spike so that if you’re shooting indoors on a hardwood floor, for instance, you don’t want to end up scratching the ground. Now, these are generally used for shooting outdoors in rough terrain or even on a thick carpet or outside in thick grass, and that’s the benefit of having these; but you’re gonna wanna make sure that these coverings exists so that you don’t damage the environment that you’re shooting in, and you can always adjust these rubber coverings to make sure that if you do need the tripod spikes to stick out, you can control that and make sure that you can also use these tripods in any element you happen to run into.
Step number two is to make sure that your legs are straight before you begin your video shoot and set your tripod. A lot of the problems people run into is generally setting the tripod up first before they understand how to level or lock it down. Step number one, straighten out the legs before you position a tripod. The common misconception is that you’re gonna save time if you leave a tripod set up. Well, that doesn’t necessarily work because every time you change a location, the bubble level or spirit level of your tripod head also changes and it’s not gonna be level anymore. So, it’s probably a better idea to keep the legs straight and carry the tripod around like that and make sure that before you set it, you don’t already have everything locked down. This is known as your bubble level and the number one thing you’re gonna wanna do is make sure that the little dot there is in the center of that circle. If it’s not, you’re gonna run into problems with the stability of your tripod. This is imperative and the most important step to setting up your tripod correctly. Now, if especially if you’re gonna be shooting outdoors, one of the first things you should do is set the first two legs of your tripod down, adjust your bubble level, make sure it’s correct and then set the third leg down, especially if you’re gonna use a rock or some other type of uneven ground as your placement for your tripod. And the number one thing you should always do is set your tripod levels first and adjust this first before you add your camera. Now, a lot of times, people think they should add their camera right away. That’s not a good idea because the head ends up a lot heavier and it’s gonna feel unnatural for the tripod when you’re moving it. Now, most prosumer tripods have two bubbles to them, which is _____ at the legs and the head of the tripod. In this case, you’re gonna always want to set the legs first and then follow that with setting the head and then, finally, adding your camera. Once again, this is the best way to create stable and smooth shots.
The big problem, if you don’t have the correct bubble levels, is that when you do a pan, your tripod head generally starts to lean to another direction, which is gonna throw off the motion and generally feel very unnatural to viewer when they’re watching your projects. So, the next step is simply a check to make sure that you did, indeed, set the bubble level correctly and that your tripod head doesn’t lean to one side when you’re doing a pan. The problem here with our tripod is that our legs haven’t been set correctly, which is the next step of this process. You always need to make sure that you lock down and tighten the knobs or the flippers of the tripod and then add pressure to the top of it to make sure that it is, indeed, sturdy. This is the best way to make sure that your tripod is reliable and is gonna stay sturdy on your video shoots.
The last part of the setup process involves locking everything down and making sure that it’s in place exactly how you want it. When you lock everything down, your tripod won’t move and you’ll have a much more reliable and stable shot when you go out there and grab video.
Last up, you’re gonna wanna make sure you raise the tripod from the top. When this happens, your tripod is a lot more stable. If you don’t do this, and instead, you raise the tripod from the bottom of the legs, a lot of times, once you get your camera up there on the tripod head, it’s a bit too top heavy and you could risk the possibility of your camera falling over.
Understanding how to use a tripod properly is the secret to creating smooth and professional looking video.
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