Tips for filming fast moving objects with a tripod

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    • #93520

      Hi all,

      Just looking for some tips on filming fast moving objects, namely fighter jets. I’m currently using a Manfrotto 502HD video head but struggle to get decent footage with them moving either fast (high speed passes) or slow (whilst landing/takeoff).

      Mostly wondering how high should I set the tripod head (in relation to my body), stance, distance I stand from tripod, stiffness of axis and how to move around tripod as they past.

      Any tips on getting better results would be much appreciated.

    • #215500

      You might find my article at to be of some value. I have found it best to shoot as wide as possible to pick up the plane as it begins its pass, then zoom in, keeping the plane centered, as it makes its run. It also helps a great deal to have a spotter, someone who can help with locating the incoming plane.

      Keep your pan head fairly loose. With the camera in auto focus I like to shoot with my right hand on the handle of the pan head, my left hand on the lens barrel so I can control the zoom ring and steady the pan.

      Set up your tripod so that one leg is pointing directly away from you; this creates an open space in which you can stand. I find panning from left to right to be easiest. Don’t expect to pan more than 90 degrees smoothly. I have found that if you try to do much more than his things get shaky.

      It’s good to use the old film trick here: allow the plane to enter and exit the he frame without panning. Then quickly turn, re-acquire the plane as it flies away and again let it fly out of frame. Don’t forget than you can edit together numerous passes to create the illusion that you have shot a single continuous pass.

    • #215504

      Having been a cameraman for quite a few years and done Broadcast OB work, there are a number of key things. The head can wreck or make a shot. If you have a budget head, then as Jack says, you need to be able to move it easily. The so called fluid effect in these things is just a squeeze of vaseline style grease that gives a kind of stiction. Set your position so that you are balanced and steady for the end of the shot, never the beginning. We never start wide for ordinary work, then zoom in, we pull back from the narrow angle so that whatever is in the frame – car, horses, person stays the same size in the frame. With practice you can do this. Much more tricky with planes, as Jack says. Also be aware that if you lose the object in the frame, autofocus wrecks things because it wanders off to try and focus on something else. So outside, on fast moving things like jets. set focus a smudge this side of infinity and leave it. For air shows, I’m lucky enough to have a quite elderly post head that can shoot up, and ion necessary, even over vertical. Without this kind of thing, you will fight your head. Try to set it up so that the effort to move up and down is the same as left to right – this way you can do proper diagonal movements. If pan or tilt is easier/stiffer, you will lose them from the frame. For airshows I have my head set to require just fingertip pressure to move. With a less nice head it’s tricky.

      So – set up for the end of the movement, then frame the approximate area the plane needs to be captured – don’t zoom in all the way, as if your lens is long, its hard to find it. I suggest a mid setting – crash in as quick as you can, frame it up then start the slow zoom out. Because your body and feet are ready for the end, you will be at a stretch, which gradually relaxes – it’s difficult to start relaxed and then gradually stretch and remain still!

      Here’s a short clip I found. Too many errors in it in this version – the real one was shorter!

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