DSLRs seem to be small and light. But once you start using them for shooting videos they soon the reach the size and bulk of any other video camera. Any camera support system is about stability. We all carry a basic image stabilizer in our heads: the brain. Cameras are not that lucky – we must find physical ways of stabilizing unwanted camera motion.
Perhaps the most important rig ever is the TRIPOD.
A good video tripod has three basic parts: the legs, the head and the half-ball that links the two.
The legs carry the weight of your camera, so characteristics that we are interested in are maximum and minimum height, weight and rigidity.
For filming the FLUID HEAD will give you smooth panning and tilting motion.
The fluid head of a good video tripod sits in the BOWL on a HALF-BALL which enables you to quickly level your camera on uneven terrain.
On any decent fluid head you will be able to set the resistance for panning and tilting. Don’t underestimate this: it is this feature alone that will enable to you perform smooth camera movements even on a long lens.
The most important number about the bowl is its size: it could be anything between 50mm and 100mm. For compatibility make sure that the size of the half-ball is the same!
With any legs check the minimum and the maximum height in the specifications. Think about what you want to use the tripod for: a maximum height of 156cm might work for product photography and landscapes but may not do the jobs for interviews.
Get at least a decent video tripod. It should last for a decade or two and is one of the key tools in creating professional video content.
Tripods from hell
There are tripods that simply will not work for video work. Forget anything with thin plastic or aluminium legs that shake in the slightest wind or a video head that cannot be panned smoothly.
Getting a good tripod is an investment that will pay off. There are a number of expensive, professional brands (Sachtler, O’Connor, Vinten, Cartoni) and a number of somewhat less expensive but still excellent tripod manufacturers (Manfrotto, Gitzo). If you have the patience to hunt on ebay, you might be able to find a great tripod under £300.
The wretched creature above claims to be a video tripod. Far from it! Avoid anything without a half-ball. If it’s cheap, plastic and wobbly and doesn’t have a proper fluid head dump it. It will only frustrate you.
Much as I don’t like to link to videos from third-party sites, this is a great and short introduction to video tripods.