A tripod must be heavy enough not to topple over or vibrate when touched (like when an assistant is using a follow focus system). The head used must be able to support the weight of the full rig easily, and must be super smooth for steady pans, tilts, etc. The tripod legs must be able to handle the weight of the rig, the head and any additional stuff like bags, equipment, etc.
I prefer heavy tripods, especially made of aluminium or steel. Light carbon fiber tripods are great when you’re sure nobody is going to touch them during a shot.
There are four classes of systems here:
- One leg – Monopod
- Three legs – Tripod/Hi-hat
- Three legs and a stiff arm – Tripod with Slider
- Three legs and a long free arm – Tripod with Jib
If you’re a one-person crew in the trenches, you’ll be thankful for every gram you can shed. Just don’t kid yourself that a bamboo pole can hold the weight of a basic rig (well actually it can!) and give you professional functionality.
All said and done, I’d prefer at least a monopod over the ‘DSLR grip’ or the BMCC handle bar.
There are a few things you could add to the basic leg to take it up a notch:
This has a load capacity of 4 kg (8.82 lbs), can reach a maximum height of 78.74 inches (6.5 feet) and a minimum height of 30.12 inches (2.5 feet). It weighs 1.9 kgs (4.21 lbs).
Tripods and Heads
Tripods come in many materials and designs. Generally, other than three legs, I like my tripods to have:
For DSLR, BMCC and Prosumer setups:
For heavier Prosumer setups:
A full prosumer rig with a heavy zoom lens and all the bells and whistles will weigh in between 5 to 10 kg (11 to 22 lbs).
If you’re aiming for such a rig, you might as well aim for a tripod that can also handle a mini jib arm or slider. E.g., a Glidecam Camcrane 200 is about 9kg (20 lbs) and can support a fully rigged BMCC setup. In this case, it might be a good idea to get a tripod that can take 18kgs (40 lbs) or more.
For such heavy-duty use, try this:
Cinema lens and camera systems, like the Arri Alexa and Sony F65, will easily reach the 20 kg mark when rigged up. Such systems demand the best tripods and heads available, like these:
Up to 40 kg (88 lbs)
And if you’re ever in a situation where you want to use a specialized motor head or jib arm with a heavy camera (or if you just want a place to sit on):
100 kg (220 lbs) +
O’ Connor Cine HD
For a general overview of tripods and heads, check out this video:
Hi Hat or Low Base
A Hi Hat or Low Base is a mini-tripod that can almost go to ground level. A fully rigged system usually has a height of about a foot (12 inches) to three feet (36 inches) including the head, so to really be at ground level you’ll have to dig.
For a general purpose hi-hat, try the:
For a heavy-duty system, you might want to look at the:
Finally, don’t forget to factor in sandbags, like these:
These can take 10 kg (about 22 lbs) of sand and hold your tripods rock steady.
We’ve looked at two of the four tripod systems in this chapter. Next, let’s look at sliders and dollies.