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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. A simple rig – camera, shade, holder and lens with a hood will come in under 4 kg (8.82 lbs).
Monopod – Run and Gun
There are a few things you could add to the basic leg to take it up a notch. I recommend Manfrotto:
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. This setup has similar load characteristics to a run and gun setup.
A full 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 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.
My favorite choice for that is:
Good tripods extend up to a man’s height. But they don’t go to ground-level. For that we have a hi-hat, coming up next.
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 already has a height of about a foot (12 inches) including the head, so to really be at ground level you’ll have to dig.
Okay, so we can go to ground level. Can we go higher?
JIBS AND CRANES
A jib or crane extends the height and reach of a camera. A good one also gives you remote control and precise movements. There are all kinds of jibs and cranes. Most of the time you’re better off renting. I’ll list one example that might be a great all round tool, if your intention is to actually buy one.
What if you want to control the movements remotely? For that we have a motorized pan/tilt head:
SLIDER AND DOLLY
A Slider is a table-top dolly. A full cinema dolly rig can take a lot of weight and is better off rented. A good slider must be buttery smooth and durable. It must be able to take your tripod head without complaints, and must be long enough to be useful.
That’s it for tripods, heads and supports. In part 8 I’ll cover handheld rigs.
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