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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.
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. When calculating the load capacity of the tripod, don’t forget to add the weight of the head!
TRIPODS AND HEADS
- Good height
- As heavy as possible
- Great fluid head, bowl attachment
- With spreader
- 360 degree panning
- Illuminated Level
- Quick release
If you’re going to stick within this range, remember not to choose a tripod that barely meets the requirements. Your requirements will mostly increase, and most users who buy cheap gear almost immediately pine for the next bigger model. The tripod I recommend is:
A full rig with a heavy lens will weigh in at about 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 Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E 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:
Or better! You’ll find cheaper solutions and more expensive ones, the important thing is to fully realize why a tripod needs to be what it is.
Good tripods extend up to a man’s height. But they don’t go to ground-level.
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. If your camera isn’t going to move you could use a simple low base bowl, but it’s good to have some control.
Okay, so we can go to ground level. Can we go higher?
JIBS AND CRANES
There are all kinds of jibs and cranes and rigs that fall under this category, and most of the time you’re better off renting. But I’ll list one example that might be a great all round tool to buy.
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 that can take a lot of weight is better off rented. A good slider must be dead smooth and durable. It must be able to take your tripod head without complaints, and must be long enough to be useful.
If you’re on the basic rig without much weight, this is a great slider:
You can rig a camera on a vehicle in a million ways, and high-end productions make custom-made rigs for specific purposes. But if you’re on a low-budget production, then you can do worse than buy a:
But please don’t try to rig a system on a car without professional help! It’s not worth the risk.
This is the last of the basic rigs I’ll cover. An underwater rig must not only protect the camera from many dives, but also never interfere with its basic operation. My recommendation has built-in Nikon TTL metering with an underwater strobe:
In Part 5 I’ll cover base plates, rods, release adapters, etc and batteries.
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