Film Advice Filmmaking Tripod

A guide to buying the perfect tripod

When looking to buy a tripod –  it can be a difficult task. What am I looking for? What makes a bad tripod? What’s a good tripod?

Well, there are many factors to buying a tripod from the weight rating to the tripod height and stability. In this guide, we drill into the essentials to help you buy the perfect tripod for filmmaking.

There are multiple reasons why you would need a tripod these range from taking self-portraits with a camera timer, shooting extreme close-ups, holding various objects such as reflectors, flashes and so on, shooting at difficult angles, to shooting stabilised videos.

There are a few key factors to consider when buying your next tripod, these are:

Weight rating

Weight rating

The weight rating is the weight the tripod can hold. It’s important to look above the weight of your camera + 1/2 the weight of the camera. When you start to buy additional parts it tends to add up and you need the support.

Most indie filmmakers won’t hit the weight limit but it’s something to consider. You want the tripod to be sturdy and stable enough to capture smooth and stable footage.

Tripod height

When determining the height, try to get it as close to your own height as you can give or take a few inches. The reason being is that you will not have to keep bending down when using the viewfinder.

This will give you far more comfort when filming using a tripod – and if it’s a little higher no problem, you can just reduce the height, so always look higher than your standing height than lower.

Stability

adult-backpack-camera-cloudy-305086 (1)I think this is one of the most important factors when it comes to buying a tripod. It’s essential to have a solid, stable tripod. This isn’t based on just the weight. You need your tripod to be durable and have a solid set up – ensure the head is fully tightened and that the legs are spread evenly. You need to take into account all of the features and try get them to the highest possible spec in your budget. It’sd not the brand that matters, it’s the quality and spec of the product within your budget.

Centerpost

The centre post is a leg that runs through the middle of the tripod and this allows you to increase or decrease the height. The center post is decent to have if you are using a lightweight camera, but if you are using some heavier camera gear it’s best to opt for one without a center post.

Why? You ask. Well, having the centre post there reduces the stability of the tripod as a whole so the heavier the equipment the more vibrations you’ll notice whilst recording. You can track most vibrations and stabilise your footage post production. However, it’s much better to have the best possible footage filmed prior to post production.

READ MORE: 9 essential film lighting techniques every filmmaker should know

Tripod head

Tripod HeadThis is the part that holds the camera to stabilise it. There are a variety of heads, but the most common are ball-heads, pan-tilt heads and gimbal (less common). This is the most essential piece of equipment. It keeps your camera fixed securely.

The three most common heads explained:

Ball-head

A ball-head has only one control that loosens or tightens the grip. These are flexible and smooth to operate with.

Pan-tilt Head

It comes with a single handle for horizontal movement or it’s built with dual handles for vertical and horizontal movement. This is the most common type of head that is typically built into cheaper tripods.

Gimbal head

This is a specialised head, these usually are best suited for fast-action photography. They are extremely easy to use in any direction and do not require tightening the head every time the camera/lens moves.

Tripod feet

Tripods generally come with the rubber feet, which is all you will need as a filmmaker , unless you are looking to film in a more extreme climate. If so, look at tripods that come with interchangeable feet, that way you can alter the feet dependent on the surface you’ll be filming on.

READ MORE: DSLR camera guide: What to look for when buying a DSLR?

Tripod legs

These are usually made out of  steel, carbon fibre, basalt or aluminium. They come in two types: tubular and non-tubular. This is dependent on the above material. Look for the one that has a threaded twist-lock system – these will help with the solidity and stablisation of your tripod.

Overall – make sure you find a reliable and stable tripod. It doesn’t have to cost thousands either. Look at your budget range and find the tripod that matches your filmmaking style and has a stable and reliable build – don’t forget to buy one with a solid and safe head to it.


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