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There are many high quality video tripods on the market but when it comes to making the right selection it can be tricky to know where to start. You might be wondering whether or not you really need a tripod but the truth of the matter is that if you want to be producing professional grade video footage you are bound to need a trusty tripod!
Using a tripod gives you the stability you need to shoot shake free, crystal clear footage and lets you pan and tilt smoothly as you film. Your tripod allows you to use heavier equipment for longer periods of time and lets you get shots from otherwise difficult to shoot angles. A tripod also helps you compose better shots and gives you an improved sense of perspective while you work.
Overall a tripod is the most valuable accessory that you can have while working on your videography and at the end of the day an excellent tripod and head is as vital to your success as your camera is!
What Makes a Video Tripod Different from a Still Photo Tripod?
The main difference between the two types of tripod is the head that sits on top of the tripod’s legs. Selecting the right tripod for your videography requires that you pay close attention to the tripod’s head to get the best results.
When you are shooting video you need to be able to pan and tilt the camera smoothly to move between shots and create movement in the scene – in fact, you can think of it as the ‘steering wheel’ of the camera! The tripod’s head is fixed to the top of the legs, usually with a mounting screw, and can often be interchangeable.
One of the most common types of video tripod head configurations is the pan/tilt head. It’s movement is usually guided by either one or two arms that extend out from it which allows you to move the camera around smoothly while you are shooting video. This ensures that you don’t get the type of jerky, amateur footage that you might associate with 1990s home movies!
This type of smooth panning and tilting is almost impossible to achieve using a standard 3-way pan/tilt tripod head that you usually find on still photo tripods which is why you need to use a purpose built video tripod for your videography. A video tripod has a fairly complex ‘damping’ mechanism that helps to smooth the movements of the camera as you direct the shots by moving the arms behind it. This results in you getting fluid video footage that looks professional and well shot.
There are two main types of video tripod heads that you can use in videography.
- Fluid Effect Heads: These are on the cheaper end of the video tripod price range but still give you a good amount of dampening. They allow you to pan, tilt and glide smoothly and, when necessary, slowly as well. Fluid effect tripod heads are excellent value for money and will significantly improve the quality of your footage and far outperform any standard 3 way pan/tilt head that you’ll find on a standard still photo tripod.
- True Fluid Heads: More expensive than the fluid effect heads, the true fluid tripod head is a complex piece of design work that delivers outstanding results. It offers you a good range of adjustment options that let you modify the dampening effects to work better with the different situations that you might be shooting in. For instance, if you were shooting a fast action shot then you could set the true fluid head to be more responsive with a lower level of dampening so you can keep up with the subject of the footage without losing the smooth panning/tilting. On the other end of the spectrum if you were shooting using a zoom lens or wanted to work more slowly then you can set the dampening to a higher level with a lower amount of responsiveness. A true fluid tripod is a great piece of kit and most professional and freelance videographers opt to pay the extra for the higher quality results it can help to achieve.
Other Features of a Video Tripod To Consider.
Aside from the head of the tripod you should also give some thought to the legs and the feet. The legs, also known as the sticks, come in a number of materials although in modern times the most common are aluminum and carbon fibre. Both of these materials are lightweight although the carbon fibre is stronger but more expensive in general.
The legs have different stages. A stage refers to the number of places that you can lock the sections of the legs; so if you had single stage tripod legs you would have one locking position and two sections. Two stage tripod legs would mean that you had two locking positions and three sections of each leg.
The advantage of having more stages in the camera legs is that they fold down to a smaller size although you will lose some stability with multi-stage tripod legs compared with a single stage option.
The tripod’s feet are located at the bottom of the legs and are often interchangeable. This means you can change them depending on the type of surface you are shooting on. The most usual choice for all conditions are rubber feet although you can get feet with spikes if you are working on extremely uneven ground such as snow or loose gravel.
A video tripod also has spreaders. These are found between the legs of the tripod and serve as a brace to help secure the tripod in position. They are useful when you are zooming and focusing and give you the extra stability that you might need while panning or tilting, particularly if you’re moving fast. You can also get floor spreaders, although these are mainly used in studios, that hold the tripod’s legs stable at their base. Generally speaking though if you are working in the field you would want to be using mid level spreaders to secure the tripod’s legs and reduce the risk of them collapsing.
Video Tripods for Travel.
When you’re selecting a video tripod for travel the factors that determine the best option will be different to if you are choosing one for studio work. You might want to take a tripod on holiday with you to record top quality footage or, more likely, you are a freelance videographer and work in a variety of locations. From weddings to corporate events, the chances are you are going to need to be doing a lot of travel with your equipment and striking the right balance between convenience and practical function once your on site is a difficult one.
When you are moving from place to place with your camera, tripod and other gear you don’t want to be too weighed down but once you arrive you want to be able to record professional grade footage without any unnecessary or avoidable problems.
Top Features of a Video Tripod for Travel.
- Size. How much does the tripod fold down when you pack it up?
- Weight. This is crucial and is largely determined by the material that is made of. The best option is carbon fibre although aluminum is also pretty lightweight.
- Height. Ideally you want the tripod to stand at your eye level but you need to balance this with how sturdy it is, particularly if you are going from place to place.
- The tripod’s head. A good quality tripod head that allows you to pan and tilt smoothly.
- Sturdy design. This will avoid breakages or collapses of the tripod as you pack it and unpack between venues.
As well as the physical features of the tripod, value for money is a crucial consideration. The good news is that you don’t have to pay the world for a video tripod that ticks all the boxes for travel and other types of on site freelance work.
Top 3 Video Tripods for Travel and Freelance Work.
Benro BV6 Video Tripod.
This great all round video tripod is perfect for travel and for use in the great outdoors. The Benro BV6 has an excellent 4-step pan/tilt head with an 8-step counterbalance mechanism. The tripod comes with a high tech in built smart control dial.
The tripod can carry a weight of 8.8 pounds and has rubber and spiked feet.
The Benro BV6 has three stage aluminum legs that fold up very efficiently but provide superb support and stability when in use. The legs have a convenient flip over locking mechanism which makes them quick and easy to set up.
Overall this is a top choice for freelance videographers working at events, in the outdoors and for people who are travelling through different countries with their equipment. The tripod also comes with a durable travel case.
Manfrotto Travel Befree Live Aluminum Tripod.
This is one of the best travel tripods on the market with aluminum legs that fold inversely and with its lightweight and ergonomic design it makes it ideal for storage and carrying around with you. Specifically designed for Vloggers and videographers the only downside is the plastic head which can make panning and tilting a little jolty.
The tripod can hold up to 8.8 pounds in weight although it’s best used with a DSLR or a camcorder. The legs have a strong inner core that gives you great stability with twist locking mechanisms when you are filming. The Monfrotto travel tripod also has a helpful levelling ball joint so you can get perfectly horizontal shots even on uneven ground!
A superb tripod if you’re on the move that delivers top quality professional grade footage no matter where you are.
Magnus VT-3000 Video Tripod with Fluid Head.
The highly portable Magnus VT-3000 is one of the best consumer grade travel tripods in the lower price ranges that is designed for portability but doesn’t lose any of the top level videography functionality.
The tripod supports DSLR and large camcorders and can hold up to 15 pounds in weight. With an inbuilt pan and tilt fluid head and a quick release camera plate you can create fantastic footage while you’re on the move.
The two-stage legs have a flip locking mechanism with an integrated central column for stability and strength. The tripod comes with rubber feet that provide secure grip even on slippery ground making the tripod perfect for events and outdoor videography.
The tripod comes with a convenient carry case with a durable shoulder strap so carrying your equipment is not the headache you’d expect.
A Video Tripod is a Vital Accessory to Take Your Videography to the Next Level.
Apart from a camera your tripod is one of the most important things that you can have with you to be able to reliably produce pro grade footage of events, travel destinations and even outdoor wildlife videography.
If you’re going to be travelling with your equipment then take some time to select a tripod that is easy to carry around with you, provides you with the stability and the necessary panning and tilting functionality and is within your price range. You can get a top quality and highly versatile tripod for a reasonable price and the improvements in the footage you film will always be worth the money you spent!
Do you own a video tripod?