Unlike the latest cameras, lenses or gadgets for filming, tripods and supports get somewhat of a back seat. Yes they are used all the time, and no they don’t feature the latest in capturing technology, but as filmmakers and storytellers we rely on our supports in the same way the camera records the image.
Over the last 3 years, how many tripods and support equipment have gone through your hands?
Compare that to new cameras, audio, optical, recording kit that has a brand new ‘top of the range’ model out every 3 months. I’ve had my go-to tripod for about 3 years, and I am planning on sticking with it for the foreseeable future. It’s the same with backpacks, and at the end of the day, you stick with what works, right?
I’ve relied on my 755Cx-3 and Backpack-35 PL for the last few years on shoots. The tripod is very portable and can be loaded with a heavier (caged) camera and recorder setups, and the backpack holds all the essentials I could need while out filming (including HQ audio kit).
When choosing new gear, what would be better than testing it out beforehand to find out how it feels to use, as sometimes the specs down on paper don’t weigh up to what you expect out of the box. Head down to a reseller or showroom with your camera/kit of choice and check out the models you’re interested in, have a few in mind that cover your bases of what you’re looking for. Personally, I look for a couple of things..
– Portability – can I travel with it (both run and gun style with a setup and literally travelling on trains and planes)? Can current and future cameras, lenses, audio kit fit in there too?
– Flexibility – can I use it for a number of filming scenarios? Will it work with the rig/setup that I currently have, or with cameras/kit I am looking to purchase in the future?
– Adaptable – if needed, can I adapt the kit for multi camera use for example, or a simpler or more complex setup?
Getting hands on with kit is the best way to try this out and be sure you’re making the right decision, as unlike new cameras that come out every year, a tripod, monopod or backpack will stick with you for a much longer time.
For the recent ‘Fimmaking Masterclass’ I chose a simple setup, because I could achieve the look I wanted with one camera and a couple of lenses. I packed up the A7S, Tamron 24-70, Sigma 70-200 and Canon 100mm macro with the audio kit; Zoom H6, Rode NTG4+ and Rode VideoMicro into the little Manfrotto Backpack 35-PL, and teamed it up with the Movcam cage (as I was mounting the Shogun and VideoMicro on there) on the Manfrotto 755CX-3 carbon fibre tripod and MVM500A monopod. It’s my standard run and gun setup that never fails me.
Using the lightweight tripod allowed me to move quickly between locations and have a small footprint, the monopod was chosen for times when I needed to be quicker on my feet or when filming within close quarters of the subjects. The majority of the time, the backpack stayed in the main workshop room with the spare kit that I might need, of course I carried spare batteries with me. No need to carry the bag around in this case as there was a secure location for it to be stored, in other cases, the backpack can transform into a sling style bag for quick swapping of lenses.
For alternative setups, especially when shooting with two cameras having a small footprint is imperative at live events or for ‘running and gunning’, one tripod can do multiple jobs. For example, the MVH500AH can have a Manfrotto adapter arm screwed into it, but I often extend the centre column of the 755CX-3 and attach a super clamp and magic arm for the second camera to attach to. It keeps the small footprint, but allows you to operate two cameras (a wide and an MCU/CU) from one tripod, as a one man band setup.
At the end of the day, you can always choose the bigger and better equipment, but you’ll be surprised with how supports can adapt to the filming scenario you are in.
That’s what I look for in kit, a setup that is reliable and an all-rounder.