If you have read the newsletter, been through the website or spoken to me personally, you would have heard me say that many times before… many, many times before.
Maybe I just like the sound of my voice? Well, according to my buddies… it’s possible. Or maybe it’s because it is true!
And why do I say that?
Think of it as a friend telling a friend a piece of good news. It’s a natural human reaction. Have you ever described something in excitement to a friend? For example: have you seen a good movie, told a friend in the chance that they can enjoy the experience too. In the same way, I am passionate about filmmaking, I pass on my experiences so that others can ‘share in the joy’, so to speak (sounds corny when put like that). But there is a premise here that I am making, a not too far-fetched assumption that I am preaching to the converted. In that: You already have a video camera.
You have invested in the one essential tool, the foundation or keystone that the whole process pivots on. And maybe, just maybe you have the desire. The creative impulses pulsing beneath the surface.
You like to tell a story like Lucas or have a thing for action like Bruckheimer. Where you once sat in the pews of a theatre for the escapism of a Hollywood epic, now you notice the camera angles, the subtle scene changes and how they affect the mood and pace of a movie. And think how great it would be if you could do something like that too.
The moment excites the imagination, and a myriad of ideas floods your mind, adrenaline surges through your veins as your senses tingle… oh… sorry, I got carried away. Back to business: But what you don’t have is the knowledge. The “down to the smallest detail” data on how to go about it. All in the one ‘easily accessible’ place.
It is essential to have a stable platform for shooting video and obtaining a tripod should be your first port of call after the purchase of a camcorder. And with a little ingenuity, even a very basic tripod can help you produce some stellar shots. Here are some ways to use a tripod to best effect:
1. Correct tripod stance
Good tripod technique will go a long way towards capturing smooth video and starting with the correct stance makes the job a whole lot easier, to begin with.
Feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent to absorb lateral movements. One hand placed on the tripod vertex exerting pressure towards the ground while the other holds the handle.
This hand controlling the handle has the arm tucked into your waist so any pivot of the camcorder is a ‘whole body’ movement.
Best if any pan or sweeping shots taken with a camcorder on a tripod be done with a fluid head tripod.
2. Fluid Head vs Budget Tripods
While tripods can vary greatly in price and quality, they can be broadly placed in two categories.
One being the fluid head tripod and the other for ‘budget’ or cheaper tripods.
Fluid Head tripods are associated with professional or ‘serious’ videographers as they represent a greater investment in their business or hobby.
Made by companies such as Manfrotto and Libec, they will usually be quite robust and comparatively heavy with fluid heads to enable a smooth and constant pan and tilt of the camcorder perched on top.
They are specifically built to take the actions and rigours off video camera use.
Budget Tripods (below $50) are often given away as a bonus to a camcorder purpose.
They can be quite light (which can make them easy to knock over) and have a tripod head that is not developed to be used with a camcorder. As a result, if a pan or tilt is attempted while shooting video it will quite often result in jerky footage.
Having said that, if all your budget allows is the purchase of such a tripod, they can be a good stable platform to shoot video from if you’re not requiring tilts and pans, used as a monopod or can be adapted to get creative shots.
3. Boom & Jib
Want to get creative with your camcorder and tripod?
Extend the legs then keep them tucked together. Grab the tripod down near the bottom of the legs and (with the aid if the LCD screen for guidance) you have yourself a simple boom or camera jib.
Now you can get those high shots that swoop down on your subject. Or smooth tracking arcs that magically follow your subject over rough ground or a large distance.
4. Steadycam Techniques
The modern camcorders portability and lightweight can sometimes be at odds with getting smooth and steady video images.
Specific Steadicam devices have been made and these amazing tools even allow you to take smooth footage while running up and downstairs!
The budget technique is to attach your tripod to the camcorder with the legs not extended. The added weight can be used to take a lot of handheld shake from video footage.
5. Shoulder Support
So you have a camcorder and a tripod, you’re conscious of taking smooth footage but don’t have the time or space to set-up the tripod. What do you do?
Simply attach the tripod to the camera, place the legs on your shoulder and you have a simple shoulder support video taking device! Employing stable video taking techniques is the easiest way to separate your images from that of a rank amateur. And using a tripod is the first step in achieving better free shots. The next steps probably would be learning about video marketing. If you can afford it, get yourself a ‘fluid head’ tripod. Your audience will thank you for it. If you simply can’t stretch the budget at least get some kind of tripod and apply a little ingenuity. Remember, it’s the final shot that counts, make sure it’s a steady one.