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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Set Up For Smooth Motion

Traveling gear that will keep your camera steady for video

My Three Video Setups. People are always asking me about the specifics of my equipment. Over time, I've accumulated an eclectic array of gear. I don't have a full camera shop's worth of stuff in my house, but the gear that I do have is gear that I know well, and I've had most of it for years. Following are my current three tripod options for video. Because many of these are older models, I've tried to provide today's equivalent models when possible.

When traveling, it's not unusual (or overly heavy) for me to pack two of them, as I've come across many situations when I've needed a second setup. For example, I can dedicate one to use for shooting time-lapse footage or for a two-camera, one-man shoot and one set up with a wide-angle establishing view, while the other is used with longer lenses for cutaways and close-ups.

Lightest—The Gitzo GT1540T carbon-fiber Traveler tripod (now the GT1542T), with an Acratech leveling base and Velbon Pro 520 head, is my setup for going extremely light. I use this with a Sony NEX-5N or one of my compact cameras, like the Nikon Coolpix P300 or Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V. Weight: 3 lbs. 11 oz. Folded Length: 23 inches. (I can't really take advantage of the reverse leg fold feature of this model, which makes it shorter, because the roundness of the head won't allow the legs to fold flat, so I have to fold the legs in the conventional manner.)

Lighter—This is my main go-to setup. It's built upon an old Hakuba HG 504-MX carbon-fiber tripod. It's nowhere to be found anymore, but the SLIK PRO 724 CF seems to be close to it. This is topped with another Acratech leveling base and a Manfrotto 701HDV fluid head. This is a lightweight, but sturdy setup and even will support a short slider with a lightweight camera. Weight: 5 lbs. 12 oz. Folded Length: 25 inches.

Light—When I got my Gitzo G1228 Mountaineer, the first carbon-fiber tripod that came out many years ago, it was so much lighter and just as sturdy as anything I had ever used that it quite literally changed my life. Now, it's the biggest tripod I use regularly. I have a Really Right Stuff Versa Series 2 leveling base, which fits right into the center column of the tripod for a seamless fit that makes it feel like part of the tripod. On top of this setup, I use a hefty Manfrotto 501HDV head, which has a smooth pan and tilt, and is sturdy enough to support a 30-inch camera slider and even small cranes, like my four-foot model from Glideshot Industries. Weight: 7 lbs. 13 oz. Folded Length: 29 inches.

Adding video to your skills as a visual storyteller requires a fairly steep learning curve. Since shooting from a tripod is how you'll be spending a lot of your video life, it pays to make sure that you have the easiest and most comfortable fit possible—take it from me, you'll need all your concentration for other things!

For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the "Teach and Talk" heading.

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