Video Essentials

The ABCs of Tripods: Video 101

The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

One of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest ways to take your videos to the next level is with a tripod. Tripods were invented to eliminate shakiness. Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when despite your best efforts, your shot was going to end up shaky. Fortunately, out of the bewildering darkness the tripod emerged. Finally, a beacon of stability in a topsy-turvy world! The etymological roots of the word tripod was shrouded in mystery for years until scholars in 1952 finally cracked the code on an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus. Just kidding! Tripod just means three legs.

Here’s a quick little video we made illustrating how to mount your camera, and use the features almost all tripods have. Pay close attention to the acting.

All tripods come with some sort of baseplate with a screw or bolt. Turn your camera upside down and find the small threaded hole the bolt goes in to tighten and secure the camera to the baseplate.

The baseplate can then be placed on top of the tripod via either a knob or snapping lock mechanism. To remove the camera from the tripod just unsnap the baseplate and then unscrew the bolt.

Once you have your camera on a tripod there’s a lot you can do, here are just a few basics-

Height– You can alter the height of the camera by expanding or collapsing the legs on your tripod. This is really helpful when you’re trying to frame a shot just right.

Panning– With a tripod you can smoothly move your camera left and right to get smooth shots called pans.

Tilting– Once your camera is secured to a tripod you can make smooth up and down movements called tilts.

Once you’ve mastered these basics, try something a little more challenging like using your tripod to make a first person point of view camera or making an impromptu shoulder mounted setup . Enjoy your new found stability!

Ready for more? Learn how to hold your camera like a professional or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.


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  1. Monopods also work well as an alternative to the tripod depending on the situation.

    Posted by james - | July 5, 2011, 4:30 pm
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