Video Essentials

The Best Tripod Tricks: 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.

The world of video production can be a pricey place. Luckily, there are tons of quick tips and tricks that can help you create professional looking shots for practically nothing! This lesson focuses on the secrets a plain old tripod holds deep within those magical extending legs that can help take your videos to the next level.

Check out this short tutorial we made to help you unlock the secrets of the tripod.

Let’s recap these tips below:

Tripod as dolly slider: If you retract one of the legs on a tripod you can use the remaining two legs as pivot points to smoothly move your camera back and forth. This effect can help add motion to a static shot, suspense to a bland scene, or to help emphasize an object. Just remember to carefully pitch your camera forward and back as you lean the the camera. This will help keep your shot level while still giving you that smooth slider effect we all love.

Tripod as crane: Just like the dolly slider trick you again retract one leg and lean the camera on the remaining two. Since you’re trying to emulate a crane shot though, you’ll want to lean the camera far forward, almost to the ground and back. This effect can be exaggerated by extending the tripod to its maximum height. These types of shots are great for revealing moments in a scene or inversely moving from high to low to help emphasize a character or object.

Tripod as steadicam: The weight of your tripod can actually help smooth out your shots. Just open up the legs and grip the tripod from below the camera mount. The extra weight displacement should help keep small shakes to a minimum. This technique takes some practice to get right but with a nice smooth shot your video will look better. If you are unsatisfied with your footage, feel free to add some image stabilization during post. We used Final Cut Pro’s ‘Smoothcam’ filter!

Rubber band for pans: If you take an everyday rubber band and place it on the handle of your tripod you can smooth out your panning shots. The extra tension provided by the rubber band will help make your pan shots smooth instead of jumpy. Just make sure to grip the camera firmly with your other hand as you lead the movement by pulling on the rubber band carefully.

Remember that all tripods are different. Some of you might own a top of the line model while others might be stuck with your family’s old handy-cam tripod. Make do with what you have and keep in mind that making videos is about being creative and solving problems, it’s half the fun! Learning to shoot video isn’t an easy task and these different tricks took us a few times to get just right so practice before using them on a serious video project. Give them a shot though and who knows, maybe you’ll come up with your own tripod tricks.

Check back next week to learn the basics of storyboarding or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.




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