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7 Reasons Why You Need A Good Tripod

TRIPOD DRAMA! Today’s podcast discusses the importance of having a good Tripod and the drama that can ensue when your tripod fails at the wrong time, as it did one time when Leslie was shooting footage for a client. Born out of that experience was the strong realization of why some key pieces of film and video equipment (like tripods) should be a top priority for filmmakers and videographers, and she shares 7 of those revelations on this podcast.

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Full Episode Transcript

NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by a tool I highly recommend called called Happy Scribe (affiliate link). We do our best to adjust the transcript so that it reads smoothly, but if we missed something please forgive any typos or errors.

Today, I am going to talk about my tripod drama.
Tripods, they’re so important…


You know, I have been putting off making this podcast topic for a long time, because I was hoping that I’d be able to do it when things had calmed down a lot with the pandemic and everything, but I just figured I would make it [now] because it’s kind of an interesting story related to the pandemic.

And I thought that that would maybe be interesting.

So. Tripod drama…

When this whole thing started off last May… Not – I’m sorry. Last March, 2020… I was shooting a project or I was ABOUT to start shooting a project. I had had my final meeting with the people that hired me in February and I started scheduling out interviews and other things to get the job done, but because there were some interesting shooting situations like me being on a bus, I wanted to do a day of just testing out the shooting and seeing if my equipment was appropriate for the shoot, including lighting situations and seeing if I needed better stabilization, given that we’d be on a bus and I’d be moving about that bus.

And so it wasn’t really an official shoot day, but it was something that I was just testing out in terms of my equipment so that I knew what to buy or rent.

And it was interesting because I got on the bus and I did all the shooting, but right before I got on the bus, my tripod broke.

And I’m going to now rewind a little bit and tell you about how I got my first two tripods, because it’s important and I’m going to make the distinction between that and what I’ve always worked with on professional sets.

Not that I’m not professional, but I’m, you know, a little one-man-band kind of person that gets these contracts to go out and shoot, to go out and edit, to go out and animate…

And that’s how I roll. And so when I’m on big budget movies, it’s a different situation.

Even on big budget  movie,s, I would actually… No, I would say I’ve worked on a plethora, but when I’m behind the camera and working close to the camera, it’s always been a certain level of tripod.

So I’m going to start now by saying in the midst of my tripod breaking I got… No, I’m going to say this afterwards…

So let’s just say I got my first tripod because my dad did photography. My dad passed away, and he had a lot of equipment that that he had left over. We’re talking like old school equipment from like the 60s, 70s and 80s. So cameras that are not digital and are a little bit challenging.

Actually, if you want to test how good a photographer you really are, work with film and how you don’t get to look at the photo before you take the picture.

So I have to give mad props to everyone who worked before the digital age because I used to be able to do that. And I’ve started to not have although, you know, there’s an instinct to it when you do settings on a camera. This is more of the cinematographer in me. So I do have habitual ways of setting certain shots that I don’t even have to think about anymore because I know how to set things. But you have to understand, we’re getting a little bit into cinematography.

If you back in the day, you didn’t have a choice of changing the ISO, the film speed, so you picked your film speed and then everything else. The other two choices, which, you know, are aperture and shutter, you had to manipulate and hope you picked the right film speed, because if you picked, you know, your film speed at 100 and you were going into a dark room [to take pictures], you were kind of screwed.

So you had to anticipate your day and and understand that your film selection was was important. Of course, that 100 film speed would be beautiful when you are outdoors on a sunny day.

So I digress.

My dad, you know, passed away and he had equipment and one of the things he had was a tripod.A pretty sturdy tripod, I would say, but not a brand I’d ever heard of. But that became my first tripod by default.

And then I was for some reason and not having that tripod, I believe I put it [dad’s tripod] into storage…

I should tell you that story, too.

I’m all full of open loops today.

So when I moved out of L.A., my lease was up and I had just finished a gig working on a film. So when you do that, you kind of have a little bit of extra spending money because when I have been working constantly, and I don’t have expenses as much as when I’m not working on a movie because they feed me and I’m not going out and that whole thing.

So, you know, your your life is that movie, especially if you’re doing like 12 or 16 hour days or a six day work week, which happens so… Sometimes a seven day work-week, but usually like a six day work week. And if you’re doing a five day work-week, you don’t want to go out.

So I had just finished that. My lease was up and I was thinking, “All right, I’ll come back to L.A.”

This was a bad mistake, too. It’s not that easy to find, even back then… It wasn’t easy to find an apartment in L.A. that was reasonably priced and still in a good neighborhood. Now it’s a million times harder. I’m pretty sure the apartment that I paid $425 a month in… The little studio in Studio City… Right on the border of North Hollywood… I’m pretty sure that little place is at least $1500 a month now. And it was nice, but it was so small, but it was perfect for me when I moved.

But I just, you know, I fantasize about moving back to Los Angeles and then I go, “I don’t know”, because it was expensive, you know. I don’t know.

That is a whole other topic.

It’s a great city.

And everything happened synchronistically.

I would say when it comes to Los Angeles, if I’m going to be there, I’ll be there. And that’s true for you, too.

Anyway. But it’s a fun city, very fun. So usually… Probably not during the pandemic, but usually really fun city.

And I… You know… So I had the tripod, but when I left, I put everything into storage thinking I would come back to Los Angeles.

And I drove across the country because that’s something I had always wanted to do. And I’m so glad I did it. It was part of, I think, my soul journey to do that and maybe to even do it solo because I just needed to go through that experience. It was quite the adventure.

So I bought… I was on the road and this was around the time just when YouTube had started, but before EVERYONE became a travel blogger.

So in those innocent days of people blogging to blog, I was just like, I want to take pictures of everything and post it on my blog, which was more of a journal, because back then it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to do this. And then people will pay me money for my products.” And it felt a lot more… A lot less about commerce and a lot more about creativity and expression.

So I just took these… Started taking these pictures about all the places I was going and really just more personal stories and essays rather than “Five things you can do in New Mexico”.

So when I started realizing I wanted to do that with a Tripod and I had packed it into storage. I ended up buying like a really cheap one, just on the fly, from I think Wal-Mart, somewhere in New Mexico.

And that served me for the trip and it served me for a long time, I have to say, like that was over 10 years ago and it did serve me, although there have been long periods where I did not use it, including several years when I was just doing photography.

And I didn’t use a tripod half the time [I was doing professional photography] because it was very much on the fly when I was shooting. I didn’t have time to do a whole set up.

It was a lot of clients really fast that required me to get in and get out in a half hour.

And that was true for both the news and… I did the photography in terms of news, and photography in terms of business clients doing their business photography. So that is that.

But going back now… So that’s THAT loop.

So I use those two tripods. One had sentimental value because it was my dad’s, and one was just this thing I picked up that kind of lasted.

 But now we’re going to get into the fact that I did this job [on the bus], and the day before that I was going to go out and shoot, the tripod broke.

And in a way, that it was really just made me wonder wonder if the tripod was even going to hold my camera. And then being on a bumpy bus, I was even more concerned about that.

So I ended up using it and I knew the material I was getting that day was just a test material, so I didn’t worry about it much.

And then we all went into a lockdown pandemic mode.

The project was postponed because the whole bus thing was postponed.

It was about the bus and the people riding the bus and it ended up not being something that was running.

So the project sat for a long time. And there was… Later on, we I ended up animating the project because it was more like a PSA kind of thing than anything else.

And when I started animating it, I said [to myself], “I wonder if any of that footage [that I shot in March] is useful.”

Actually, I think I went back because I needed to do an image of the bus and in our animated version and I had gotten footage of the bus and I wanted to see really what the bus looked like so I could make it sort of close in our animation.

And I looked at the footage and there was also a part of me that wanted to cut together just a little something extra.

I love doing that for my clients and putting together something that might… I like throwing in little freebees if they’re good clients… If they’re nice and if they are easy to work with because I feel like that adds value.

If I can see value.

But I was so bummed out because the tripod had broken [and I wasn’t even tryint to make it good when I shot it, by the way, but it was good].

And actually the footage would be really good if my tripod had not broken.

So I’m going to say that at least it didn’t hurt me, but it didn’t allow me to expand out and give a little something,… Something extra for my clients… In a way that I wanted to have it.

And I suppose I could have stabilized it in post-production. (I actually did try to do some tracking in post and it was still to bumpy.)

But even then, it was quite bumpy. Some of the interviews are OK, but because I  started talking to people, and I do that to get a sense of what is going on [and get to the root of the project]. And actually, it came out all right.

And so I’m going to talk about…

So that’s my lead in my 12 minute lead-in into why it’s so important to have a good tripod!

And it’s funny because within that month of shooting this bad footage, that was really just meant to be like, “OK, my lighting’s good here, OK, this works here. You know, this is what the bus looks like. This is how much space I have. This is how crowded it’s going to be.”

 I got contacted… And here’s my little advertisement and I’m so honored.

I have to say, I got contacted by Manfrotto! Manfrotto Tripods!

I am so excited!

And so Manfrotto is this company that makes tripods.

They’ve been around since the 70s and every professional set I’ve been on, every news organization I’ve worked with… Film school… When I went and studied visual effects, they all use Manfrotto tripods.

Because seriously, you could throw [a Manfrotto tripod] up against a concrete wall, probably, and it would be completely intact.

These things are so durable and stable and amazing.

So they contacted me. I love synchronicity. When that happens like that, they must have earily sensed that I was having tripod frustration and they contacted me out of the blue like, “Hey, would you like to talk about Manfrotto Tripods?

So I’m sorry if this section sounds a little bit like advertising, but I’m going to just say that I didn’t own.. Well, I’m going to say I love them.

So I loved them before they even contacted me.

And in fact, I was considering getting a tripod that was Manfrotto before that.

And here’s the thing.

So I’d say going back maybe more than five years, but not as much as 10, I had been looking at Manfrotto tripods, and that even ten years ago, I would go, “Oh, man, the price on these are really high. And I could just get something that’s like low grade. And it’ll do. It’ll do.”

But then I have this experience, now, that I went out and shot something…

And it’s not like I had for the next six months another opportunity to go out and get more footage [for the bus project].

So you really only have sometimes one opportunity to get that shot. And I did not get that shot and I wasn’t able to add-on value to the project that I did because my tripod was bad. That is the bottom line because there were some shots I was like, “Oh, I could use that, but, oh, it’s so bumpy.”

Like they can’t display this publicly. But what could have been is is now no longer a possibility, so…

That is such a beautiful synchronicity.

And so I’m going to talk about seven reasons…

This is how I should have started it…
Manfrotto tripod camera plate
Manfrotto Tripod Camera Plate (source: Wikipedia)


Transcript continued:

Don’t be me. 
Don’t do my mess-up and and show up to a project, even if it’s just to get a sense of the project with a bad tripod, because it could mean that you’re not going to get…

You could end up in a pandemic lockdown and never be able to… And not get that opportunity to shoot again, which is what happened to me.

#1 Quality of Footage

So aside from quality of footage and what I mean by that is a lot of…

Oh, OK, so going back to the expense level.

So when they [Manfrotto] contacted me, I’m like, “OK, I am so excited that they contacted me, but I guess it’s going to be more about talking to people who have the budget to do to buy a $500 dollar tripod.”

And, you know, the people that I teach are beginners. And I know as a beginner I wasn’t going to invest $500 dollars in a tripod.

Most likely I would be doing a rental if I really needed that high level of tripod.

But even then, you probably can find someone to borrow from beforehand.

And I encourage that for beginners.

But I’m going to just say, getting contacted by them, I hopped back on their website. And things have changed over the years and they had lower [priced tripods and tripods where, you know, you could get the quality of a Manfrotto, but you didn’t have to start off by buying, you know, half a grands worth of tripod.

And so I was looking at their website and found a number of options that would be completely suitable, that were lightweight, because that was the other thing.

The only Manfrottos I had worked with were so heavy.

And that’s good, because if you’re moving a dolly around… For those of you that don’t know, a dolly is like this moving cart that you put the camera on and you strapped down the tripod, but you don’t want a lightweight tripod on that because you’re still moving a dolly and things happen like accidental movements that could tip the camera over, especially if you have a high grade camera or a heavy camera.

So you want that solid, solid, heavy tripod.

But when you’re in the field and doing run-and-gun fast shooting, sometimes that can be really exhausting.

Sometimes you’re walking around with the tripod for hours. Like I go into New York and I carry my tripod. I don’t want one that’s super heavy. So that is something that they expanded out into and created more lightweight options.

So quality footage also has to do with the ball-head and how you’re panning.

That’s the thing that broke on the during the bus thing. So I’m going to get into this later.

But, yeah, I would try to pan across the…

There are several people sitting in the bus and I was trying to pan across and that’s what broke where it was not rotating properly, it was not moving or gliding properly.

And I had already had a bit of frustration with this when the tripod was functional, because I do stock footage and even in a completely still environment, I was like still having trouble panning. And I’m like, “Oh, I really need to get a ball-head.”

But, you know, I put it off because it was like, stock footage. Stock footage pays off long down the road. And so there isn’t this like, “Oh, I’ve got to get it for this project.”

It’s like, “I feel like shooting fall leaves in suburbia in a field. I think I’m going to go out and do that now.”

And I brought my crappy tripod out there and I was even struggling with the panning of that.

And so there wasn’t really a pressure.

I had no client to talk to for that kind of stock footage and no deadline or anything. But it did hamper my ability to get a good shot for just a simple panning shot that was meant for stock.

So quality of footage.

#2 Protect Your Camera

And you want a good tripod to protect your camera. So when I did this and I knew my tripod was broken when I did this bus project, that one day [that I got footage] I always had the camera [strap] around my neck and then attached to the tripod, which is super awkward. But I didn’t want to just rely on the tripod to hold up my camera because it’s flimsy and it was cracking and that wasn’t good.

#3 To Support Heavy Camera Accessories

The other part of having a good tripod is you want one that’s going to hold up your camera and sometimes you have to future-anticipate how that is going to be, because maybe right now you only have mirrorless camera, which is very light, but then in the future, if you’re planning on doing more filmmaking with your mirrorless…

And even with a cell phone, you can add accessories and then all of a sudden those accessories become heavier than the camera. And you need a tripod that’s going to be able to support that and not just support it, but stabilize it.

And you don’t want to walk away from your camera with what’s called a cage, which would be something that would help get rid of glare because it has something kind of similar to barn doors on it.

And so you have this heavy thing and then and maybe a focus puller, which is like a dial that is on the the cage, which helps you to focus rather than using the lens  to do that. It makes it easier to do that.

So there’s things you throw on in the midst of shooting, and it makes it heavier and heavier and heavier, and having a tripod [that can do that is important].

And I have to say even my dad’s tripod, which, by the way, had broken a few months prior, and I already knew that [when I did the bus gig], and that was already like, “Awwww, dad’s tripod [broke]”.

But then I was like, “Well, this is an opportunity to maybe get a good one. So I always use that one [dad’s], actually, when I went out and that did last.

But they don’t make things like they used to in like the 70s and 80s.

You know, even his low end tripod was fantastic. And things are meant to break in this modern age. Like they’re built to only last like five years before they start crapping out.

I’m going to say that as a generality.

When you start looking at higher end companies that are used to making very high end stuff, I don’t think that they want that reflected on them. So that’s why you start picking out higher end labels like Manfrotto, because they usually, and again, I haven’t bought one yet because when I went on the website…

I haven’t even spoken about this. So I went on the website and they were sold out and then I was stuck in this pandemic situation and then I went and checked in the fall again, I’m like, “I should just do this [purchase, despite staying inside for the lockdown] because I think we might be shooting again.”

“Maybe I can get some exteriors of the bus without actually going in,” because they wouldn’t have let me go inside the bus. Maybe I can do that. And they were still… They [Manfrotto] were sold out again. Of all the ones that I would have selected, which were like the sub $500, you know.

If I get a tripod, I will use it and I will use it probably for the rest of my life.

That’s me. That’s how I roll. That’s been my life for decades. And that’s going to be my life, even if I’m, you know, going into other lifestyle things, which is a possibility always, because, uh…

Well, maybe I won’t use it [a tripod for shooting video] during a pandemic right now.

I’m reading books on antivirals, so who knows, because that’s my other little thing that I’m really into.

But my point is most of us….

But even then…

Right now, I couldn’t even put my camera on a good setup because I don’t have a tripod that’s functional. I have to go back and check again [the model that I want], but the next the next tripod I’m buying is a Manfrotto. Again, there’s not this massive [urgency] like, “Oh, my God! I have got  to get this done today.

And I like that I’ve actually used the medium of podcasting more than making videos right now because honestly, it’s so much easier and faster to set up a podcast than it is to set up for a Facebook Live or anything like that.

And that I really appreciate not having to do it, so maybe right now it’s a blessing that I don’t have any functional support for cameras, but that’s that’s a side thing.

So we’ve talked about the quality of the footage and protecting the camera and then adding accessories and being able to hold that up.

#4 Longevity of Tripod

And then I briefly talked about the longevity of tripods. But, yeah, if I buy my Manfrotto, I do expect it to last and I also feel that they would help you if something didn’t last and they’ll have the little… “Oh, I lost a screw.” They’ll… You’ll know who to go to immediately, although I don’t even think that would happen. They’re so sturdy, anyway.

#5 Resale Value of Tripod

If you ever wanted to get out [of the entertainment industry or media or videography], the resale value… People know Manfrotto.

You’d be able to or you know…

There’s a number of different companies…

I’ve met a few of their competitors I have to say, though, I met a few of their competitors at NAB and I never saw anything under 500. So it’s nice that they’re making a lower end thing while staying a company that is so amazing with their their stuff.

And so but if you ever did, I’ve definitely seen Manfrottos online that are being resold and they looked really beat up, but they still looked sturdy and ready to go. And that was an interesting thing, too.

#6 Professional Image

It does show a little bit of professionalism when you invest in something that other people recognize, and this is something that I’m going to get into.

This is this is part of that story, too, because when I was shooting it, I ran into this guy and he was the director for the Johnny Carson Show.

And I’m like, “Really?” And so we had this whole wonderful conversation and really hit it off. And it was wonderful because when you meet another film person, you get it. It’s like this. It’s this language that nobody outside of that can understand. And if you want to go learn that language, you go to Los Angeles for two years. And so we had this report that I think when you live in a non-film environment, you, like, crave it.

So he and I were [singing 00:24:48]  and [inaudible 00:24:50] shooting video on the bus and I’m struggling with my tripod and he’s watching me do this terrible pan across.

And he’s looking at me like, “Oh, my God, girl, what are you doing?”

I’m like, “Do I do I explain to him that my tripod broke yesterday?”

But again, I mentioned panning was something that was coming up for me long before.

And it made me embarrassed and it made me go, “Man, you’re beyond the level of this crappy tripod. You have to reinvest.”

And so you never know. I feel like also that was really a bad reflection on me as a professional.

And I regret that even though we already had had a very nice conversation and he got where I was and I got where he was, he was, you know, retired for the most part, but he still was interested in shooting. And it was just an interesting conversation. And so he knew equipment. He knew what things should look like, and he knew that I was struggling with that tripod. And we just looked at each other and I was like, “You can see it, I know.”

And I can see him seeing it. And that was an interesting thing.

So professionalism is another one and, you know.

#7 Confidence That Your Tripod Will Last During the Gig

And then the final one is it won’t break before a gig, which is, you know, it all goes back to the durability and quality thing, but you want your stuff to be able to last in harsh conditions.

And I have worked on things that have gone on for months, you know, a six-day-week type things. And in the midst of that, if you’re the one bringing the equipment, you want to have equipment that will be able to endure that.

So that is something that I do feel is important, whether you pick Manfrotto or another more durable company that’s not just off the rack at Walmart.

That is something to consider that you’re going to need this in maybe high…

I don’t know how to word… [Need] this [tripod] in situations where the potential to get banged up is there, and if other people are handling your equipment, it’s definitely there because nobody is as careful with equipment as the person who owns it.

And crews are notorious for being really rough with houses, equipment, just everything, you know.

It’s a herd of buffalo, just, you know, trampling the stuff. So just know that and know that you want your equipment to be able to withstand that.

And that’s my podcast for today.

I hope this was helpful.

So there was a positive resolution to that project. I ended up animating. Not a big deal, but I just thought it would be a great way to illustrate why it’s really important [to have a great tripod that will last].

And don’t don’t mess up like me.

I mean, I had done a thousand other projects with these tripods and not had a problem, but for this particular one, it was a problem.

And you never want to have that feeling where you’re like, “Oh, man, I didn’t get the footage that I needed because my equipment failed and it didn’t have to.”

And now I hope this wasn’t too ‘salesy’ either. I hate doing that. But I also was I just I was so excited when they contacted me.

I was like, “Oh, cool, I love Manfrottos.”  And then I was like, “Oh, I can afford Manfrottos. That’s cool.” That’s, you know, so that’s a lovely feeling.

So that’s it for today.

Thank you for listening to the super long podcast.

I had no idea I’d talk for this long, but, you know, I actually made notes today for everything, so it took me a little bit longer to get through everything.

Thank you for listening. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon.
pro video camcorder

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