I’ll be right up front with this - Michael Rosenblum taught me a lot in the world of video,
he’s the the Guru of Video Journalism in my book - but like any student, you grow up and disagree on some things.
We disagree in the use of tripods.
He against using them.
I use them.
Well, I need to clarify both those statements.
Michael feels tripods are not necessary, most of the time.
I feel they are a necessary evil, most of the time.
In 2006, Michael hired me to be lead cameraman for a 5-part Travel Channel special series on the World Cup in Germany hosted by Drew Carey. I brought my tripod of course and used it only a few times. Most of the show was done hand held except for scenic shots of the cities shot by the B-roll cameraman.
You see, Michael is right...and so am I.
Just because you don’t use a tripod does not mean it gives you the license to shot shakey, crappy video. There’s “good” hand held shooting and “bad” hand held shooting.
I love Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. It’s very well done. It won an Emmy. It’s shot mostly hand held - and ‘good” hand held. “Good” hand held is when the camera movements do not overtake the subject and you generally do not notice it’s hand held. The show would not have it’s intimacy or spur of the moment look if it was done using tripods.
“Bad” hand held is when your 95 year old grandmother shoots video. (I apologize in advance to all those 95 year old grandmothers who shoot steady “good” hand held footage.) The movement is all over the place and you need to take seasick pills to watch it. We have all seen this on TV usually with the words “Amateur Video” pasted on the screen - like we didn’t know. Sometimes that grainy shaky amateur cell phone footage from a riot in a foreign country is all you got and you go for it - that’s understandable and acceptable - but not for a professional.
To use of not to use a tripod is a matter of style at times. Do you want a more “as it happened” look or everything on a tripod like “10 Best Beach Hotels” - again nicely done, but the show is on a tripod - that’s the style, that’s the look they want to show the hotels, pools and beach - and it works.
Tripods are a pain in the ass. I know this. But they can save you and make your project look more professional especially when your doing interviews, using long telephoto lenses, dolly slider move and of course timelapse.
Here’s a little film I made about a man in Hawaii who still builds paddles for canoes by hand.This was for his website. Most of it is shot on a tripod using a Canon 7D.
The shooting was slow and deliberate with most of the footage planned out. The tripod worked great in this case. Now, let’s say I was to follow him around town seeing clients in a real “video journalism as it happens” way - well then the tripod is a big weight that I would never use - until I need some nice scenic shots of the town - which I probably would do on another day anyway and just shoot scenics that day.
It’s good to hear both sides of any debate and take the best from each.
Next blog: The Interview. Do you need it and how to do it, right and wrong.