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Tech, No Babel: What to look for in a video tripod

When you’re shopping for a video tripod, it might be tempting to buy the cheapest one you can find, but that’s probably not the best idea. What about if you have access to a really, really nice tripod, but a small, lightweight camera? Is that a good idea?

Fluid head: This is a non-starter if you find a tripod without a fluid head. The movements will be jerky if you do buy one without this type of head.

Appropriate size for the weight of the camera: If your camera is too big for the tripod, you risk failure and breaking the camera. If it’s too small, you’ll never get the tripod balanced right. Make sure you get the right one.

Weight for its use: Buy a light tripod for portable use, but get a heavier one if it will always be in one place.

Two pan bars: If it will ever be used in a studio configuration (or in your church service), you want two pan bars so that the operator can push and pull for more reliable movements and so that you can attach zoom and focus controls to it.

Adjustable tripod plate: You need to be able to more the tripod plate forward and backward to balance the camera.

Separate friction and lock for both pan and tilt: There should be at least four controls on the head. They are pan friction, pan lock, tilt friction, and tilt lock. Once an operator sets the friction to what’s comfortable, he or she should be able to lock the tripod and walk away, unlocking it easily and not having to reset friction.

Bubble level: A video tripod should be able to be levelled and you need to be able to tell by looking at a bubble level which accurately reflects how level the camera is.

Adjustable tripod head bowl, avoid columns: Center columns on tripods provide additional height, but can be quite unstable. It’s better to have a bowl that allows for fine leveling of the head than sacrifice it for a design that’s inherently unstable.

Optional spreader and dolly: If the tripod will always be stationary, you want a spreader to keep the legs in place. If it’s going to be mobile, consider a dolly to allow for smooth movements.


PaulAlanCliffordPaul Alan Clifford works with church staff and volunteers who want to use technology to impact people far from God, by navigating through the maze of possibilities and jargon. He wants your church to get past the hurdles and embrace the tools so that technology is a gift, not a burden. He has been a tech volunteer with Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of, llc.

Heliterally wrote the book on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines.

Join him every week MondayFriday for these free, live shows on MondayFriday at 11a edt, 8a pdt, 3p utc:

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