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Camera support and stabilisation

You need to be able to keep your camera steady. When you’re moving it, movements need to be smooth. Unless you’re very good at keeping still, and you always shoot wideangle, you really need a tripod, a monopod or a stabiliser.

Tripods and monopods

For basic use, the tripod needs to be easy to use and adjust. You need a quick release plate and a pan and tilt head. Watch the height: some cheap video tripods don’t even reach normal eye level.

On a tight budget, the Amazon Basics video tripod is good value.

For serious use you need a fluid head for smooth movement, and a bowl head to help get it level quickly.

Pro tripods are usually either aluminium alloy or carbon fibre:  aluminium is cheaper and tougher, but carbon legs can go higher and lower.

The Benro S6 kit is good value.

 

Manfrotto make some affordable mid-range tripods.

Miller are more expensive, but they’re better designed and better quality.

video monopod with feet is another option. They’re quicker to set up and take up less space, but they won’t stand up on their own. They’re really useful in some situations, but not when you need to change lenses singlehanded. I use a Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 for SLRs and pro camcorders.

On a budget – and for travelling and phone filming – the very affordable Manbily A-222 and M-1combination is versatile, light, and small enough to go in cabin luggage. You can use it as a monopod, attach the feet for more stability, and even reverse it to use it as a boom pole or selfie stick. You’ll need to buy a ball or pan and tilt head.

For more elaborate movements you can ‘fly’ the camera on a stabiliser. Professional Steadicams are extremely expensive, but you can get affordable lower-end models like the Steadicam Merlin and the Glidecam series. You can also get the Steadicam Smoothee for smartphones and GoPros. Stabilisers are tricky to use: like riding a bike, you’ll need a lot of practice.

Electronic use gyroscopes and motors, making them easier to fly. They vary widely in ease of use and some take a lot of setting up.

If you have a light mirrorless camera you could get the one-handed Zhiyun Crane.

The DJI Ronin is a relatively affordable two-handled stabiliser for heavier cameras (up to 7.25 kg).

The DJI Osmo is a compact, portable combined smartphone-controlled stabiliser and camera.

You can also get stabilisers for smartphones: the DJI Osmo Mobile has good build quality, but the much cheaper Zhiyun Smooth-Q is better value and adds some features that the DJI lacks.

Tracking

You could use a track system like the Konova slider to get smooth tracking shots.

Cheap tip: For basic tracking shots on smooth floor or ground, you can just find something with wheels: I’ve used wheelchairs, office chairs, shopping trolleys and even a tripod on a tea trolley.

Crane shots

If you want to get crane shots, you’ll need a jib system. Professional jibs are expensive but the Genus jib is much more affordable. You can also film crane shots by mounting a phone with a stabiliser on a boom pole.

Drones

I don’t think most filmmakers need drones. They’re relatively expensive, potentially dangerous, and subject to a lot of legal restrictions in many countries (they are virtually banned in Sweden). If you don’t need to go high, you can fake drone shots by using a stabilised camera on a painters’s pole.

If you really do need a drone, DJI are the market leaders: their new, fold-up DJI Mavic Pro is probably the easiest drone to use. They also make the higher-spec (and more expensive) Phantom and Inspire drones for serious filmmakers.