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Old June 22nd, 2008, 01:01 AM   #1
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The right sticks to cover racing

This is a really specific request for advice on the right sticks for the purpose of covering auto racing. I'm perched atop the sky boxes and am constantly panning back and forth through an arc of about 150 degrees to cover all of the action on the track.

I have a set of Libec sticks (don't remember the model but they cost about $250) and with the drag set moderately they start to get notchy after about 40 laps. I suspect that what I use as drag is designed to be more of a lock and not designed to provide resistance.

So to my question... if I can spend about US$500 on legs, what should I get? I know many speak highly of Manfrotto, and I'm inclined that way since I have a still camera tripod and some other clamp mounts that are just magic in specific situations.

I specifically need two things. First, it needs to provide really smooth pans repeatedly, without a break for as many as 250 cycles through 150 degrees without coughing up blood. Second, and only slightly less important, I need to be able to transition in the corners without the head sticking. I'll pan right, slow down and tilt up, then pan left, slow, tilt down, then back panning right. (If you guessed it's an oval track, you guessed right). You can check out typical moves here: http://vimeo.com/1202365 Look about 2 minutes in for the shots in the interview segments. It's the high shots, not the ground level stuff.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I need to get something that works really well for the biggest race of the season up here in Maine in about 4 weeks.
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:05 AM   #2
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Hi Tripp.............

Yeah, me again.

First off: Sticks.

You need something that won't twist/ wind up with some drag added to the head.

Second off: Head.

You need something that can go the distance.

Suggestion:

Sticks: Manfrotto 350's, Libecs etc.

Head: If you can spring for it, the Vinten Vision 3, if it wasn't for the fact that the Vinten won't work with almost any other sticks but Vinten.

Manfrotto 516?

Can't stress enough the need to get both head and sticks right, with your budget, not sure I can help a heap.

Guess it's over to the panel.

What do you guy's recommend?


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Old June 22nd, 2008, 09:45 PM   #3
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Hi Chris. Nice to see you again.

I looked at the pieces you recommended on the B&H site. Vinten, yikes! That's a bit dear for me at this point. This gig would have to pay a lot better.

In researching sticks before my original post on this topic, it seems that many seem happy with the Manfrotto 501 or 503 head, and the head is the biggest part for me. However I couldn't find any information pertinent to my type of application. Without some equivalent use case, I'm rather flying blind on my choices.

Although the Libec TH-M20 sticks I have have done reasonably well for cheap sticks. The legs are very rigid and stable with absolutely no torquing as I pan with a lot of drag. But as I said in my first post, they fall over badly in this situation. One thing that really gets to me is the position of the pan drag knob. It's way too easy to catch the lever and release it. It drives me nuts.

So, I'm interested in hearing from folks who shoot motor races, air shows and things of that ilk on their experiences with their their particular tripod system.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 05:17 AM   #4
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The famous on-line auction site which cannot be mentioned but starts with the letter "E" has a couple of old black Miller fluid heads, one is new-old stock, the ones which have two friction screws for tilt and one for pan.

They can be a bit draggy but leave them stored with the the friction backed off and exercise them for a few minutes before the races start and you should find you can pan and tilt all day.

The tripod legs are another matter. I'm using old wooden sticks and they do not seem to wind up if you keep the hingebolts firm. I find the alloy and graphite fibre sticks a bit more springy.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 05:49 AM   #5
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Tripp,

I've got one of those tripods (called the TH-950DV here - as far as I can work it out it is the same model), and it doesn't have any drag settings. It's got a pan and tilt brake, but that's not really useful for smooth pans or tilts. Is that what you are using? That's the tilt lever on the left side of the tripod head, and the pan brake lever on the front left at the base. None of the Libecs at the lower end have any drag adjustment at all (650, 950/M20, LS-38).

You can sort-of-but-not-quite use it for drag by sort-of-but-not-quite putting the brake fully on. But it won't get a smooth pan.

I also found the legs to be a work of comedy, as they collapse quite easily, but that's a different matter!

I've tried in vain to get a really good tripod on the cheap. I've wound up with my basic Vinten (which is a rebadged Bogen head with genuine vinten legs). Legs are great, but HEAVY. Head is OK at wide angle, almost useless for trying to do any smooth moves when zoomed in any signficant amount.

The elastic band trick (search the forums!) does help, but I find it useful only for smooth, predictable pans. Try following a duck around a mudflat with it and I just end up getting tied up!

My next tripod purchase will involve a lot of saving, and a well known German brand name. I've had it with the cheap ones ruining my chances of smooth moves.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 09:13 AM   #6
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Bob... I'll check that out. Thanks. I'm starting to get the impression that using drag screws might not be the right way to go as if the end of a screw pressing against something for drag will eventually wear out that material and may be the cause of the problems with my current sticks. I wish I could see an exploded drawing of some of these heads. That would give me a better idea of how they function and which design would be best for my application.

It seems that the information provided by the manufacturers runs from abysmal to simply short of helpful.

Mike... the model you have looks similar, but the head has a balance feature which mine doesn't. Legs look the same, and I must say that I have no complaint with the legs but I'm never as far out in the bush as you appear to be. As with anything, there's no problem that cubic dollars/euros won't fix but cubic dollars are rather thin on the ground here.

I too have looked into the high-zoot German brand and they look quite impressive. The prices impressed me too in a sort of oh-my-gawd sort of way.

After spending hours reading last night, I'm kinda leaning toward the Libec LS-55. A bit more dear than I would like, but it's gotta work for me so I might just have to swallow hard and pay the money.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 11:38 AM   #7
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Tripp.


This clip was shot on the old style Miller with wooden legs. Very heavy but quite steady except for me kicking my toe on the legs when walking around.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-FrlHKsurs

The lens was a 50mm - 500mm Sigma with doubler making it 1000mm effectively at the long end. It was fitted to an Agus35 which is a poor man's home-made P+S Technik Mini35. This arrangement would be the rough equivalent of about a 320mm on a 1/3" CCD camera.

If you are close to the cars at one point and you have to pan fast you may find the older Miller head will drag too much and you will pull the tripod over unless you release the head into free pan momentarily.

Last edited by Bob Hart; June 23rd, 2008 at 11:38 AM. Reason: error
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 11:44 AM   #8
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Tripp,

You're right, the M20 is the TH-650, which is just a bit down from the 950 - 65mm ball and no counterbalance. My mistake.

I remember when I first got the 950, with adjustable counterbalance I thought I was king of the world. I could tilt the camera and it would stay there - incredible. Now I'm just a bit more blase about it. I might've got duff legs, so your milage probably does vary.

Something Bob just said made me think - the higher end Vinten heads have a whip pan capability. The theory is you can make fast movements when needed even when you have the drag settings. I've never used it, and it's about $2000 out of my price league right now.

I reckon if I started saving $100 a month I could have the Sachtler in a few years time. two wobbly years with my cheaper sticks... I'll have to get a second job!
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 06:54 PM   #9
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Some slick work

Bob... And I thought following fast cars was tricky. Sheesh! At least I know where to expect the cars to be next. Nice job following those planes.

I can see that the Miller tracks really smoothly with no apparent sticking or irregular friction during pans. I don't get too close to the cars when they're at speed. Shooting either from the infield or an outside wall, I'm never closer than about 10 meters so that shouldn't be a problem. During the race, I'm never any closer than about 22 meters from the action, but the Late model class really hauls down the front stretch (about 150 k/hr) so that might be a concern. I'll check out e..., er, that web site tonight.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 07:06 PM   #10
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Mike... You might want to save either Pounds or Euros. In a couple of years the old greenback might not be worth too much the way things are going.

I'm pretty sure that I'll rarely pan so fast that a little drag would hurt the move. Two grand is definitely too dear, and I only have a few weeks before the big race.

My continuing research leads me to believe that the Libec LS-55 just might get it done. It seems that at US$900, it functions as well as units costing $300-400 more, although I suspect it falls short of those nearer $2,000.

I didn't pay $2,000 for my first car, but then I'm old.

I wish there was some place I could go and see the different models. A road trip to NYC might be worth it for that purpose. Until then I'll rely on the wisdom of this esteemed panel.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 07:32 PM   #11
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bogen is pretty much unbeatable under $1000 - but for consistent smooth panning $2000 is a more realistic budget - vinten vision 3 works well for me
Whatever you choose adding as much weight as practicable will help a lot
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Old June 24th, 2008, 07:26 AM   #12
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Tripp.


I tried to reply earlier today so if this response somehow becomes doubled this will be the reason.

Of the two old version Millers offered on that famous auction site, the older one, the new-old-stock may be the most user friendly for your requirements. It has provision for two control arms. You may have some problems with locking the vertical tilt off for parking. It may creep however the camera you use will likely be lighter than what the tripod head was intended to support. Being "new" this issue may simply be my imagining rather than reality.

Two arms means without modification or hacking you can position one arm facing forward, something I find handy for controlled follows without pulling the tripod over.

You adopt a sort of see-saw balance of forces across the tripod centre and this hopefully avoids lateral forces across the head. A low to middle height setting seems to be the easiest for me however for overhead follows I must have it high.

Coarse moves tend to originate in the body posture, lower back, legs, and finer control inputs come from the shoulders and elbows with the trims from wrists.

I tend to keep the tripod handle in the area of the heels of my fingers rather than the traditional full palm grip and reserve my left fingers for manual lens control.

Last edited by Bob Hart; June 24th, 2008 at 07:34 AM. Reason: error
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