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Old November 2nd, 2011, 02:36 PM   #1
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Mid or ground level spreader

I'm about to buy my first video tripod. Could somebody explain the advantages and disadvantages of mid-level and ground level spreaders. Thanks!
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Old November 2nd, 2011, 03:39 PM   #2
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

Richard,

If all your shooting will be on level ground (on floors in studios, offices, houses, bowling greens etc.) then that's the only time I would uput up with a ground spreader. It can also be slightly quicker to fold the tripod up, as you can use your foot to pop the spreader up. But that's about the only advantage I've found.

My preference is for a mid spreader. It's much easier to use if the ground isn't level, if you're on steps/stairs, up a mountain, on uneven ground. Even on flat ground, I prefer it, as it adds additional bracing at the mid point of the tripod to reduce any twisting effects.

And on muddy or otherwise dirty ground, you only get three small footprints of mud, not the whole spreader caked in it!
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Old November 2nd, 2011, 04:35 PM   #3
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

Your cameras' weight should dictate which tripod you buy, if it's a solid reliable model you shouldn't need a spreader.

Years ago I remember reading from a respected pro, that you should double the weight of your camera then add 50% .. then select your tripod based on that weight.

Cameras come and go but a good tripod will last a lifetime.

Cheers.
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Old November 2nd, 2011, 04:55 PM   #4
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

My observations from eBay when shopping used tripods is that Mid level spreaders have higher resale value than ground level ones.
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Old November 2nd, 2011, 06:18 PM   #5
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

I don't have a lot of experience with video tripods, but when I purchased mine, I chose the 'mid-level' spreader, for the very reasons Mike B. mentioned. With the exception of a studio situation, I have found most of my 'set-ups' have been on uneven ground.

JMHO, YMMV.

J.
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Old November 3rd, 2011, 06:27 AM   #6
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

I personally prefer the mid level as well.

The only time I use a ground level spreader is when I'm using my 75cm slider, so that I can stabilise it with my feet, or with a camera bag (or anything really!)
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Old November 3rd, 2011, 08:39 AM   #7
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

Allan,

Funny that every BBC, ITV or Sky news guy I've seen here has a Vinten or Sachtler tripod with a mid level spreader then!

I presume you're coming from the Miller angle, with their Solo range. I have absolutely no experience of these, so can't comment first hand. I am tempted by the Miller 2001 CF legs to go with my VB head (no, not the froth on my beer) when I need to be lightweight or get extra high/extra low.

As an aside, there was a feature in a Video Camera magazine in the UK a few years back, reviewing what they called "pro" tripods. Manfrotto, and two bottom-feeders. Their winner was the one that had STRING instead of a spreader, I kid you not. WTF! I stopped buying the magazine after that issue.
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Old November 3rd, 2011, 05:25 PM   #8
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

Mike, so you have spare string eh, I keep that it'll come in handy :)

Yes I'm lucky (or not) to live 20mins from Millers plant here and got the factory tour when their Compass heads were first released.

They demoed their Solo Carbon Fibre and Aluminium tripods. I was surprised the CF are not *that much* lighter than the Aluminium but they're very stable in use and don't need a spreader. That's also a plus for quick setups. Miller says that a lot of folk overtighten the Solo twist locks, just a light lock will do it.
As you say the Solos have a great range of heights to work with.

I ended up buying the Compass 15 head on the CF Solo sticks and after 2yrs I'm very happy with it.

BTW now, I'd buy the new Compass 12 head, same specs just 3 levels of drag not 5 .. and it's less expensive.

BBTW for quick level setups I marked my comfortable working height on the Solo bottom legs. During a Miller sale here I bought a hard airline travel case, but the US version is better.

Cheers.
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Old November 15th, 2011, 09:12 PM   #9
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

I'm in the market for a new set of legs, and was wondering the same question, ground or mid. Now I'm wondering is a spreader a must have? Or is it fine without a spreader at all?
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Old November 15th, 2011, 11:22 PM   #10
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

Ah, well, try this as an example.

You're out in rough terain, one of the legs has a tenuous hold on reality because of a precipitous slope and loose gravel.

Parked on top of your rig is a $5000 HD camcorder.

You're shooting away, and all of a sudden that leg decides it's had enough and simply lets go, and without restraint, will go completely horizontal to the top of the reciever, meaning the whole rig heads downwards at 32 feet per second per second (no, that was not a typo, that's the increase in speed per second that any object will achieve during free fall in air).

Far fetched?

Of course, even with a mid level spreader, that scenario isn't going to play well, I've been there and (nearly) done that, praise the Gods for good reflexes! (I was up for $15,000 on that one)

Given that it does, most definitely, aid in tripod rigidity, and, dependent on manufacturer and system, isn't usually that expensive, I can't see it makes sense NOT having one, even if "most" of the time it seems like a waste of space.

My vote is for mid level, every time.

Just my humble opinion.


CS
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Old November 16th, 2011, 04:48 AM   #11
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

I'm not convinced by the spreaderless design of tripod, but Miller seem to be charging enough cash for the Solo legs (rated for ENG use!) and I'm sure they have designed it well.

There's two separate concepts here:

1. Can I dispense with the spreader on a Vinten, Sachtler, Libec, or standard Manfrotto tripod?
- No, it's not practical, safe, or sensible, unless you like seeing very expensive equipment shattering to pieces on the ground (or nail your tripod to a board to stop it moving). Lack of rigidity in a pan is probably the least of your worries with this.

2. Can I buy a tripod specifically designed to work without a spreader?
- Yes, they're probably fine, as long as you take care.

I have a Manfrotto single tube, spreaderless tripod with levelling bowl and a 501HDV head, and the concept is fantastic, even if the head is dreadful. It's great being able to get so low down to the ground at times. I would seriously love to get my hands on a Miller Solo set of sticks just to see how they perform.

Mr Philip Bloom mounts all sorts of rigs on his Miller Solo and seems to make some sort of living out of it, so maybe they're not at all bad!
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Old November 22nd, 2011, 10:57 PM   #12
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Re: Mid or ground level spreader

I have tripods with both ground and mid spreaders. I like the ground spreader the most, probably because that's what I have used for the longest time and old habits die hard.

My Mid level spreader tripod, I have had for about 4 years now, and am just getting used to it. I find I can work more quickly with the ground spreader tripod, but see the advantages of the mid too.

One thing I like about a ground spreader is that your legs will always be the same distant apart no matter how high you raise the tripod, unlike a mid spreader which will increase or decrease in size depending on height.
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