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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old November 7th, 2013, 05:30 PM   #1
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Sticks & Heads

So, I've using the same tripods and heads for the last 4 years and they are starting to show their age. Bumps and bangs along the way all take their toll.

I'm reluctant to take the 'good' / 'expensive' tripods we use for corporates along to weddings because of the heavy wear and tear weddings seem to provide, plus they are heavier and take longer to set up and don't go quite as high.

We've been running with some Velbon DV-7000 legs with Manfrotto 503HDV heads. we discarded the Velbon heads almost immediately because they were pretty crap.

The main reason for choosing the Velbon legs at the time was two fold, they have a centre spreader, so you can pick them up with one hand and move them without them collapsing and they also go to about 6 feet high, which is useful in lots of situations, although not as high as our "big bertha" Manfrotto we take with us that goes to 8.5 feet and is our high unattended camera for ceremonies and speeches, but it's heavy as hell and would be useless as a walk about system.

Anyway, one of the Velbon leg clips has broken, so we're down to 3 fully working and one sorta kinda but only goes to half way.

If you were in the market to buy new tripods and heads *for weddings*, bearing in mind I like them to go to 6 feet or so high, what would you be looking at?
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Old November 7th, 2013, 08:22 PM   #2
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Re: Sticks & Heads

Well, these are the things I tend to look for in legs:

-- Carbon fibre. Not only does carbon fibre disperse vibrations faster, but the weight does make a big difference when you're lugging it around all day at a wedding. Plus, you'll be happy you got carbon fibre if ever you need to take your tripods on a plane.

-- With some exceptions, I don't like tripods with a centre column, because you can't level them as easily. Makes a difference if you're shooting outdoor weddings.

Other than that, it's mainly down to minimum and maximum height and budget. Having a mid-height spreader doesn't faze me either way. Having a floor-height spreader can be an annoyance in some situations. Having feet with removable "shoes" so that you can slot them into dollies is sometimes an advantage.

Manfrotto heads like 501, 503 aren't that smooth compared to others, but they're smooth enough. They're mostly what I use.

Many times I wished the level bubble could light up when you press it, for adjusting level in darkness, which is a feature some of the pricier tripods have, but it's never really bugged me that much.

With heads, main thing, I think, is that all your heads are compatible, so you can whack any camera on any stabilizer, but this doesn't mean the brand of the heads has to match (can use quick release plate instead).

If you have $2,700 to spend, one set of legs I'd recommend you'd look at is: Sachtler HOT-POD 10 Carbon Fiber Hot-Pod Tripod 5385/10 B&H . Lots of advantages to this tripod. Extends very high, and very fast... quite possibly the fastest-to-adjust-height tripod on earth. Perfect for adjusting height if you're using the tripod with a slider. But the head can also be independently leveled, unlike most centre-column designs.
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Old November 7th, 2013, 10:20 PM   #3
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Re: Sticks & Heads

The original Hot Pod has been a and still is a staple of the news community. Mostly under the O'Connor name and now Sachtler.
Frankly I've been using a set of Manfrotto 515 legs most recently with a 504 head and it holds up quite well with my JVC-HM700 which is loaded with a 95W V-lok battery, an AT1800 dual channel receiver in a bracket and BEC cup, hyper caroid or shotgun depending and a CN160 light with a Sony type 970 battery to power it. It is at the top end of weight for that head and would prefer to have the 509 but at this point I'm not changing anything so I go with what I got.
I've used the legs for a lot of years with 501 and 503 heads and the 504 head is now about 3 years old I think. I like it a lot especially with a rig that's a little less weight than the one I've been using. It works fines just at the far end of the Fuji 17X lens it can get a little wonky for a moment until it settles downs and that's not always the case.
Anyway for the money, I think it works well. Hell, a couple of the big AV companies around here have gone to the 515 legs with the 509 heads for a lot of their rental work and the work where they're doing a show and running say JVC HD 250s. Bigger cameras like the Sony DXC series (30 or 50) and they run Cartonis or Vitens.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:05 AM   #4
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Re: Sticks & Heads

I've been using my Sachtler Caddy since 1995. I've never had it serviced or adjusted, but it still works flawlessly even though it looks beaten up and scratched. Absolutely smooth pans and tilts are a must in video, with no sticky starts and stops. I would look into Sachtler SB6 or 8. I don't like Manfrotto, it feels like a toy.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:16 AM   #5
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Re: Sticks & Heads

Weifeng/Fancier is without a doubt the best bang for your buck online. Their heads perhaps more robust than their leg systems. But ceratainly, if you are aware they may recieve some rough and tumble, Weifeng/Fancier will certainly give you decent quality at a price that wont make you break down in tears if it ever gets damaged or stolen.

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Old November 8th, 2013, 06:54 AM   #6
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Re: Sticks & Heads

My Vinten heads and legs are now ancient - and 100% as good as they were when new. Price wise, they have been well worth the premium I paid. Good engineering costs, but lasts. Why not consider a second hand quality product, than a brand new compromised one. The cheap Manfrotto and Vinten clones are really just not up to it.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 07:13 AM   #7
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Re: Sticks & Heads

The problem is not buying good sticks (we have good sticks for corporate), but buying them 4 times over, since we're often shooting with 4 cameras. I would want all quick release plates to be the same (as they are now) so there's no question about if this camera will go on that tripod etc.

I can cary on with the current system. It would certainly be a lot cheaper and they do the job. I was just wondering what else was out there that went at least 6 feet high and wasn't going to break the bank if we had to buy 4 sets.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 09:25 PM   #8
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Re: Sticks & Heads

I use pro Miller tripods, I have three of them, all with great smooth fluid heads.
One of them is very old now and the legs are wood. The other two both have rubber flat feet that can be adjusted so the metal 'points' can dig in to the ground; both have mid height spreaders.
Though Millers are Australian made, the company do have a service tech in the UK thankfully.
Millers are great and though they are expensive, I'd never buy anything else....same with Rode for mics!
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Old November 10th, 2013, 06:26 PM   #9
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Re: Sticks & Heads

I have 3 fancier tripods too and they seem to be pretty good for the tiny price tag. None of mine have ever given me any issues and as already said they won't be a flood of tears if one does get damaged. I think I would be pretty worried looking after a Miller at a wedding when the tripod cost more than the camera! But they are beautiful units and smooth as silk ! The same factory that makes the Fancier also makes the E-717 tripods which are the same thing .... The twin of the Fancier is actually the Weifeng which is in Taiwan (probably all one and the same) and they make good gear!!

My first Weifeng is now 4 years old and still good!

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Old November 11th, 2013, 04:53 AM   #10
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Re: Sticks & Heads

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Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
I have 3 fancier tripods too and they seem to be pretty good for the tiny price tag.
Thanks Chris, but how high do these go? Most of the cheaper tripods only seem to go to about 5 feet. That extra height is sometimes really important...
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Old November 11th, 2013, 08:05 AM   #11
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Re: Sticks & Heads

Hi Dave

Because they all seem to have bowl mounts they lose out on the extra height you get with the crank style elevator shaft so these are limited to a max height of 1580mm!! I find the bowls an absolute necessity with video to level the camera quickly ..dunno how I ever lived without them!!

I seldom find I need to go any higher that the max anyway but obviously you shoot differently and need the height ?

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Old November 11th, 2013, 10:11 AM   #12
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Re: Sticks & Heads

I just got one of these 755XB w/ Bogen 701 HDV head to go along with my Bogen 3251/501 set that I've been using since 2000 for weddings.

Manfrotto 755XB MDeVe Aluminum Video Tripod Legs - 755XB B&H

The 3251 series was replaced by the 058B series and is a little more expensive and goes up to a little over 7' high. That's been handy a number of times.

Manfrotto 058B Aluminum Triaut Tripod 058B B&H Photo Video


My new 755 setup is 1/3 the size folded and 1/3 the weight, which I really appreciate. It's nowhere near as sturdy as the 058B, but it does a decent job.
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Old November 11th, 2013, 10:24 AM   #13
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Re: Sticks & Heads

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Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
I seldom find I need to go any higher that the max anyway but obviously you shoot differently and need the height ?

Chris
How about standing at the back of the room during speeches?

I find I need to raise the tripod higher than 5ft in order to see above all the heads, even when they are seated.
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Old November 11th, 2013, 06:38 PM   #14
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Re: Sticks & Heads

Hey Dave

I never do that! Our speeches are usually done from a lectern/podium so I set the main camera up in front of it about 20' away which more often than not puts me on the dance floor. I always make sure I'm in a clear spot and have an unrestricted view of the lectern. Also here during speeches people remain seated. I rare occasions they may be asked to stand by the MC for a bridal toast but normally guests relax and sit. I have one cam in front of the lectern locked onto the speaker giving their little talk and then I use the second camera for cutaways.

It sounds like in the UK you have to go to the back of the room and film over heads of people standing up?? If I'd have that situation I think I would be happier raising the entire tripod on a base (including me) as it's tough to run a camera that's 6' over you ...I'd rather raise myself and the camera 2' and keep the tripod at 4' ....I have a very neat aluminium painter's platform that I take to weddings (mainly for filming dancing) That raises me up (with the camera) high enough to shoot over the dancers so I can get a nice view so for standing speeches it would work well too!

How do to manage with the camera so elevated ..just framing and controls are tricky to see?

Chris
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Old November 11th, 2013, 10:00 PM   #15
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Re: Sticks & Heads

just got this and it seems to be a very solid solution:

Benro A2573FS6 S6 Video Head and AL Flip Lock Legs Kit A2573FS6

the center column is shorter than the manfrotto so to get a very tall reach the legs have to be moved inward to gain height.

easy to setup, lightweight, lots of adjustments and very sturdy. compatible with the manfrotto 501pl quick release plate.
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