In last month's article I provided advice for the purchase of a tripod and some tips on the use of one.
This article provides tips on another support device - a monopod. Over ten years ago I was given a monopod. I knew I could use it with my still camera but I started to think how it could be used with my video camera. I immediately realized that it could be used in places that a tripod was difficult to use and it took 12 pounds of my shoulder and that alone was great since my shoulder was not getting any younger. So where did I use it? First, on the sidelines at high school football games for highlight productions. To say the least, recording for 3 hours with the camera on a monopod made it less physical. While creating basketball highlights, I moved all over the gym and the monopod helped me to record from the floor and in the stands. Most of the time I could not use a tripod to record long toast speeches at weddings. The monopod came to my rescue in these situations.
When I purchased a small light weight MiniDV camcorder, I quickly saw that I could mount it on the monopod, flip open the camera's small LCD viewfinder tilt it down, extend the leg to its fullest and record shots from high over head. I got shots from above the basketball backboard during the team's warm-up, from above a team's huddle during time outs and other creative over head positions. Be cautious overhead shots can be additive and over used. These shots must be meaningful and fit the production.
As time went on, I found that a fully extended monopod would, at times, get in my way when moving from on spot to another. Therefore, I found a way to get around this. I began by shorten the leg to a height that the viewfinder was at my eye level while placing the bottom of the leg in my pant's pocket. It stabilized the camera. It worked but it made my thigh sore. Then I found a way to eliminate my sore thigh. I placed a small carpenter's tape measure pouch from a tool belt that I had on a belt, put it on my waist and place the leg in it. Surprise no more sore leg. Look for similar utility pouches in stores such as Home Depot, Lowes or a hardware store.
I found that I could not walk with the leg in the pouch. The camera was bumped around and this was not good. Therefore, if I wanted to move to a new position I had to stop recording, move to the new place and resume recording. Also, I had to learn to bend my body from the waist up or down to follow higher or lower actions.
However, there is a way to move with the monopod and continue recording. This is accomplished by turning the monopod into a mock steadicam. First, keep the leg at the pouch length. Second, to create the steadicam, I take my thumb and pointer finger and loosely wrap them around the leg under the monopod's head. The fingers must be loose enough so that the leg floats and moves in the hole created by the fingers. You can now record while walking slowly. Of course, the LCD viewfinder must be used to view what is being recorded. The weighted leg will counter balance the camera, dampen movements and produce relatively stable images. This technique is great for moving with or towards the action.
If you want to make the camera more stable, add a little weight to the bottom of the leg. A small cloth bag with a draw string can be filled with beans, marbles, ball bearings or whatever and hung on the leg.
Finally, camera support and steadiness must come from learning how to hand hold a camera. This is a must skill for all videographers. Individuals who hold small cameras with one hand and away from their body and individuals who hold larger cameras or shoulder mount cameras with one hand are flirting with disaster.
There is a simple physical technique to hold a camera. The arms are placed to form a triangle. Both arms are placed with the elbows pressed against the ribs and slanted up and in to form the sides and top point of the triangle. The line from one elbow to the other forms the base of the triangle. The camera is placed in the hands at the top of the triangle. One hand, usually the right, uses the camera controls and the other holds the camera at a convenient place. With larger cameras, the left hand is on the lens. I prefer to use the eye viewfinder and not the LCD screen. When the eyecup is pressed against the forehead this creates a third point of contact and stabilizes the camera even more. When using this technique, the whole body must turn to pan and tilt the camera.
A TIP: When using the body to follow action it is best to point the feet in the direction the body and camera will end up. Then twist the waist and camera to the starting point to start the recording. This will be uncomfortable but not for long. While recording untwist the waist and follow the action. Do not shuffle or rotate the feet. Why? Shuffling the feet to follow the action will shake the camera. Moving from an uncomfortable to a comfortable position makes smooth movements..
Remember shaky images produce "puke video" People can get motion sickness from watching fast moving shaky images. Using a tripod, monopod or proper hand holding will eliminate "puke video."
Raymond S. Adams was a high school teacher from 1964 to 1995. He earned a BS Ed from California University of PA, an MS Ed from Duquesne University and a certificate as an Educational Media Specialist from Indiana University pf Pennsylvania. This Specialist Certificate enabled him to have the background to open a home-based photography studio in 1969. As video became popular, video production became part of the studio's services.
During his teaching tenure, he taught photography, social studies and video production. In 1992 he published a textbook on video production, Video 101: A First Course in Video Production. In 1993, he was Pennsylvania's PPTN/PBS Instructional Television Teacher of the Year.
After retiring, he became an adjunct instructor at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he taught television production and methods of teaching history. Presently, he operates his photography and video studio. His business career has provided the opportunity to create photographic works in a variety of areas. The video production services has produced works for a great number of social, business and educational clients.