Ethics Statement: I am not sponsored by any the companies featured in this video. These opinions are based on personal experience.
There are many different ways to hold a camera. The most common way for videographers is a simple tripod. However, staying on three-legs just isn’t good enough. Viewers need motion. Viewers need to feel they are in a time or place. That is our job as the video operator. The question is, “what is the right tool to be mobile and stable?” I finally got my hands on some common tools that videographers (especially those working with DSLRs) should be familiar with. First, I will show Manfrotto’s Fluid Video Monopod, a popular tool for many. Second is the Glidecam HD4000, a staple of mobile video. Third is a new product by Turkish manufacturer, Edelkrone’s Pocket Rig. I’ve conducted a simple test of all three support systems in a simple pan, tilt, and mobility test.
The camera setup was a Canon 5Dmkii with a 35mm f/1.4 L lens. I also used a foldable LCD Viewfinder to add extra stability.There has been a slight color correcting and grading, but its not great since we’re trying to focus on the stability, not visuals. Also, no stabilization plug-ins were used.
The Manfrotto Fluid Video Monopod is a very popular tool for DSLR cinematographers. This product became more popular from a video tutorial by Stillmotion (they do amazing work and I suggest following them if you haven’t yet). The Manfrotto is a great tool to use. Its very light, very stable, and allows many ways for you to be creative with your shots. It definitely beats out having to lug around a heavy tripod. Its most commonly used by wedding cinematographers and event highlights. I’m so glad this product came into my life and has been a staple for most of my videos. Once you add a viewfinder of your choice to the camera’s LCD screen, you have four sticking points for stability (legs on floor, monopod arm under armpit, viewfinder on eye, and hands on camera). The only con of the monopod is that it’s not meant to be held in a gliding/mobile moment. It also takes practice to be completely still with the monopod. You can hold it like a Glidecam, but does not have the gimble design that separates the operator from the rig.
The Glidcam HD4000 is another popular tool for its stability and creating a floating like motion. Once the Glidecam is properly balanced for the weight distribution from a camera, it is very easy to operate. The smoothness of the shots can’t be unmatched and only get better with practice and even adding a Glidecam vest. This product is so amazing while the operator walks and makes the viewer feel like they’re floating in the scene or over a subject. It’s even possible for the operator to run with the Glidecam and still be smooth. The bad news? It can be difficult to get a simple pan or tilt shot. The Glidecam has to be precisely balanced to do so. At the moment of making this video, I had the Glidecam dialed at about 90% balance. Small tweaks here and there may be able to achieve this, but the weight of the Glidecam will also create tension and fatigue in your arm.
Edelkrone released the Pocket Rig as a solution for a light weight shoulder support. When I first heard about this and saw their video demonstration, I was blown away. The first thing that caught my eye was the size. It features a collapsable rifle butt-styled stability point, two foldable 15mm rods that can support handles or a follow focus, and is about the same size as a DSLR battery grip. I saw this as an ideal answer for news shooters who need that small and light-weight factor especially shooting at remote locations. I paired my Canon 5dmkii with the Pocket Rig rifile butt sticking out, my LCD Viewfinder attached, and my hands on the camera for a total of four sticking points (my own legs, rifle butt, viewfinder on eye, hands on camera). At first, the weight was not a problem and I was able to stand very comfortably. However, the camera can still shake while walking. This kind of mobility takes practice. It would be possible to be more stable if handles and a weighted counter balance were added, but that defeats the purpose of a pocket sized rig. Again, the shakiness can be something admired, but not ideal at moments especially if you’re doing a news stand-up.
So what’s the best tool for mobility and stability? There isn’t any! It all depends on the type of video you are shooting. Each product has a feature to them that makes it unique and something to be admired. To choose one of these three, you have to know what you are shooting and how you plan to approach it. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on the tools. Your own strength is the most important tool. And another good tool for stable video…PRACTICE!
P.S. I know I can use A LOT of practice myself. I’m only hear to enlighten and help out my fellow videographers.