Video vs Still Tripod Heads #73

Photo Tips Podcast: Video vs Still Tripod Heads #73

Photo Tips Podcast: Video vs Still Tripod Heads #73



Photo Tips Podcast: Video vs Still Tripod Heads #73
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Transcript
Photo Tips Podcast: Video vs Still Tripod Heads #73

When we talk about tripods in photography we normally talk about the heads and the legs separately. Today I’m going to talk about tripod heads. Not pan tilt verses ball heads but still heads verses video heads.  I have occasionally encountered participants with video heads when I’m out on a session, and this has often presented problems. There are some key differences between the needs of a videographer and that of a still photographer. Video heads always offer the videographer the ability to pan or tilt their camera much more smoothly than one designed for still photography. Panning is when you move your camera left and right, like when you look from your left shoulder to your right shoulder. While tilting is when you move your camera up and down, like when you look from your feet to the sky. Although it is nice to be able to move your head smoothly for a still photographer it’s absolutely not necessary. While it is absolutely necessary for any videographer who wants to do this while filming. If it’s not smooth then the video will stutter which is not great for the viewer. Video heads are often called “fluid” heads because they actually contain a fluid inside the mechanics of the head to aid in smooth frictionless motion. You can generally tell if you have a video head simply by looking at it, they often have a very long handle for the panning motion. This long handle allows the videographer to slowly and smoothly pan the camera left and right or up and down. So far you can see that there is nothing wrong with using a video head for still photography but there is definitely a problem with using a still photography head for videography that is unless you don’t plan on moving your camera while filming. Having said this there is a feature that the vast majority of video heads are missing that we still photographers often need and that is the ability to rotate our cameras left and right. Unlike panning where you are looking from shoulder to shoulder, imagine tilting your head so you bring your ear to your shoulder; this is sometimes called a Dutch tilt. This allows us to go from a horizontal shot to a vertical shot. Still photographers often use this option to level their cameras rather than using their legs to level their cameras. Video heads often don’t have a leveling mechanism built into the head and so you are left with having to shorten or lengthen your legs to achieve level. When there is a mechanism available, it’s usually quite limited in a video head, whereas in a still head you can rotate the camera up to 90 degrees. This brings up another issue. Although many video heads can allow about a 75 degree upward tilt, most allow less only 60-70 degrees while a still head usually allows up to a 90 degree tilt. In other words if you are shooting a very tall building in close proximity you won’t be able shoot the top of the building with a video head.

So although you can use a video head for stills it’s not generally great to use a still head for video. But the limitations of a video head for still photographers is really annoying, so I would definitely recommend that you get a dedicated still head.

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