5 filmmaking monopod tips and tricks

Feb 23, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 filmmaking monopod tips and tricks

Feb 23, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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I mentioned in a post earlier today how valuable I’ve been finding monopods in my video work more often lately. They’re such a valuable, but often underrated tool on set. But the things monopods allow you to do aren’t just for video. Many techniques cross over into the world of stills photography, too. In this video, filmmaker Mason Mashtare shows us five great tips for using monopods during a shoot.

YouTube video

1. Mount things other than cameras to them

Monopods can make fantastic handheld boom arms. Need to get a light up higher than your light stand allows? Need to boom a shotgun mic or recorder over your subject’s head just out of frame? Why not use a monopod?

2. Combine it with a backwards backpack to shoot POV

This one definitely looks a little bit silly, and it’s probably not one I’ll try myself, but for some of you it could be a useful technique. More for video than stills the idea is quite simply. Take a backpack, mount it on your chest instead of your back, and then drop the monopod inside sticking out the top. Place your camera on top, et voila, POV camera mode. It’d probably be easier and less daft to just mount a GoPro to your head, though.

3. Low level tracking shots

This is something I do quite often when shooting behind the scenes footage on animal shoots. It’s a lot easier to get the camera lower down to the ground to follow the animal’s perspective by holding a monopod upside down than it is by laying on the floor. Then, in post, just rotate your footage 180°. Don’t just do a regular flip, or everything will be mirrored. It also works for low to the ground stills, though, too (hint: use a remote trigger with the hand that’s not holding the monopod).

4. Create smooth natural camera shake

The tripod is the go-to camera stabiliser when you’re doing something basic. Like, say, an interview or a dialogue piece. But a monopod adds just a little bit of motion to the footage that can make it feel more like a stabilised handheld camera. It’s also fantastic when you need to move quickly. No dealing with multiple legs, and if you’re using something like the Manfrotto 685b Neotech or the new Steadicam Air, you don’t need to fiddle around with knobs and levers to quickly adjust the height.

This was probably the first thing I tried with a monopod when it came to shooting video. I wanted to see just how effective a monopod in combination with a stabilised lens would be, and the results were pretty good. This was the setup I used last year to film at The Photography Show, and it’s exactly what I’ll be doing when I go back there next month.

5. For getting those hard to reach shots

There are some shots that would simply be impractical or physically impossible on a tripod. If you need to be with the camera in a tiny space, for example. Or if you need to get it up high. Sure, you can just use a tripod with the legs closed down, but it’s more stable and less hassle with a monopod.

Monopods held up high, again, a remote trigger helps if you’re shooting stills, can be great for crowd shots, too.

[via No Film School]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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