Gear & Now: Shooters on Solid Ground with New Tripods and Heads
Posted Oct 4, 2007

New solutions for professional videographers can bring smoother shooting and solid support with the latest Mini DV, DV, or HDV camcorders. Following last issue’s look at new steadying devices, here’s some updated information about fixed stick supports and new fluid heads.

figure 1Sachtler
Sachtler, one of the Vitec Group’s many broadcast and video brands, is now delivering two new fluid heads for MiniDV and HDV camcorders: the recently announced FSB 2 and FSB 6.

The Sachtler FSB 2 (left) is designed to accept payloads of up to 4.4 lbs. (2 kg) while the FSB 6 supports 2.2 to 13.2 lbs. (up to 6 kg). The new heads are engineered to offer low-mass cameras the same smooth pan-and-tilt movement that operators have enjoyed with larger camera packages on heavy-duty fluid heads.

Smooth pan-and-tilt movements with these smaller, lighter tripod heads are possible thanks to the same fluid head dampening technology found in the company’s larger heads. Both have three dampening steps in both pan and tilt directions, as well as a zero setting (no dampening). The FSB 2 sports a two-step counterbalance system and the FSB 6 has a 10-step counterbalance system. Both have a tilt range of positive 90 degrees to negative 70 degrees.

The new heads have Sachtler’s patented Snap & Go sideload camera plate attachment system, so moving from tripod mounted to handheld camera operation is fast and easy. The Snap & Go system offers an over 4.5" (120mm) sliding range, allowing the operator to find and utilize the center of gravity for a supported camera. The FSB 6 can also be delivered with the Touch & Go camera plate. The Snap & Go system also provides quick integration between the camera and fluid head of Sachtler’s new F-Cell battery. This 10.5 AH lithium rechargeable power source provides eight hours of shooting time. Prices vary depending on configuration and options. Sachtler is one of several camera support brands under the Vitec Group umbrella, along with Rademec, OConnor, and Vinten, as well as other broadcast equipment providers.

Sachtler’s Vitec umbrella-mate Tiffen also made headlines recently with the addition of the Attaras tripod to its Vista Tripod and Support Systems line. Designed for both on-location and studio work, the new tripod features ultra light aluminum construction for indoor and outdoor use. The Attaras has three-section aluminum legs (maximum height: 63") with a non-glare black anodized finish and quick-release leg locks for fast and simple setup.

The Attaras also features an aluminum three-way fluid panhead designed for smooth movement, and non-slip rubber feet for enhanced traction on a range of surfaces. Including both head and tripod, the Attaras weighs in at 4.6 lbs., and can support cameras up to 9 lbs., which qualifies it to support most of the cameras videographers use. The Attaras lists for $130 and carries the Vista 10-year warranty.

figure 1Manfrotto
Meanwhile, Manfrotto’s "X" family of camera supports, including tripods and monopods, is growing as well. Earlier this year, Manfrotto released the 190XB and 190XPROB models for pro and semi-pro use, and now the 055 series of tripods is available. The 055XPROB features the easy-to-use patented horizontal center column feature. Extended to its highest vertical position, the column can be swung round to horizontal without removing the head or disassembling the column itself, so switching between framing and positioning setups is more convenient than ever. The ergonomics of the leg angle release mechanism and the quick action leg locks themselves have also been greatly improved. This basic tripod has the same design as the 055XB but with a simpler center column, more traditional locking knobs, and a lighter, slightly more compact frame.

The 755B aluminum tripod (left), designed for MiniDV camcorders, has a removable center column with a built-in 50mm leveling ball and bubble spirit level that can easily be re-fitted as a lateral arm. Not only does this allow the camera to be offset from the leg position, it is also the simplest possible way to shoot a subject from directly overhead.Manfrotto also offers a new 561B fluid monopod with four-section aluminum support, designed for indoor use. It is equipped with a fluid head that can support up to 8.8 lbs. The fluid video head features a new sliding plate made for this model. The ergonomic pan-bar allows smooth panning and tilting movements.

Small and lightweight, this video head is ideal with the high performance of the 561B monopod. The 562B Fluid Monopod has the same four sections. It’s quite compact when closed, but it can support up to 16 lbs. Instead of a video head, the 562B features a 357PLV sliding camera plate adapter to adjust the camera’s center of balance, which makes this monopod ideal for heavier camcorders.

The 525MVB is a two-stage, lightweight, high-tensile aluminum tripod that is extremely rigid and stable. The 525MVB has a die-cast aluminum crown with a built-in 75mm interface bowl, adjustable leg clamp levers for reliability and safety in the field and a floor-level spreader that aids leg-angle setting adjustment. The lowest leg section has twin spiked metal feet. The tripod can also be equipped with spiked feet shoes, different types of dollies, and two models of mid-level spreader.

figure 1K-Tek
This next product provides no camera support, but just as sometimes you want to shoot a subject from directly overhead, sometimes you want to listen to them from directly overhead, too. If that’s the case, audio boom poles are crucial. Like Henry Ford’s early cars, the choice of color for boom poles was always somewhat limited. But in this age of personalization and branding efforts, new colored poles from K-Tek are just the ticket. (Some shooters may find they blend into backgrounds a little better, so this can offer real production value as well.)

The K-Tek Avalon Traveler (left) stores quickly for easy transportation and expands from a minimum length of just 20" (52cm) to a maximum reach of 6'7" (201cm). Telescoping sections lock together via K-Tek’s proprietary "captive collett" coupling system for maximum holding power with minimum torque.

Available in blue and burgundy (and of course, standard black) anodized aluminum, this lightweight, six-section pole comes unwired, or factory-wired with a high-quality internal coiled cord and male XLR connector. Prices start at $210.

figure 1The Sentry Case
Relevant to any discussion of event video gear are the cases you use to transport your gear, and any discussion of the cases will address the safety features those cases offer to protect your equipment. Most event videographers have fallen prey to equipment theft at one time or another. Our work simply requires us to move around too much and too quickly to guard the gear we aren’t taking with us at a given moment. Los Angeles videographer Lon Andre of CalVideo has attempted to address this issue with a patent-pending new product called the Sentry Case (left), which he debuted at WEVA Expo in August.

The Sentry Case is a sturdy polypropylene case designed expressly for transporting and protecting video gear, with a three-step security system. The system includes removable handles, which make the case awkward and cumbersome to move when the handles are off; a built-in 108dB alarm that sounds if the case’s attached AC adapter is unplugged from an outlet; and a 10-foot steel cable that can be easily attached from a stationary object. If you position your Sentry Case in, say, the lobby of a hotel and remove the handles, plug in the alarm, and attach it to a plush lobby easy chair, a would-be thief would have to wrap his arms around the top of the case and haul away the case and the attached chair with the alarm blaring to get away with your gear.

In addition to its security features, the Sentry Case also features state-of-the-art sturdiness and easy transportability, with its polypropylene construction, telescopic handle, and large 3" wide-track heavy-duty wheels. Pricing starts at $500.

Lee Rickwood (leerickwood at is a media consultant and freelance writer.