Movement with Monopods

 

Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking

 

Lesson Info

Movement with Monopods

Since some of y'all were wondering about finding me online, that's me on Twitter and on Instagram. Wow, last segment of the first day. It's been a marathon. For those of you who know me who are watching, you know I sprint everywhere so this has been a very interesting experience for me. The next segment's on camera movement with a purpose. To recap, we talked about storytelling, elements of storytelling, shooting for the edit. We talked about camera basics. We moved into thinking about video not as just a task but as something a part of our every day. Now comes to, now comes the part where I think we stop really looking at just camera basics and theory and how to piece things together and start looking at some of the more intangible things like movement and tools, we'll talk about tomorrow. We'll talk about sound and audio after that. We'll talk about lighting, and we'll talk about a lot of different things that will help us apply some of the stuff we learned today. I think when you ta...

lk about camera movement, it's gotta be purposeful. Just don't move the camera for the sake of moving the camera. At lunch today, we were talking about some of my favorite directors. Wes Anderson's one of my favorite directors. "Moonrise Kingdom" is a phenomenal movie. It has such great deliberate camera movement in it. There are movies that have nothing to do with action, that have everything to do with drama, that when you move the camera just a little bit, it makes that shot so much more impactful. So when I talk about camera movement, guys, I talk about how does it make you feel. How does it make your reviewer feel? What message are you conveying by keeping it on a set of sticks? By putting it on a monopod? By handholding it? I think, for me, if we take a look at a piece of footage, tripod means stable. You can take a look at the scene for what it is. But then you put on a monopod, and it starts to move around and get a little squirrelly a little bit. You put it on handhold, and it's an entirely different experience. It's not that anything what we're doing with these types of support makes it incorrect. It's just how does it make you feel? Because tilting on a monopod is so different than tilting handheld. Is that person in a different state of mind? What are they feeling? What are they doing? What's the character? When you're not thinking about even narrative, when you're looking at event and you're looking at other types of styles of film-making, weddings, portraits, all that stuff, what does handholding lend itself to? What does tripod lend itself to? What do monopods lend themselves to? Not one way is better than the other. I'm gonna say that right now. I'm not gonna say that you should shoot all your stuff on tripods, because that might not be your style. And I'm not gonna say you should shoot everything on a monopod or handhold everything, 'cause that not might be your style. I will say that there are certain types of footage created by tripods and monopods and handholding that will give your viewer a different experience. The first and foremost thing is you have to make sure that the video is watchable. After you make sure of that, it's how does it make you feel. A good visual that you can play in your brain is let's say someone is inebriated, they've had a couple drinks. How would that footage look from their perspective, and how would you replicate that sensation? How would you replicate that experience in footage? Would you use handhold? What kinda lens would you use? Would you do a tripod? At what point would you use a monopod? Would you do it all in one take, or would you have them blackout and change perspective? So there's all these different things that will require different types of set, like support, that will still convey the same message. That's what I really wanna stress. So camera movement with a purpose starts with supporting your camera. If it's not stable enough, then you're not gonna really get much out of it. I really like using a monopod. My go-to, partly because I don't like to carry a lotta stuff, partly because I like the versatility of the piece. This is a video monopod. It's not your typical monopod. There's two different versions that I'm familiar with. This is the larger version. I've noticed that when I put a 70-200 2.8 lens on this thing, it takes it a little bit better. It manages a little bit better. We'll talk about video heads and why video heads are great when I talk about a tripod. The reason I like a video monopod is because as a photographer first starting off doing video, I was so...give me a second here. I have been so conditioned to doing this. I've got this tunnel vision thing going on. I look through my camera, and I only see what my camera sees. That's great for photography. You see what your camera sees and you move on. When it comes to video, I think making the transition to doing motion and doing cine is difficult for photographers because we get used to doing this and we don't get used to doing this. You gotta step away from your camera. You gotta take in your scene. You gotta just sit for a second and see what's moving and see what the frame is before you stick your face up into your camera. A monopod physically gets the camera away from your face so that you're able to really survey the scene and get it right. I think... my favorite orientation is portrait-style in photography. I love taking vertical photos. Going from only taking vertical most of the time to only going horizontal is a mind switch for me. So when I get my camera on a monopod, I'm automatically in video mode, and I go, okay, all right, I can do this. It takes me a few shots. What it does is it puts me into the mindset of being a filmmaker, taking in the scene, looking at every that's gonna be moving, and then framing up. If you do it that way, you're gonna get so much better results because you'll depend... Okay, well, I want that element and that element. Well, I have to go wide now. Or I want this element, maybe I'll go macro instead. It allows you to really go through the thought process that we talked earlier, wide, medium-wide, punch-in, close-up, extreme close-up. It lets you kinda hinge on all of the things that we've laid the foundation on, so you can kind of be creative, because this is fun now. You've got your tools, you got everything ready, and now you're gonna work. You're ready to do some stuff. With the monopod, it's really interesting because you have a lot of different techniques that are there. What I'm gonna show you are a number of different techniques. The first one is like a rocking panning movement. I'll show you the movement, then I'll show you the video for it. So the rocking panning movement... The reason this is kinda neat is 'cause you have this articulating foot, right? So I'm gonna let it articulate, and I'm just gonna rock it and I'm gonna pan it at the same time. So I'm gonna rock it, and I'm gonna pan, just like that. I'm gonna let it go, just like that, focused, pre-focused, whatever it is. I'm actually pre-focused in, and I'm just rocking across. So here's what that looks like. Make sense? It's pretty interesting, right? It's a cool little shot that you really can't get with a tripod. It's nice and stable, it's fluid. You can't do it with a handheld. It's a shot specifically, only unique, to a monopod. And it's so neat because I can plant, focus, and rock. I get flowers, obviously. You're not gonna do flowers a lotta the time, so let's think about details of the wedding. Laying out all the rings and all the shoes and doing that, rocking. That's a great application for it. You get such a great little effect outta that. There's a cool technique... What I like to do... When I do that specific technique, I will step on this foot, right here, and I'll lean it forward, and then I'll tilt the head down. Based upon what's comfortable for you, I typically hold the handle between my thumb and my index finger, and I use that little resting area to guide my head. So what I'll do is I'll use my thumb to pull it away, and I'll use the side of my index finger to pull the other way, just like that. Now when I rock, I'll get my focus, I'll get my hand off the lens so I don't rock it, or so I don't cause any vibrations, and I'll just roll it, rock just like that. So you're gonna getting this like one movement, and then you're actually focusing the movement in other way with the pan. That's why I really like this monopod from this manufacturer because that head pans, and there's other versions of monopod from other people that don't pan up top. So I can get in here really close and I can control the speed of my pan really, really nicely. Or, if I don't wanna do that, I can lock the head off, tilt it down, and then pan with my hand, pan from down low. I'm actually panning it now, see? See what's panning? So I'll kinda do this and just pan. Now if you have a monopod without the three feet, what's the best way to position the monopod so that it doesn't move on you? Do you put your...do you use your foot, or a couple of sandbags or something? Let's pretend that's it, so it's gonna kinda just rock, all right? I'll just brace it with the side of my foot. The problem with a standard monopod is that the ball of the foot is gonna lift off the ground. When you have a articulating base like that, it actually stays level on the ground unless you articulate. So if I had a straight-up monopod, I'd keep my foot here because a lotta the problems is you'll lean forward and it'll start to slide out on you. So you just wanna make sure that you brace that here. One of the things that I tend to practice with in this rocking motion is, I will go, and if you look at it, you'll go focus, and if you have foreground material as you're panning, you're gonna roll that focus and then roll back as well. It's just a good practice, a good motion of practice is rolling focus and then rolling it back with your thumb and your index finger as you're moving, as you're moving the whole camera. So the next movement is what I call a push-in focus movement. It's establishing a focus point, pulling the monopod back, and then pushing it in and stopping when the image is focused. It takes practice, and it took me four or five times to do this one. You get it after a while. Here's that, here's what it looks like. You start off, and then you push into focus. Let's watch it one more time. Start off, and you push into focus. The way I do that, pull back, so it'll push in, focus, and then I'll pull back, and I'll keep the head, trying to keep the camera in the same position. I'm trying to keep the camera in the same position so that when I push back in, I'm right back where I was. If I do this, I lose my ability to keep that focus point. I keep that focus point, I lean back, and I push it forward, and I get that focus point. It's just a practice of the feeling, right? You're in focus now, and then you're out. So you can kinda mitigate that by deeper depth of field, five, six, seven point one, eight, and you can push in. If you're at 70 millimeters, you can still create that compression to get that. Again, it's all about best practices, right? So leaning in, grabbing the head, handle, and then just not causing yourself any more vibrations. Sometimes I'll hold the head like right here, just to make sure that I'm stable. I push in, get that focus. Then when you get really good, when you get really good, you can actually keep it in focus and rock forward as you focus. But that's for like the pros; I still can't. I get it like 25% of the time. Obviously he's done this a lot, and I'd take the time to practice because I feel like you're salsa dancing over there. (laughter) The way that you're moving, you're like, moving with the... (laughter) Doesn't it look like it? It's a very smooth... It is. You've obviously practiced this a lot. It's my partner. You feel very comfortable. Yeah, I...thank you very much. It's something that I really am passionate about, of practicing, just making the movement as perfect as possible because you want it to be good when you do it for real. You don't wanna fumble around and not know what you're doing. Also, when you know where your hands are... It's funny you say salsa dancing. Back in college I took ballroom dance a whole lot and learned how to salsa. She was really strict about where you put your hands. When you know where you're putting your hands, it just gives you that added level of comfort. We had the rocking panning movement, we had the push-in focus movement, and now we have a high-to-low panning movement. So a high-to-low panning movement, it's...give me a second here. Typically you extend the monopod a little bit higher, and you pick a subject up high. What you're doing is you're tilting and coming down. So you're up high, tilting, and coming down. Now if you're smart, you're going to focus it infinity. You're gonna keep it at like F16 or F11. That way you can focus on the movement and not the focusing. So I wanna pick at something infinity, move it down and focus on the movement and nailing that movement. That's another trick. Everyone's always so worried about focus. There's things you can to do mitigate needing to focus. Focus infinity, find something that's far away, and go high and low. Or, if you would know that the thing that you're going low to is closer, pre-focus on that and know that the beginning portion of that clip is gonna be junk. So you're gonna go, finish the movement, come down, hit that focus. Now what you're gonna use in that edit is the motion to that point. So that's how we get away from, oh, focusing's kinda hard, focus... Get the motion. Why? Because there's a level of tolerance in blurriness when the camera's moving. But when you hit and stop, you've gotta be in focus. That's what you worry about. What that looks like is this. You start high, and you come low. So you try one more time, and you go high and you come low. So I have the benefit in this specific shot of having subjects that were further away, that it didn't need to change focus, but had I had something closer to focus, I would have focused on that, come up, and just moved it down and just made sure I got my frame. Again, foot is at the back. I've got the monopod, I've got it right where I need to, and I'm just nicely holding. I'm not holding like a death grip, because when you hold things too tight, it actually shakes. So you lightly hold it, come down, and nail that shot. So how we doing? Make sense? Feel good? How we doing over there? Really good. Good, cool. Next one, low-to-high. So a low-to-high is exactly what it sounds like. Typically I'm gonna get the camera a little bit lower in position, I'm gonna start low, I'll rock and pan and come up and focus up on something high. So here, boom. So imagine you've got shoes on a bed and a bride over there, shoes to the bride. You can focus it on two ways. You can final focus on the bride, or you can focus as you go. Beginners, final focus on the bride. Scrap the beginning shot, keep the motion, lock up on the bride, and you're done. Or, you can go ahead and focus, and roll it, and just practice so you'll nail it. So that's the technique for that. Here's what that looks like. See that? One more time. What does that give you the sensation of? It gives you the sensation of someone's looking and coming up, right? So you can use that for perspective too. You can totally use it for perspective. So in any kind of narrative or any thing where you just wanna spice things up a little bit and give someone a different perspective, a different shot, a different angle, you can totally do that. Nothing that I'm showing you guys isn't really off limits if you wanna put it in, you just gotta give a reason for it. Provide the reasoning, and then you can actually do it. So the next thing after that is what I like to call the mono-jib movement. (quiet chuckle) The mono-jib movement is kinda dicey, so before you do anything, gotta make sure you do a couple things. First thing is extend the monopod up all the way. What I like to do is I like to make sure that my camera is locked in orientation, so tilt's locked off, pan's locked off. Then what I do is I get the camera up nice and high, and I do one of these. So for the shot that we're about to see, I locked the camera in this orientation, brought it down, and then brought it up and leaned out. Now the cool thing is it's like a really, really fake, cheap jib shot. The bad thing is if you don't use a wide angle, it's gonna look shaky, so use a wider angle lens. Fake it 'til you make it, and practice it. It's gonna require a couple of shots. I was in... It was yesterday, so I was over by the Ferris wheel, and I was doing this shot. People were looking at me like I was crazy, but it looks kinda cool. Here we go, here's your mono-jib movement. Okay? One more time. So it's kinda like someone looking down and just looking up and then lifting themselves up. It's somewhat, if you compare it to a tilt, it's so different than a tilt, 'cause in a tilt you're just changing the camera where it's looking. On that mono-jib movement, you're actually changing the position of the camera so everything changes in relation to the lens. That's why when people, we talk about later, like sliders, why people go, wait, wait, wait, why can't I just do this for a slider? Well, you're panning here as opposed to changing the position of the camera and changing everything in relation to that position. Any questions so far? I wanted to know what percentage of a completed video should have these motion shots. That's like asking how much pepper you should put in a dish, you know? I think there's an over-saturation point. There's a point where you can do too much motion. When you get to that point, you know it, and you back off of it. That's what I know. When it comes to movements, we're gonna watch a couple videos in a second here where it's panning and tilting versus not. Both videos are acceptable, it's just what do you want to feel when you watch it? I think there is a really good medium point, and I'll show you some videos where I feel there's too much motion and then where I feel there's not enough. It's just what you're looking and what you're after. I think for everyone, for everyone, that point of saturation is going to be different, but you will know when you've used it too much. You guys remember "The Matrix"? Okay, Matrix had this thing called bullet time. (blows air) Right? Like six months later, it was overused everywhere, to the point where dog food commercials, a dog would like jump and be like (whoosh) and go get his food. It was over-saturated; it got over-done. When you're watching your videos, you gotta be hypersensitive to the fact that you may really think that movement's cool, but it may be done so many times over across other videos that people might be sick of it at this point. The only reason we're showing you this is because this is one tool. We got all of these shots out of that one tool, and that's what's really neat about it. Now, I won't ever recommend doing this and walking away, but if you take the monopod and extend the bigger sections and do this. Let's make-believe you gotta do an interview, you can actually find a nice resting spot in this monopod and let it sit where it's not rocking. I'm never gonna say do it and walk away, but I'm gonna say in a pinch where you need a tripod, you can hit your record, let it stabilize, record your interview, and catch the camera if it falls. This is why this monopod's so cool, because it's a tripod in a pinch, it's a mini-jib if I need it, it gets me three shots that really I can't do without the monopod, which is why, when it comes to equipment... People ask me a lot, what should I buy? If you don't own a monopod, just get a monopod. Learn the monopod, use the monopod, and then go from there. That's what I say. You look here, and here's another mono-jib movement. So the first one was back and up. I think this one is like sweeping and up, which is kinda crazy. So here we go. It's pretty neat, huh? Let's just watch it one more time. So what I did here, again, I put the orientation of the head this way. Um, not that much, probably slightly down, because if you notice, it was pointing down across. What I did was I pointed it down across, and as I leaned up, I just arched my back up to get that shot. Again, you look really dumb doing it, but look what you got. It looks cool. So that's the thing, I love getting the most outta the tools I use, and that's just one. Those are just some of the things you can do. A cool thing is, I show these five movements, and I guarantee you there are gonna be ten people that can think of another three or four on top of that. Then they'll share them, and that's how this thing steamrolls. It's like one tool that you can appropriate different ways. This will never replace a tripod, never, but if I'm in pinch and I'm on an event and my tripod's across the room and I gotta get the shot now, well, hey, at least I know what I can do with it. You know what I'm saying? That's what... There's necessity, there's practicality, there's things you can do. I think using a monopod like this really kinda helps out a whole bunch. Victor, I think one thing that I would love to share with everyone... Now, there were a lot of questions about that particular monopod, what brand, model, all that kinda stuff. This is a Benro video monopod. I'm using the S6 version, and there's an S4 version. I think that S4 version is really, really affordable. It's like $199 or something like that. It's a really great little tool, and you can do everything with that version that I do with this version. This one, the major difference is that it's got some difference counterbalancing and drag features and it supports more weight. We'll talk about video head functionality next, when I talk about a video tripod, because I don't like showing that on a monopod because the monopod's, you know, not a tripod, and I can't get my hands off of it. Before we move on to tripods, what do you guys think about the monopod? It's always a great conversation when you think about a monopod and get a different perspective on a tool that when I was a photographer I never used because I bought a monopod for sports and I used it only for sports, and I never used it for anything else. Then I got into video, and all of a sudden I'm using a monopod 80% of the time over a tripod. So how does that make you guys feel? What do you think? Yeah? I think what I love about a monopod, even though we don't have one, (laughs) is that it's so easy to move, you know. It just seems less cumbersome when you already have a pack and other things that you're carrying around, and it's just so quick. You can literally just ch-ch-ch, instead the tripod where you're getting everything out. Absolutely, absolutely. I think that's a great, great point. With a monopod, you're not in for a lot of weight. You're staying mobile. Photographers are really a weird bunch, because we want as much equipment as we can carry but we want the equipment to be light and mobile. I know you guys, 'cause I'm one of you guys. It's funny because we want everything under the sun, but we don't wanna carry the weight. It's funny when I got here the other day, I had my camera rolling bag, I had a bag of my tripods, I had my messenger bag with my laptop in it, and I thought to myself, I would have never been able to carry all this in a shoot and here I am, kinda like on a shoot with all this stuff. You kind of like just do what you need. But you're right, a monopod is mobile, it's lightweight, it's versatile, and it's a tool that you'll use a bunch. A lot of people like to ask me monopod footage versus handheld footage, 'cause they can look very similar at times. I think I prefer monopod footage over handheld footage unless the handheld footage is on a special rig or something. I'll use monopod footage for mostly everything that I wanna do handheld unless I can't get low or I can't get high or I need to do some weird, sweeping movement. I like the look of monopod. It just feels right to me. Okay? Over to you. We're doing good. I automatically just think monopod. Whatever is the least amount of thing that I have to bring or carry, I would just instantly go to monopod. I would never even think about using a tripod, unless you could take the monopod off of a tripod, and then I would consider it. So a cool thing about this, is if you guys end up investing in this monopod, you can actually take the head off. Take the head off, it'll still pan, and I can actually put it on what we'll talk about later, is what we call a slider. So you still get video functionality outta that head when you put it on a slider.

Class Description


If you own a DSLR camera, you already own a powerful filmmaking tool. Ready to learn how to use it? Join CreativeLive and Victor Ha for course that will cover the core principles of capturing video with your DSLR.

Through hands-on demos - including how to create compelling video interviews - Victor will guide you through the core techniques of DSLR filmmaking. You’ll learn how to apply the compositional skills of still photography to taking video. You’ll also learn about how to navigate the video-capturing features of your DSLR, choose the right gear for your filmmaking needs, and incorporate audio into your shoots. From framing shots to producing simple projects to spatial relationships, the skills you gain in this course will leave you ready and inspired to create high-quality, engaging film projects.

Reviews

Penny Foster
 

This is a very well constructed course by Victor Ha, who is very easy to watch, and very knowledgeable about using the DSLR for more than just taking pictures. For a Wedding Photographer like me, who wants to add some moving images into a slideshow for my client, this course was perfect. Victor shows us that, with the equipment you already own as a working professional photographer, you can get started into video RIGHT NOW, with baby steps. This is not a course on video editing, so if you need that tuition look elsewhere, BUT, Victor shows us how to set our cameras up for success right from the start, so that when we are at the editing stage, the footage is in the perfect state possible to produce excellently exposed, perfectly colour balanced material. He goes over the use of a light meter for capturing video, and how essential it is to get the exposure right 'in camera', so this is certainly a Fundamental DSLR Filmmaking course, for anyone who is already using their DSLR for stills, but who is interested in adding something else to their skill set. Victor is so enthusiastic in his teaching style, and this is a course I will keep coming back to time after time.