article by Jeremy, one of this site contributor…
Doing a search for video stabilization on the web will bring you tons of great gadgets and gizmos. Each is great and the tricks DIY folks provide to the masses are a great reference for those Hollywood style shots that make filming great. I am actually going to write about one that rarely comes up in searches, the monopod, and why I think that for the price and versatility it provides – it is one of the strongest stabilizers in my arsenal.
A couple disclaimers first though. A monopod is not an end all stabilizer. While it is great at getting rid of nearly all vertical vibrations, you can still mess up a shot if your not paying attention to the horizon. Footage filmed with a crooked horizon line will need to be fixed in post and when that happens you lose the clarity of your video. Be careful to make sure the shots are straight before filming. I know this is basic stuff, but a simple reminder never hurts.
I think most monopods are the same: a screw on an extensible pole that you attach your camera to. Sure there are better quality ones made from unbreakable lightweight material, but I personally have a $30 model that I bought for a recent trip to Alaska. I needed a stabilizer that didn’t raise red flags in security and didn’t cost me an arm and a leg to check in. Mine fit in my carry on bag, and if they dont want you to bring it on the plane, the price of mailing it back wouldn’t be nearly as hard on the wallet as a tripod.
Look at models with a pan or fluid head. I really wish I had this on my trip. The pan head will help you get a more unique shot.
I love my monopod for the following reasons.:
Starting at a measly $18 on B&H, the simple monopod is a great way to get the steady shot that you need for very little money.
Lightweight and efficient, almost all monopods can fit or attach to a gear bag taking up little room for people who like to shoot b-roll while walking around. When shooting in the city, a monopod is a simple and effective way to avoid disturbing sidewalk traffic and the fact you can pick up and move it with little hassle is worth it’s weight in gold.
3. Easy and quick setup
Created with photographers in mind, the monopod is all set for your HDLSR. The shots I got were simple but effective for what I needed. I was even able to do a handheld rack focus with ease. You can’t get any easier than screwing a handle to your camera.
4. No/little vibrations
Part of the reason vibrations screw up shots with the HDSLR’s is the famous jello effect you can get on footage. The jello effect can happen with shoulder rigs and more. The monopod is the most cost efficient way to stabilize your video besides the basic tripod.
5. Perfect for capturing b-roll
With all the above mentioned, capturing b-roll on the go can be less cumbersome than setting up a tripod for each shot. Most of the time you can barely tell that the shots came from a monopod.
The one reason why I don’t like my monopod:
1. You can’t set your camera up to be hands free.
This is a silly reason, but it still should be mentioned. You will need to carry a towel or a bag with you at all times to put your camera on if you need both hands. It’s a monopod – if your not holding it up, something else will have to.
Comments from the Admin
I am not a big monopod fan, it just does fit with my shooting style BUT I do carry a monopod to use it as a camera crane.
While you cant control the tilt angle of the camera, it is still possible to get some decent shots by holding the monopod over a group of people. This is best done with a tall monopod and a wide lens (24mm to 35mm). You can then boom up/down the group and get some interesting shots.