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How to Use a Video Monopod

Today I wanted to talk about my favorite video accessory, the video monopod. Now, notice that I said VIDEO monopod and I’ll soon get to what makes it unique. I’ll be using the Manfrotto 561HDV video monopod and show you why overall this the most versatile camera support piece of gear that I own. I’m not kidding, take away my tripods and fluid heads but leave my monopd alone!

So why would you want to use a monopod for video? If you’ve spent any time shooting video, you know that unstabilized hand-held footage just doesn’t work. The shake that you get when trying to keep a camera still is enough to make anyone feel dizzy. And this doesn’t even take into account any panning, tilting or shifting.

The support equipment used most often for video is a tri-pod. Now while a tripod does offer perfect stability, and a good fluid head allows you to get pan and tilt shots that are buttery smooth, you’re a little restricted when it comes to adding motion to your video.

This is where the video monopod comes to the rescue. While it can’t rival a great tripod as far as sheer stability goes, it’s versatility and the variety of different shots and looks it offers make it an absolute must in my opinion.

FEATURES

Let’s spend a little time looking at the features that make a video monopod unique and then we’ll go and look at some of the shots that it can produce.

  1. The first feature I love about this monopod are the feet. The 3 feet fold out, snap into place and help provide the type of stability needed for video. In addition to the inherent stabilization they offer, I usually step on one of them them to ensure that there is no movement, especially if I’m going to shift the monopod.The feet attach to the monopod using a ball joint, which lets me shift very smoothly and of course the range of the shift increases as a function of the length of the monopod.
  2. Next we can see the Fluid Drag System which helps you get smooth panning shots while using the monopod. Now again, if you compare them to a solid tripod with a nice fluid head you’ll notice that they are not as stable (or smooth) but there are times when I want to add a little camera movement and this is certainly way better than hand holding a camera and trying to pan
  3. Next we have the 4 sections of the monopod which allow it to extend to 6’5”. This range is not only there to accommodate people of different heights but it allows you to quickly change perspectives and very quickly get a variety of shots.
  4. Finally we get to the fluid head. Which is a must for many of the shots I’m going to show you in the next section of this video. This is not a very large fluid head but it still does the job quite well. The arm can attach on either sides to accommodate both orientations and there times when I don’t use the arm at all and simply control the fluid head by guiding the camera. This fluid head also has a quick release plate so I can go from the monopod to the very quickly.

TYPES OF VIDEO MONOPOD SHOTS

Next let’s check out some of shots you can accomplish using a video monopod.

Reveal

A reveal shot is one where main subject of your shot is initially hidden, and then is revealed using some type of motion. There are 3 types of reveal shots that I like to do:

  1. The first uses a sideways shift of the monopod. I stand to the side of the monopod and put my foot to the inside, being careful to allow for enough range of movement. I begin the shot and then lean the tripod while bringing the subject into view. It’s pretty simple to accomplish but the result is what is referred to as a dutch angle or dutch tilt, which is where the vertical lines are at an angle to the side of the frame.
  2. Next is a simple pan of the monopod. Again, we start with the subject blocked and then pan over to reveal the subject. While this can be accomplished with a tripod, there are situations where space is a bit tight or where I just don’t have enough time to properly set up a tripod.
  3. 3rd, and probably my favorite shot is a variable of the first option but in this case we mount the camera on the monopod sideways. This allow us to maintain the horizontal alignment of the camera while shifting the monopod to the side. This will take some practice but I think you’ll be happy with the results.

Zoom In

This is another shot that I really like. I start out with the camera shifted forwards towards the subject and then acquire focus. I then start the shot then pull back out losing focus of the subject. I’ll then later on reverse this in Post so that I can get a perfect zoom in.

Stabilized Shot

This by no means is meant to replace an actual stabilizer for your camera but it will give you usable results when in a bind. Simply grip the monopod below the camera with as little pressure and you can and then walk with as little bouncing movement as possible. Again, it’s never going to replace a professional stabilizer and you will also get tired very quickly, but it is an option you should be aware of.

Rock and Pan – Tracking Shot

Hold the monopod and the arm or the arm on the strap and then move the monopod in a wide arc with a smooth motion. You can also use this hold for the zoom in technique we discussed earlier.

Down-angle or Overhead Shot

Ok, this isn’t one I use very often but I wanted to mention it. Extend the monopod and then tilt and set your focus. You’ll then place the feet on your thigh and swing the monopod so that it’s pivoting on your leg. You can use this to get some unique overhead shots.

A FEW NOTES

In this section I want to cover some more general information about using this type of monopod.

First, as with any support system, the more points of contact you have the more stable you are. When it comes to the monopod, you can tuck the monopod arm in your armpit, use both hands, and even get a viewer for your camera which will let you have a total of 5 points of contact, including the monopod itself.

If I’m careful, the monopod can be balanced and can stand on its own, however I don’t usually feel like leaving 7K of equipment on it and walking away.

CONCLUSION

The video monopod is definitely one of my favorite camera supports. It’s easy to use, lets me very quickly get a variety of shots and is super portable. I used a manfrotto 561BHDV for this video and I’ll add a few links in the descriptions for a couple of models I think you should check out if you’re interested in getting a video monopod.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have suggestions of different types of shots that you get with your video monopod.

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Thank you for watching

Suggested Video Monopods

The Manfrotto BHDV-1 isn’t available for sale anymore, but I would recommend looking at the:
Manfrotto Xpro Aluminum Video Monopod With 500 Series Video Head
Benro Aluminum 4 Series Flip-Lock Video Monopod Kit
Sirui P-204S Aluminum Photo/Video Monopod (add your own fluid head)

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