Sachtler’s aktiv14T Keeps Things Level During ‘GMA’ Oregon Shoot

(Image credit: Geoff Nelson)

SEATTLE—As the tourist locomotive in Seaside, Ore. blew its whistle and brought its steam engine to life, I was using the Sachtler aktiv14T head for the first time, documenting Oregon coast life for ABC News and a series on “Good Morning America” called “Rise and Shine.” We were on the first day of the shoot, with two crews tasked with profiling fun and interesting things to do in Oregon.

The train pulled away from the station and my hand instinctively reached underneath my tripod head to loosen the knob and level my Sony z750 XDCAM, but I wasn’t using my older Sachtler 18. I had the new aktiv14T, which meant that with one quick release of the aktiv series SpeedLevel, I was “bubbled up” in no time, capturing some great sequences of the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad locomotive leaving the station. 

Then I spent the rest of the day on the beautiful Oregon coast shooting b-roll with my aktiv14T and flowtech100 tripod. The ease of use and speed of the Aktiv series leveling system was really fun, especially in a setting where finding great shots was easy.

Simplified Leveling
Our shoot soon moved inland and the next morning required a three-camera setup at a winery, interviewing the local NBA celebrities that invested and brought the label to some prominence. My main camera for this was my Sony FX9 with a 70-200mm lens. I was also running a 7-inch SmallHD monitor and an Anton/Bauer Titon 240 battery. 

The aktiv handled the weight with ease and finding the right amount of drag for the movement I needed between iso shots of three guests was easy. Even in the blazing mid-day June sun, the illuminated prism bubble was easy to read as we leveled up our cameras, doing final checks before we rolled. One simple push of the prism bubble and it lit up with a pleasing blue color that was visible from the top and side, depending on how high the camera was positioned. 

Throughout the long day—and profiling a second winery that also included some “run and gun” interviews—I was really impressed with the weight of the aktiv14T, especially when paired with my flowtech100. Moving around quickly was so much easier with a lightweight system that was quick to set up. By this time, on the second day, my tripod instincts were reconditioned, and I was really enjoying how fast the 14T was leveling up for different scenarios.

Going Live
Our third and final day meant live shots for GMA, fronting the stories we’d shot. We set up along a lookout point with the Columbia River Gorge in the background, and with the rising sun making a perfect entrance as our segment, went live on ABC. I was again using my Sony Z750, Fujinon 23x HD lens, SmallHD monitor, and Anton/Bauer Titon 240 battery, a fairly heavy setup that the aktiv14T handled without an issue. We wrapped our live hits after a couple hours and the production moved on to Alaska and elsewhere.

My experience with the aktiv14T went beyond what I expected. My favorite feature is SpeedLevel—which will change the way you work as a camera operator—and I was impressed with the weight capacity of the 14T as it handled all the camera setups and accessories I could throw at it.

I think the three fast-paced days we spent with ABC and GMA were the perfect “trial by fire” for what I was used to in terms of tripod systems and the new aktiv14T. For someone who’s been using Sachtler support for 24 years, the aktiv series was a fun and efficient way to usher in a new way of shooting and new era of tripod head technology. 

Geoff Nelson is a lighting cameraman at Full Nelson Video, Inc. and has won many awards including Emmys and NPPA Photographer of the Year titles. He can be reached at

For more information on Sachtler camera support systems, visit

Geoff Nelson
Lighting Cameraman/DP Full Nelson Video

Geoff Nelson of Full Nelson Video is a freelance lighting cameraman based in Seattle. With more than 30 years of Emmy-winning national/international photography and producing experience, Geoff is a two-time NPPA Regional Photographer of the Year for New England and the Northwest.