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Vinten Head Makes Coverage Easy

Dan Friedman prepares for the NBA Finals.
NBA Entertainment normally has me shoot basketball game action from the shoulder courtside, but for the 2009 NBA Finals they decided to move me up into the arena rafters to shoot an angle much tighter than I'm used to in normal television coverage. In this instance, I knew that I would need a tripod for steadiness, and had to have one with the ability to follow through on the ball's movement, as if I were shooting from my shoulder.

Fortunately, I have a lot of experience in doing just those kinds of shots, so I was able to adopt my long lens football technique to this particular NBA basketball assignment, using a Vinten Vision 100 pan and tilt head.

I used the tripod-mounted camera almost as if I were doing handheld camera coverage. The fluid head, with my shoulder beneath it, made it easy to move the camera quickly to follow the ball, but, at the same time keep it steady enough for high quality video from that distant position.

In shooting applications such as this one, I don't like to use the existing pan handle that sticks out of the back of the head. My alternative to this was to configure the Vision 100 head with rods out of the front. I also added a pistol grip from some of my film gear. This allowed me to hold the pistol grip, with my right hand beneath the camera, and let me do focusing and zooming operations manually with my left hand. There was no use of any servo—nothing automatic. I shot this job like I shoot film—totally manually.


NBA Entertainment wanted me to shoot players head-to-toe, which is a lot tighter than the quarter-court shots that network television coverage provides. To be able to follow that action, I set both the pan and tilt drag at "1." This was just enough to give a small amount of resistance as I moved the camera.

One major challenge to shooting this kind of action is being able to go from action to a stationary shot, perhaps to a player standing still or a coach on the bench. With the pan and tilt drag setting I used, there was just enough resistance to allow me to hold the camera steady if I had to stop for a shot of a player, coach or spectator.

With the full-sized HD camcorder, 22X zoom lens and battery pack, the payload was comfortably right in the middle of the Vision 100's full +/– 90 degree counterbalancing capacity. And even though for the most part I was shooting down at a 45 degree angle, counterbalancing the camera was simple and straightforward.

There was more than enough "sliding" room on the camera plate to perfectly balance the camera with the large lens and battery pack. I set it up flat, and the head handled that 45 degree forward tilt by itself. The knobs were also easy to use, and the head's level lights up, which makes it that much easier to adjust the head in a dark arena.

In a word, the Vision 100 head is intuitive.

Dan Friedman is an independent director of photography based in Chicago. His broadcast clients include NBA Entertainment, NFL Films, MLB Productions, Turner, HBO and Showtime. He may be contacted at

For additional information, contact Vinten at 845-268-0100 or visit