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Tripod Maintenance

Maintenance and general upkeep of the tools of the television photographer's craft can be a subject that's routinely pushed to the back of our mind when we would like to concentrate on making pictures, reporting, and telling stories. In our first tip, we made sure the camera was tight and ready to use.

This week, we'll look at the tripod. Will the legs extend and lock properly? If not, can the locking collars or cams be cleaned to function as designed? Dirt and sand especially can be an obstacle to rapid deployment of your sticks. High pressure air can be used to blow foreign matter out of the mechanism and a small--and I stress small--amount of WD 40 or very light oil should be applied to dry surfaces to prevent spalling and excessive wear. Tripod heads can be a major factor in shooting smooth video. Unfortunately the only solution for most head issues is a trip back to the manufacturer for adjustment or rebuild.

One of the weakest links in the chain to shooting stress free video is the plate that locks the camera to the tripod. That plate is frequently packed with dirt from inverting the sticks to pack, and anything that gets in the way of the locking action of that plate means that the camera can fall to the ground with disastrous consequences. In addition the screws or bolts that attach that plate to the tripod plate need to very tight. I generally use blue Loctite or 3Bond to ensure that those fasteners remain fast.

Finally a note about tripod use in general. There's no question that the standard for tripod use has risen in the last several years to the extent that shoulder mounted video or "portable" video is only acceptable in certain situations such as "spot news," breaking stories or short cutaways. Any other video should be as steady as possible.