Consider for a moment the lowly tripod. Sure the gleaming new fancy-cams get all the attention, but the three legged beast underneath makes it all happen. Ask any photog on the force and they’ll agree, we all worship at the temple of the tripod. Why? Because these freestanding workhorses extrapolate good footage. No matter how steady a one boasts of being, nothing beats the sturdy perch of a good set of sticks. The very stability of a static platform enables the operator to use all his glass, zooming in to the farthest reaches of the lens extender. All this helps when you’re in a rush - which is always. Within a few scant minutes, a veteran shooter can park a pod on the side of a highway and rack up dozens of shots of the UFO crash site from a single spot. Once you get past the hyped-up volunteer firemen, that is.
The only problem is these inert creatures don’t walk. Sure they’ll stand around at the back of the press conference and gossip about the podium, but only if you’re the designated driver. Nor do they always behave. Whether it’s ruined shirts from greasy joint mucus or crunched knuckles from crippling hand-pinches, my tripod has left me with far more battle scars than other piece of gear. Even when they do as told, these hefty relics can weigh a good man (or woman) down, making it awful tempting to leave the damn thing in the news car, if only your photog buddies wouldn’t snicker when your show up sans a set of legs. You may as well leave your pants at home.
To maker matters worse, the average TV news tripod is often almost as old as the schlub who just dragged it through the jam-packed convention center. I for one park a state of the art camera on a turn of the decade set of sticks every day, though I never walk away from it. It’s like knowing better than to hand the new car keys over to your lovable college buddy from back in the day. You love that guy, you’ve dragged him through many a bar fight, but there’s no way you’re letting him trash your ride - especially with the wife’s name on the title and all.
So take the advice of a licensed cameramanthropologist, drag that cranky beast to every shot you’re privileged/cursed to attend - even if it means being sucked into a fancy hotel revolving door with every gadget you got hanging off your shoulders, or wrestling three oversized camera cases up an airport escalator with an angry mob at your back, or accidentally sticking your tripod up some old lady's keyster in a packed elevator full of half-drunk furniture salesmen. Your hands will look manly, you’re video will look professional and all the other camera jockeys will welcome you into the scrum. If you can convince your shop to buy you one of those space-age models, rejoice! But even if you’re camera legs first served their purpose on the set of “Birth of a Nation”, bring ‘em, for no other tool at your disposal will make your work look as good, once you get past all that petrified duct-tape.