Make The Most Out Of Your Monopod

By July 9, 2013 Uncategorized 50 Comments


 

 
Our monopod is kind of like a superhero…

It’s got a long list of powers and functions, and it regularly saves the day. Without a monopod, the city of Stillmotion probably would have fallen ages ago.

We take it everywhere, and shoot with it so frequently that it’s safe to say the majority of the shots you see in our work are taken on a monopod.

We use the Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 because it’s super lightweight (just over 4lbs!) and compact (great for travel), and it offers so much versatility within its little body.

With a maximum height of 6.56′ and a minimum Height of 2.5′, this monopod allows you to quickly extend and get up over the action, or retract and get in there without having to actually go handheld.

Extend, pan, tilt, suspend in mid-ar… there really is such a wide range of possibilities with this monopod, and once you really learn how to utilize all of its functions, you’ll be surprised at how often you ditch your other pieces of gear and rely solely on its superhero strength to get you through your shoot.

Basic panning…

One of the coolest aspects of the monopod is the tilt/pan bar function. This allows you to bring the viewer into the action, taking them from point A to point B in one smooth motion. The keyword here is smooth — you don’t want any shakiness or you’ll lose the desired effect.
 
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How do you keep it smooth?

Answer: hold it close to your body. You’ll want both the monopod, the camera, and your elbows to stay as close to your body as possible in order to reduce the amount of shake as much as possible.

Go in tight…

Ok, so let’s say you’re needing to get into a really tight space in order to get the shot you want. While it might seem obvious to go in handheld, why not just get crazy with your monopod and keep that stability?
 
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You can retract the monopod completely and it will follow your camera all the way in, keeping its legs on the ground and your camera nice and stable. This is going to help you out immensely when you need to get in there but don’t want to deal with bulky equipment that can get in your way.

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Extend!

If you’re needing to get the camera up higher, you can also adjust your monopod to get up there and use your tilt function to angle it however you like.

Here you see Ray pointing the camera down at the chess board to get an overhead shot. The added stability of the monopod allows him to move the camera back and forth, from one side of the chess board to the other.

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Without the monopod, this would be a difficult shot to pull off, as Ray would probably end up just going in handheld and getting a much shakier image, or needing an elaborate setup like a dolly. The monopod’s extension offers a super simple technique for achieving a not-so-simple shot — so clutch!

Use the sticking point…

Sometimes you might find yourself wishing you had more of a tripod than a monopod.

Do not fear! The monopod’s sticking point function allows you to achieve a static shot right from your monopod.

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There are three small screws at the base of the monopod that allow you to quickly adjust the tension, so you can get the exact position you want.

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The sticking point option can save you so much time and equipment hauling by allowing you to pull off a static shot or even a quick interview without having to break out a tripod. This is an awesome feature of this monopod… do not be afraid to use it!

Keep your friends close, and your monopod closer.

The best way to get the most out of your monopod is by keeping it close, in more ways than one…

1. Close to your heart. Take it with you on all of your shoots, and you’ll find yourself using it all the time… we do!

2. Close to your body.
Whenever possible, always keep the monopod in nice and tight, as it will stay more secure and give you far more control and stability for the smoothest shot possible.

The other thing to really remember with a monopod is that if you’re not adjusting it all of the time, you’re not really using it correctly.

Our 3/1 rule favors three shots as opposed to just one — wide, medium, and tight. We use this rule all the time, and we use our monopod all the time… so that means we’re constantly retracting and extending to get all of those shots.

The beauty of the monopod is that we can get those shots without having to go in handheld and lose our stability… superhero strength from a truly super tool.

Got any funky monopod tips of your own?

Let’s hear em!

About maggie

50 Comments

  • Sean K says:

    Love this monopod. I bought one after seeing this video a few months back. Great work!

  • Ian Servin says:

    I know a lot of people notice the monopod’s ball joint gets a bit stiffer over time. It’s been said eslewhere, but WD-40 will fix that right up.

    Anyone have any tips for keeping the leg locks tight? Mine have started slipping…

  • Alex says:

    Truly great tool, we cannot live without!

  • Elliot Gould says:

    After seeing how you used the monopod at your seminar last year, I ordered one the next day. As you mentioned, this is now my “go-to” tool and I love it. Light. Easy to manipulate. Steady. Versatile. Thanks for the great tip!

  • Chris white says:

    Bought this monopod a year back on your recommendation and I must say its my most trusted piece of kit for every shoot.

  • Karl says:

    Great tutorial – even after using a monopod for years it’s so handy to learn how others work it too! I never consciously realized keeping the monopod closer to your body is what helps keep the shots stable – and now I can implement that all the time!

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this, you guys are all-stars.

  • Tommi says:

    I have the same monopod and I use it all the time too. It’s so versatile tool. Quite often I also try to think new ways how to use it in shoots.

    • Rachael says:

      I have clamped it to a table edge. extend it and shoot straight down. I have also held it out, extended, and held the camera over a ledge to get the shot down the cliff. I too have held it down a hole to get a shot of the bottom of the well…auto focus and with a wireless remote and an LED light.

      Regards,

      Rachael

  • Josh says:

    @Ian – I read to stay away from WD40 and stick to a silicone based spray because it can deteriorate the base

  • Mitch says:

    Great stuff! I love this monopod and wasn’t even aware of the option to tighten that sticking point! I’ve just gotten lucky and had it balance right a few times. So I can’t wait to get out and use that “new feature” thats been there all along!

  • Cody says:

    There is a cheaper alternative out now by Benro that can use the same quick release plates. I haven’t used it yet, but I’ve heard it performs just the same. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/967701-REG/benro_a48fbs4_a48f_classic_aluminum_monopod_s4.html

  • Joe C says:

    Any ideas on why using WD40 is not recommended? I’ve taken the monopod stick out of the ball socket before, the construction really is simple, there is a little dimple in the middle of the ball, that’s how it stays at the sticking point, other than that the metal ball just sits in the plastic socket.

    Perhaps it’s not recommended because Spraying with WD40 will attract the dust and debris to the ball joint? Can someone else enlighten us?

    • Rachael Dakoda says:

      WD-40 will remove any grease from the ball joint. Althouth it leaves a film, it is also a solvent. I know this because I use it when cleaning the bearings on my bike. I also use it as cutting lubricant when drilling aluminium. WE-40 WILL NOT grease or make the joints or bearings last very long. It is petroleum based and therefore a solvent.

      Grease is needed (if put there by the mfg) to not only lubricate, but to hold any dirt or grit that may enter the bearing or joint.

      Regards,

      Rachael

  • Rose Hodges says:

    Hi All. I saw a video where you put the monopod upside down (outside a trailer window) to get a low angle of the bus moving. When you go upside down do you reverse the image in post? Or is it best to mount the camera right side up? Thanks Rose

  • Joseph Eulo says:

    It surely is a great tool to have. Can you share more monopod tricks with us using this Monopod?

  • Tim Fok says:

    My two cents on this monopod. Buy the head and monopod separately.

    Instead of the manfrotto 561, buy the 562 and 701 head.

    The 561 monopod ships with a ‘561 head’. This is essentially a 701HDV head with the pan lock removed (pan lock not needed on the monopod as the base does the panning). This makes the head useless without the monopod. If you buy them separately, you can use the head for other stuff (slider etc..).

    You pay a little more to buy them separately, but the money I retrieved by selling the quick release that comes with the 562 monopod made my money back.

    Some may argue “why would I want to use my head on anything else but my monopod”, and this maybe true for some, but I’ll throw in another point; it’s great if you want to upgrade.

    Manfrotto have just released the 500 head, which replaces the 701, and it’s a huge improvement (better fluidity and side snap plate). By purchasing the 562 monopod and 701 separately I was able to just sell the 701 head and replace it with the 500. I wouldn’t have been able to do this with the 561, (as previously mentioned) the head is useless without the monopod.

    And just incase if anyone’s wondering. The new new Fluid Monopod with 500 head suffers from the same problem as the 561, the head is useless without the monopod.

    So buy the 562 and 500 head!

    • Patrick says:

      At roughly $300, i love the simplicity of the kit – and it works exceptionally well. I would agree with your points – a great alternative – though i feel we get more than 100x the value back from these in time, crew, and shots

      P.