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Tip of the Month

May 2017

RRS Fluid Video Head


Almost all the modern D SLRs and mirrorless cameras now incorporate video. Honestly, this annoyed me, as I wanted only to shoot stills and I had no interest in shooting video. For a variety of reasons I've now reconsidered this bias, and now I'm shooting video, in addition to the stills I've always taken.

One absolutely telling mark of a crude, amateurish video shoot is jerky, chopping panning as a camera sweeps over a scene. If you're handholding, unless you actually want this look, jerky or pans that are too fast are even more pronounced. With a traditional ballhead it is extremely difficult to pan smoothly, as inevitably there is some hitch or jerk and the video is flawed.

That's fine if you're not out for perfection or a quality, professional look, but if you are going to take the time to do video, and THE TIME involved in editting, I think you should do it right.
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A few weeks ago I started using RRS's Fluid Video Head, and it is a gem. In fact, as far as gear goes, it is a work of art, a really beautiful piece. I say this rather sheepishly because I'm tough on gear -- in the field life can be cruel -- and I'm sure I'll be scratching and marring the finish within a few months. Well, that happens.

Let's forget about looks and consider functionality. One feature I absolutely loved right from the start is a double-locking system for the quick release plates. A smaller lever on the QR lever opens the lock completely, otherwise the lock opens half-way - so that a lens plate or camera plate can be slid forward or backward to achieve the center of gravity - somewhat essential for smooth camera movement.

This might be Greek to some, but don't worry. I've never purchased a head that came with instructions on its use, and while that might seem overkill it isn't, the instructions really help in getting the most from the head. These instructions, by the way, aren't complicated -- I don't mean to scare anyone off-- they're just practical guides to the most efficient use.

At any rate, with the head you'll get smooth left-right pan movements and up/down tilts at speeds you can adjust for, making a video look professional. That said, don't expect miracles, as OPERATOR proficiency is still required. I find that I sometimes need a few takes to achieve just the right speed and flow that I want. I suspect, with practice, I'll become a bit more adept.

When using video you are on LiveView, with the camera's LCD displaying your image. You do not look through the viewfinder. This can create problems for focusing accurately, or composing, and that's where Hoodman's video loupe comes in handy. I have an older model, illustrated below, which swings up out of the way when not in use. The new model is even better. The loupes provide a great eye-cup for viewing the screen if you're following action dynamically. It is an accessory worth having.

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The old style Hoodman, above

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The new style Hoodman, above.

Video editting is another matter, and although years ago I filmed and editted a Kenya Safari how-to video using a great but perhaps defunct program, I did not do any video editting for years. I heard that Adobe Premiere (which used to be tedious) was now very user friendly, and so I tried it. Perhaps because of my previous video experience, and the fact that I studied 'Classroom in a Workbook' years ago (like 15 or more!), I mastered basic Premiere in a very short time. So, if you can devote a bit of time to learning, editting becomes feasible.

In fact, once I master this a bit more we'll be offering a video editting course here at Hoot Hollow.

If you're familiar with RRS products you already know their undisputed quality, and customer service. This head is terrific, and if you're serious about video, I'd look into it!

For more information on this fluid head check out:

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