Monopod Magic for Filmmakers


Monopod Magic for Filmmakers

These days, anything goes when it comes to shooting video–it all comes down to finding the right tool for the job.  If you want a perfectly still shot, you’ve got your trusty tripod.  If you like more energy and camera movement, you can go handheld.  But, if your tripod is slowing you down, and you don’t have the upper arm strength to hold your camera handheld for long periods of time, you’re in luck.  You can have your cake and eat it too—just trade in your tripods’ three legs for one, and meet the magnificent monopod!

The monopod is an amazing combo tool, a Swiss army knife in the world of camera stabilizers.  You can be steady, and you can be free, all at the same time.  In addition, as run and gun style shooting is becoming more popular—and sometimes it’s all you have time for—the monopod is a key player.  It allows you to get a wide variety of shots in a short period of time.

Standing above the rest, the Manfrotto Aluminum Fluid Monopod with 500 Head is everything you could dream of.  With three “feet” that unfold to create a grip-y balance point on flat or uneven surfaces, a fluid cartridge that allows for smooth panning movements, and a quality video head that provides easy tilting options—this is no ordinary monopod!  Plus, the quick release plate makes the transition from monopod to tripod or handheld a breeze.  While being light and sturdy, the whole set-up holds up to 11 pounds, which is a great relief for your shoulders!

Manfrotto monopod_feet_Juliana Broste

Just like all of the tools in your kit, each one has it’s own set of strengths and weaknesses.  Lets talk about the monopod, mono y mono:

Allison Otto_Monopod_Snowtubing_Juliana Broste

PRO: You are versatile. Light on your feet, the monopod gives you the ease of moving from one location to the next, in a matter of moments.  With relatively no set up and tear down time, you can be here, there and everywhere.  Say you’re filming on a ski slope, or touring a brewery or filming a street parade, you need to be fast on the move—the monopod is you secret weapon!  Or, maybe you’re filming a concert, you can weave through the crowds, right up to the front row to film the performers close up, and then travel to the back of the audience to get a nice wide shot.  Get some shots of faces in the crowd, some hands in the hair, and you’re golden.  The monopod makes it easy to get a variety of shots. 

The Roots_Winter on the Rocks_Red Rocks_Juliana Broste

CON: Your hands are tied. With just one point of contact on the ground, it’s not so easy to just walk away and leave it unattended or it will fall over.  So, if you find you need to dig deep into the bottom of your backpack, tie your shoe, or do anything that requires two hands, it’s not so simple.  With one hand always on your camera, some of the easiest tasks become a lot more complicated.

Manfrotto Monopod_Umbrella_Juliana Broste

With that, one trick I learned from teaching snowboarding for years is to NEVER lean your snowboard against a wall…even if it looks safe, chances are, the whole row will come crashing to the ground in a domino effect.  Don’t risk it with your expensive camera gear.  Instead, ask someone to lend a hand.  Better yet, remove your precious camera from the stick, and lay the monopod on the ground where it’s safe and out of the way.  You can also hug your monopod to free your hands, which works some of the time.  My best trick?  Try to find a corner to lean the monopod up against the two walls.  That’s a much safer way to leave your camera unattended and free up your hands.

Manfrotto Monopod Lean_Juliana Broste

PRO: You can follow the action.  Some filming moments happen all too quickly in real life.  Say you’re filming a chef in the kitchen.  You can quickly lengthen the monopod to see right over the chef’s shoulders to see the food prep.  From here up high, you can also score a birds eye view of the plate.  In a matter of moments, you can shorten the monopod to come eye level with the frying pan to see the flames hitting the pan and food turning golden brown in the skillet.  Never has it been easier to get high, get low, and get a variety of shots—wide, medium, and tight—without missing a beat.

Restaurant Week Edit_Denver Union Station_Juliana Broste

CON: You have to stay engaged.  There’s no falling asleep behind the viewfinder when using a monopod. You have to constantly make sure you’re keeping the frame steady and level.  So, if you’re shooting a long sit-down interview, you might consider switching back to your tripod so you can focus on the conversation.

PRO: It carries the weight for you. Rather than carry the weight of the camera on your shoulder and feel your arm muscles burn when shooting handheld, you can let the monopod bear the load.  All you have to do is steady your setup to make sure the shot is level.  Simple.

Bukchon Korean Village_Monopod_Juliana Broste

CON: It’s not completely seamless.  While the monopod gives you the mobility to follow the action, if you pick it up and park it in another location while you’re rolling, there’s a subtle moment in the transition when the shot settles into position.  It’s not a big deal to cut around it in the edit.  But, if you’re looking for a perfectly seamless tracking or follow shots, you might consider a gimbal stabilizer.

PRO: It’s taller than you. The monopod grows over six and a half feet tall, so you can always film interviews at your subject’s eye level—even when you don’t see eye to eye.  You can also get high above the crowd when shooting at festivals or public gatherings.  The monopod is like a submarine telescope.  Plus, if you’re ever shooting on uneven ground, such as a mountain slope or stairway, the monopod can level all playing fields.

London Double Decker Bus_Monopod_Juilana Broste

PRO: You can be creative. In the field, I’m always discovering innovative ways to use my monopod.  You can shoot like a rockstar, tilting the monopod like a microphone stand and get some tilted Dutch angles or unique moves to set up your shot.  You can tilt the head way back and straddle the monopod to get a steadier low shot. I like to use the monopod while shooting in the car…sometimes it’s a tight squeeze, but it’s an extra point of contact while in a moving vehicle.  Try flipping the stick upside down to follow feet walking down the sidewalk.  I’ve even used the monopod as a giant selfie-stick, which I don’t recommend because it’s so heavy, but, with a light camera, it could help you in a pinch!

So the next time you’re heading out to shoot, consider all your options.  Every tool offers a unique set of available movements, along with certain strengths and weaknesses.  While the monopod may not replace your tripod or handheld movements, it certainly is a worthy addition to your kit.  If you want a tool that allows the freedom of movement while carrying the weight of your camera, offering quick set ups and a variety of shots, the monopod is quite possibly your new best friend. 

Car_Monopod_Juliana Broste

Juliana Broste. 

Emmy award winning travel video journalist Juliana Broste is always ready to capture the moment.  She creates engaging, entertaining, inspiring travel video content for travel brands and media outlets.  Her filmmaking adventures have taken her across the globe.  Come along for the adventure and follow “TravelingJules” on:

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