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Fluid Head

The head that goes on your tripod is also very important. You could use an existing tripod that you might have for still photography, but you will need to get a new tripod head. Photographers are used to ballheads for their tripods, but ballheads do not work very well for video. A ballhead is simply a tripod head based on a ball and socket to make it quick and easy to position for shooting. When you are panning or tilting a video camera across the scene, and you will start to do that when you’re shooting video, a ballhead does not hold its position well enough to provide smooth movement.

Pan and tilt heads have handles that stick out of the back and the side and allow you to tilt your camera up or down, left or right, and so forth. These can be very good heads for still photography, but again, they are not designed for smooth movement and can cause rather jerky looking pans or tilts across a scene as you shoot video.

For the best video shooting, you need what is called a fluid head. A fluid head uses hydraulics inside the mechanism of the tripod head to dampen movement as you pan or tilt your camera across the scene. There are some inexpensive video heads that use a friction mechanism to provide the same effect, although these can be harder to set for smooth movement.

Fluid heads range quite a bit in price. But even the cheapest fluid heads will do a better job with video than a ballhead or a pan and tilt head. If you’re willing to spend more money for a better quality fluid head, you’ll gain more control over the movement of that head and get smoother shots as you pan and tilt across a scene.

Fluid heads usually include a sliding plate that mounts to your camera. This is not simply a quick release plate. This long sliding plate allows you to move the camera forward or backward on top of the head to better balance it to help make your movements smoother.

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