How to counterbalance your tripod

Having a correctly counterbalanced tripod can be essential to making your pan and tilts as smooth as possible, but unfortunately, its something that isn't quite talked about enough. Now, the video above should give you all the information that you need, but in case you're in a hurry or just want a quick refresh, I'll break down the steps.

1 - Fully unlock your tripod

So depending on what sort of head you have, this may mean different things, but generally, remove all counterbalance, fluid drag and locks (drag and locks on the pan axis are fine to keep on there, and might help to be on, however).

2 - Roughy balance your tripod on the head

Now here you'll never really get the balance perfect, which is fine. Keep your tripod head level, and adjust the camera on the head by sliding the tripod plate until it doesn't swing around too much without you holding it level. If the camera falls forward, then you'll need to move the plate backwards, and vice versa. Once your camera doesn't favour falling in either direction too much, you're ready to move on. Here do be careful, as your tripod will be completely unlocked, it'll be easy for the camera to drop and to hit against the legs of your tripod if you're not in control.

3 - Find the correct level of counterbalance

This is the point where you adjust your counterbalance, here we like to add one level of friction to the tilt, just to help keep the camera from being too unwieldy. You'll need to keep moving up through the counterbalance until you add too much. You'll have added too much when you tilt the tripod head, then rather than slowly falling (the less counterbalance you add the quicker it'll fall), it'll start pushing back. if your tripod pings back then you may have gone too far. You'll need to dial it back from here to where the head moves the least.

4 - Fine tune

Once you're somewhat happy with the level of counterbalance, you can now fine-tune the cameras balance on the head, similar to how step 2 is carried out. The aim now is to find the spot where the camera doesn't move at all. You'll be doing a bit of fine-tuning here, and sliding the camera ever so slightly to get it just right. Now, on some more affordable heads, you might not be able to get your camera balanced perfectly, (adding or removing weight in the form of accessories, or how their positioned may help here) which is a disadvantage from having fewer steps of counterbalance. But I would always caution on the side of having too much counterbalance, rather than too little, if I had to choose, as its easier to control, and you don't risk your camera smacking into the legs of your tripod.

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This video was filmed using:

Main Camera - Canon C300MKII
Broll Camera - Canon C200 & C500 MKII
Lens - Sigma 18-35mm
Audio Sennheiser AVX-ME2 Set


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