Film School 101: Tripod Setup

5 minutes

Thomas Kim
Film School 101

If you're here and motivated to read a piece on camera tripods, blue star to you my friend. Bravo! You're getting in the weeds on recording and you know what? It's going to pay dividends.

Ok, let's get to it. You'll need a tripod to position your filming tool of choice, whether thats your phone or a camera. Unless you have a really good friend who's always around to help you film, this is almost a must. However, if you are a MacGyver type, there are ways of getting around it.

Sidebar: for those of you who don't know, MacGyver was a hit cable television show in the 80's based on MacGyver, a lovable secret agent that could problem solve his way out of anything. Think a guy that could create a functional life-saving parachute in 30 secs with a paper clip, a bedsheet, and his shoelace.

Luckily, there are some cheaper options for tripods compared to cameras - here's just a few we suggest.

For phones 📱

Phone Tripod, Linkcool Octopus Phone Tripod Portable and Adjustable Tripod Stand Holder with Universal Clip and Bluetooth Remote Compatible with Most Smartphones, GoPros, and Digital Cameras

UBeesize 50" Phone Tripod Stand, Aluminum Lightweight Tripod for Camera and Phone, Cell Phone Tripod with Phone Holder and Carry Bag, Compatible with iPhone & Android

For Digital Cameras ("DSLRs") 📸

Amazon Basics Lightweight Camera Mount Tripod Stand With Bag - 16.5 - 50 Inches

For MacGyvers 🛠

If you're using a phone, you could create a makeshift film station with some tape and a sturdy board. You'll want to position your phone so that you can at least get to the record button, and also see the screen. You can then position the board using some makeshift anchors with what you've got around you to make sure it stands upright and still!

Here's also a great short video on a handful of ideas for a phone tripod!

If you're using a camera, you can just place the camera on a flat object eye level to you. Make sure that whatever surface its on, doesn't show up on the camera itself. You may have to move it as close as you can to the edge in order to avoid doing so, depending on the length of your camera lens.

Positioning of tripods

If you've got two tripods and two cameras (first of all, you GO! Fancy setup you got there 🙂), then you'll want to position one directly in front of you, and look into that camera as the "main camera." The other one can be positioned off to the side, almost on a 45 degree angle. This is to provide multiple chances to cut away from the main head on shot, so the video has some movement even though you're in one location!

When editing your video, you'll want to just line up the two videos, align the audio, and start weaving in and out of where you think are the best cuts as you go!

If you've got a single tripod and a single camera, the best place to position the tripod will be directly in front of you. Sometimes, it'll be okay to leave it off to the side a bit - its all dependent on how you want your final composition to look! Its always great to be in the center, with some of your  upper chest (think slightly below collarbone and up) to a few inches past the top of your head. That way, you can sit comfortably within the frame!

Another viable method is to practice the rule of thirds. This is a photography technique where you divide your frame into three sections - and position yourself in one of those dividing lines. Its a natural way for the frame to be divided up, and is something that our eyes are all used to. It provides room on the sides for things like text if needed, or just allows the eye to wander over when needed.