Amazingly, many videos are still shot without a tripod. This produces wobbly footage that can make viewers feel a little sea sick and certainly adds nothing in terms of professionalism. But buying a tripod is an extra expense and of course it is one more thing to have to carry around. Why is a tripod so important and what is the best option for your camera?
First of all lets get technical – because YouTube cares about your footage being steady too. The way video is recorded and compressed (the process of balancing file size with video quality), is dependant on analysing how much of the video’s frame changes every 25th of second. A steady camera will only need to record the deliberate change in action between each frame (e.g. a person talking = head moving and some small gestures) and therefore not a huge amount of data. A handheld camera will have to record everything in the frame as it will all have changed from one frame to the next, this will be a lot more data to record.
All this data is normally recorded onto flash memory in your video camera, at this stage the cameras electronics are compressing your video and throwing away a lot of data to allow it to fit into a sensible size file. When you edit your video this data compression stage happens again. Finally when you upload it to YouTube it recompresses the video once more, losing data and video quality once again. If you use a camera handheld these compression stages will normally result in a lower overall quality due to the amount of new data being discarded from each moving frame to the next. When your camera is static the compression is a lot less ‘aggressive’ and the overall video quality is much higher.
And from a non-technical point of view, who likes watching unnecessary movement? We spend large amounts of money on state of the art computerised suspension systems in cars, we find turbulence in aircraft unpleasant and we even buy shoes with air pockets in the soles – this is a clear sign that we like our world to be steady and this is bound to apply to video viewing too.
So what tripod options will work for my camera? There are a lot of options available for phones, DSLRs and bigger video cameras. You can read dedicated review sites and of course Amazon reviews to see what existing owners think and how well it matched their camera set-up. As with all equipment purchases it is generally best to avoid the cheapest option. In some cases buying known brands will normally mean a longer lasting and better made product.