How to Use a Tripod Jib Crane
A tripod is the assumed place for digital video camera stabilization, but it is not going to give you the freedom of camera motion that you may want. To have a range of up and down, back and forth, and sweeping movements of the camera itself you will often need to use a small jib crane or arm. With the tripod jib crane, which really just means a jib arm that is positioned on and secured to the tripod, is goining to be this arm of motion that really allows you to get a huge range of different camera movements. Here are a few tips if you are trying to use a jib crane for the first time.
The tripod jib arm has the camera secured to it on one end, and the opposing end is balanced out by physical weights that you can take on and off. The amount of weights that you use on the other side of the tripod jib crane is supposed to match the weight of the camera on the other side, that way you can move the camera around in a fairly fluid and even fashion. If the camera you are using is quite heavy then a lot of weight should be applied to counterbalance it, and the reverse will be true for a light weight camera. Make sure that you are trying to match the weight properly, otherwise you are going to find that the camera side of the tripod jib crane is going to cause problems with the camera movement. Without enough counterbalancing weight it can make the camera heavy on one side, and with too much it can make it hard to leverage.
Moving the camera is not always a preferred mode, and many film schools will likely instruct students to avoid excessive camera motion when possible. This is actually a good idea to follow, and what it means for use of the tripod jib arm is that you should attempt to make your movements much more subtle and in line with workable camera angles. Oftentimes new users of the jib arm will try a whole series of sweeping shots going from low to the ground to high in the air in a matter of seconds. This is actually quite distracting in the final video and is usually difficult to pull off in a steady way. Instead, try to make them relatively slight so that the movement provides perspective and energy to the shot without making itself too obvious to the viewer.
All digital video camera movement is going to be difficult when it is actually executed, and it is rare to see it come across smoothly the first ime out. This is why all video camera movements, even just slight pans on the tripod, need to be planned out in detail ahead of time. This is even more true for the tripod jib crane as its movements are on a three dimensional plane where you can move up, down, forward, and backward. Make sure to do jib arm rehearsals at the same time you are doing actor rehearsals so that it fits into your block and coverage well.