Filmmaking 101: The One Cinematic Tool Every Filmmaker Needs

If you hang around here long enough, you’ll know that one of my favorite new filmmakers on the scene is Youtube content creator Peter McKinnon. With a youthful exuberance, and wisdom far beyond his years, McKinnon delivers concisely stunning visuals and some wisdom that will make you a better filmmaker. And in his latest video, he talks about the one tool that every filmmaker needs … the monopod.

“It’s a tool that helped me out a lot in the past ten years shooting video, both professionally  and creatively.” – Peter McKinnon

I would go so far as to add that it is the Swiss army knife of every shooter. With the stability of a tripod and the mobility of shooting hand held, the monopod gives a cameraman the best of both worlds. This is why almost every news and sports photographer shoots with one. It can set up instantly, and give you both the ability to get a steady shot, while moving the camera around for pans, tilts, and a wide variety of interesting camera angles.

Peter not only got his start with his Manfrotto Mono at one of his early jobs, but he took it with him as he continued to build his career and refine his style. And he discovered five cool camera shots that will turn your camera work up to eleven:

  1. The Basic Lean. McKinnon says that simply leaning forward and back in a smooth, rocking fashion can give you a really nice pull back pan to reveal more information surrounding your subject. The moment is almost slider like, but without the complications of setting up more gear.
  2. Lean & Tilt. McKinnon can then use the fluid head of your monopod to add some tilt. Relying on the friction of the control knob that will put pressure on the pan head can make the tilt slow and smooth, without the head of expensive electronics.
  3. The Inverted Follow. This is where you flip the monopod upside down and use the camera at an extremely low angle, while you’re holding onto it with the monopod’s feet.
    Image credit – Peter McKinnon, YouTube

    This is where the addition of a tri-foot accessory at the bottom of your monopod can really come in handy for getting a better grip. Shooting at a higher frame rate, like 60fps or even 120 can really make your shot smoother when you slow things down in post. But also get your heel to toe walking to make sure you don’t add unnecessary bounce. If you do, then you can always fix that with warp stabilizer.

  4. The Extension. Make your monopod as high as it can go, by extending all the sections, and then hold high above your head. This can allow you to simulate a crane or jib shot, which is really cinematic.  Here’s another thing. If you have a handheld gimbal, like the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, you can screw that on, have your smartphone go into subject following mode, and really lock in a great shot.
  5. The Whip Pan. With your camera on a monopod, and the ball bearing tri-foot attachment, you can do a quick, but stable whip pan. You can anchor it a bit more by keeping one foot on it.

“These are just techniques that you can apply to any monopod,” adds McKinnon, “and you can even simulate it with a tripod by just extending one leg.”

Any time you’re heading into the field, the monopod is going to be your best tool to grab any shot, whether on the go, or even with a solid setup. If you need a locked down shot, you can always act as the other two points of connection to keep your camera stable.  And if you want to learn more, give Peter a follow. He knows his stuff.

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About James DeRuvo 671 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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