August 13, 2007

Video Image's Balance Beam
Balance Beam by Trig

Review by Steve Douglas

Not everyone has at their disposal a tripod of such quality that jerkiness and stuttering during pans are not sometimes a problem. Smooth panning takes practice but even the experienced shooter finds from time to time that a tripod stutter can demand the need for extra takes. Trig Simon has created a novel tool designed to alleviate panning problems while creating smooth pans from beginning to end.

Constructed of 1/4" x2-1/2" black powder coated aluminum, the Balance Beam weighs in at roughly 10lbs and is about 22" from tip to tip. I wouldn't want to carry it a half mile down the beach to cover a story, but once you have it on location and mounted to your tripod, you will be surprised at how its very weight will improve your tripod's performance.

The Balance Beam is designed to create greater stability throughout the entire pan.

At each end of the balance beam is a counter balance weight, which, through the design of the beam, lowers the center of gravity of the camera/ Balance Beam mass. This makes it concentric to the tripod's tilt and pivot point. The two 3-1/2 lb weights, anchored with 1/2" carriage bolts have integrated rubber washers which prevent wear and scratching of the black finish. The weights at each end of the balance beam affect the inertia throughout the tripod movement making for one very smooth shoot.

The weights can be adjusted on the beam with about 3 inches of play.

Additional weights for heavier cams can be added but, in my tests, they did not seem needed. The bottom of the Balance Beam is machined to fit all tripods with a 1/4 screw. A Bogen/Manfrotto Quick Release adaptor comes attached to the top of the beam and is designed to fit any camcorder with a 1/4 or 3/8" threaded socket in the camcorder's bottom. I tried the balance beam out using both a Sony FX-1 and its' smaller cousin, the Sony A1-U and there was certainly a noticeable difference. However, there is a caveat here as well. I am using a relatively inexpensive, 'far from high end' tripod with a Bogen 3063 head. With the 3063, I really did not feel much of a difference during pans. However, using a borrowed Manfrotto 501 head, the difference was significant. When mounted and used, the momentum of the weights decreases the acceleration and deceleration of the movement creating an ice smooth pivot point for any tilts or pans I was doing. I found no need to regularly tighten or loosen the locking knobs and had no fear of the tripod tilting and falling over even when deliberately knocked in to.

The Balance Beam also provides for easy mounting of externals. Very convenient!

The Balance Beam does just that, it creates an excellent balance to the entire system and works with your tripod head to dispel the jarring that can occur at the start of your pan and the stuttering of direction throughout the movement. It is easy to mount and does what it is designed to do. Will it function as well with all tripods? If you are using a super cheap $35.00 tripod, the head will probably not tighten down strong enough. However, for any fairly decent tripod, I believe the Balance Beam could be of tremendous help.

Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and a recent History channel MegaDisaster show. Steve is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition and leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Kenya & Lembeh Straits in Indonesia in 2007, the Coco Islands, Costa Rica & Truk Lagoon in 2008 and safari in Africa for 2009. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.


copyright © Steve Douglas 2007

© 2000 -2007 Ken Stone. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Final Cut Pro, Macintosh and Power Mac
are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

All screen captures, images, and textual references are the property and trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.