Jody Eldred

Faster, Stronger, Lighter: Jody Eldred joins the tripod revolution.

Jody Eldred

Award-winning director, director of photography/cameraman, writer, producer, and editor

A Tripod Revolution: flowtech from Sachtler and Vinten

Jody Eldred is an Emmy Award-winning and Directors Guild of America award-nominated director, director of photography/cameraman, writer, producer, and editor. Over his 40-year career in television news, there are few stories he hasn’t covered: from wars, riots, floods, and fires to interviews with presidents, royalty, and celebrities from Cher to Charles Manson. Jody has an impressive array of credits including CBS’ “J.A.G.,” “NCIS,” and “NCIS: Los Angeles”; The Tonight Show; Oprah; Good Morning America; PBS’ acclaimed “Frontline”; and covering the Iraq War with Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer for ABC News.

State-of-the-art equipment is critical to Jody’s storytelling role, and he especially appreciates the ability to try out new, state-of-the-art equipment from leading manufacturers. Sony and Blackmagic Design, for instance, continue to enlist his help as a primary tester and presenter for their newest ENG and cinema cameras. Another important equipment partner is the Vitec Group, and products from Vitec Production Solutions brands like Sachtler, Anton/Bauer, Teradek, and Litepanels have part of Jody’s essential kit for many years.

“I’ve been a Sachtler guy for several decades, and I’ve used their tripods and camera heads to shoot network news and documentaries on a tremendous range of high-profile subjects and in the most grueling conditions,” he notes. “Sachtler’s technology and ease of use have always been head and shoulders above the rest, so naturally I was excited to hear that Sachtler and Vinten had joined forces to re-invent the professional tripod. The result – flowtech – is nothing short of astounding.”

Jody was first introduced to flowtech almost two years ago, when Sachtler and Vinten gave him the opportunity to work with an early prototype. He was impressed that the engineers were striving to create a product that could meet every requirement a camera operator might have in a tripod now, but they were also trying to anticipate customer needs well into the future. “I knew right away that flowtech would be a winner, and – to their great credit – the engineers took some of my suggestions to heart and incorporated them into the final product,” he comments.

Last September, Jody finally got a chance to test flowtech on a professional basis at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Every other year, the festival brings nearly 700 top wildlife filmmakers and media professionals from around the globe to the majestic Grand Tetons, and it is the place to be seen by companies who make the cinema industry’s most advanced technologies. For the Jackson Hole Festival, Vitec Group supplied Jody with two flowtech 75 carbon-fibre tripods, each outfitted with a Sachtler FSB 8 fluid head. This super-lightweight and strong combo performed beautifully with the 4.6K URSA Mini Pros outfitted with Fujinon’s ENG-style lenses. “I had my heavier-duty Sachtler Video 18 II with me, which is better-suited for the heavier payload, but I was very pleasantly surprised how the much-lighter flowtech performed. I much preferred lugging it through the backcountry, and the speed of setup allowed me to quickly grab some great shots — vital to wildlife shooting, since nature will not wait for you.”

Since the festival, Jody has adopted flowtech as a key element in his equipment kit for many types of shoots. One of his go-to configurations is the flowtech 75 equipped with a Sachtler FSB 6 head and his trusty Sony EX3 camcorder as well as the URSA Mini Pro. “The more I use flowtech, the more I appreciate its combination of extremely light weight and speed of setup – both critical factors especially when shooting news and docs, when it’s important to be as quick and nimble as possible to get a fleeting shot,” Jody explains.

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Equipment list

flowtech 75 MS

Tripod Systems
System 18 S2 SL MCF

In filmmaking, it’s often true that “speed equals creativity.” Jody believes so strongly in this concept that he conducts seminars on how working faster can deliver a more creative product and also allow DPs to accomplish more setups in the same amount of time. The unique design features of flowtech such as the quick release brakes at the top make it easy to change the height in an instant and start shooting immediately, which translates to a better, more creative end product. In fact, with flowtech, DPs can make shot choices they might not even consider with other tripods. “If it takes time to change the tripod height and you’re in a hurry, you’ll just leave it where it is and keep shooting, compromising creativity. Happens all the time.”

With its carbon-fibre construction, flowtech doesn’t cost much more than comparable lightweight tripods but is much stronger and more robust. And there aren’t too many stainless steel or aluminum tripods that can be immersed in water, even saltwater, and just rinsed off with no ill effects. It means flowtech can shoot in extreme conditions like marine environments – at the shoreline or even underwater. Also, little features, such as the flat legs that rest comfortably on the user’s shoulder when carrying it, and the magnetized clips that hold the legs together for transport, make a big difference at an on-location shoot.

Jody notes, “’Revolutionary’ is a word that gets overused a lot in this business, and you sure don’t hear it used often to describe a piece of gear as basic as a tripod. But after test-driving flowtech and now adopting it for my daily use, I can honestly say I’ve never come across anything quite like it. Faster to set up, stronger and lighter, comfortable and easy to carry . . . all of these add up to a true revolution in tripod technology.”