Capturing Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway with the best tripod I’ve ever used

Billy May, Cinematographer and Creative Director of Speed Motion

Speed Motion is a full-service video production house based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We create high-end digital and aerial cinematography for commercial clients all over the world. The unique creative edge of Speed Motion’s content has attracted large brands such as Red Bull, ITV, the National Trust, Tourism Ireland, Diageo, Virgin Media, NHS, Aston Martin, Lexus, Charles Hurst, Chain Reaction Cycles, Centra, and Supervalu. We travel the globe telling the stories of athletes, brands, companies, and interesting people and places for social media video, documentaries, TV programs, and anything in between.

Our work has us on the road constantly, and it’s important that we travel light. Not only that, but we need rugged, reliable equipment that’s easy to use and won’t fail us in the middle of a shoot, especially when we’re working in a remote place far away from replacement parts, as we often do.

We have used many tripods over the years from several manufacturers, and the biggest downfall of most of them is that, over time, the locking mechanisms fail or need constant retightening, and most high-load-bearing tripods are quite heavy. Sachtler solved both problems with the flowtech75. The entire Sachtler line is rock-solid and works flawlessly under any condition, so now we don’t use anything else. When the flowtech75 was released, we were excited to see such an innovative locking mechanism in a fairly lightweight, high-load-bearing carbon-fiber tripod.

We have filmed a wide range of projects using the flowtech75 — from documentaries for the UK’s National Trust about places such as Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede, to the full-length documentary TV show “Made for Sport” for CBS Sports in the USA, to the story of how Jed Boards created an electric skateboard from scratch in Shenzhen, China. Camera payloads ranged from fully-rigged Sony FS7s, RED Epics, and Blackmagic URSA Minis bristling with cables and extra gear down to a simple Sony A7s II or a Blackmagic 4K Pocket Cinema. For most of these projects, we paired the flowtech75 with the Sachtler FSB 6 fluid head, and also used the Sachtler Ace M fluid head.

The flowtech75 is right at home whether it’s carrying a fully rigged RED with a teleprompter or external monitor, or a small camera like the A7s II. The lightweight yet hard-wearing construction and the ability to quickly change tripod heights on the fly — even with a camera on top — make flowtech75 perfect for traveling and an ideal choice for any size production in nearly any location.

Giant’s Causeway shoot was a perfect test case for the flowtech75. Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its 40,000 ancient, hexagonal-shaped stone pillars jutting out from the sea. It’s one of only a few places in the world where the rocks are shaped like that, and the National Trust commissioned Speed Motion to capture the beauty and help call attention to environmental factors and site preservation.

For Giant’s Causeway as well as Carrick-a-Rede, we wanted to take a series of timelapses in a number of locations, so we used a Canon 5D MK II mounted on a Rhino Camera Gear EVO carbon-fibre slider paired with the Rhino Motion and Rhino Arc pan head. The Rhino EVO is one of the best motion controlled sliders on the market, and paired with the Canon 5D MK II, gave us images that were sharp and clear.

We arrived at Giant’s Causeway at 3 a.m. to film the sunrise on what was expected to be a rare sunny Northern Ireland morning. It was critical that we be ready to get the shot because there was no telling when we’d get another chance. The sun hadn’t come up yet, the ground was wet, and we were climbing up an extremely rocky, treacherous cliff where people don’t normally go. When you’re carrying all your gear in the dark while trying not to fall off a cliff, having the compact, lightweight flowtech75 is really helpful.

When we arrived at our spot, we had to set up on uneven terrain and level the tripod in still-dim light. Working in those conditions is difficult no matter how practiced you are. That’s why the flowtech75’s ease of setup is the biggest selling point for me. It’s extremely easy to adjust. Instead of twisting and retwisting a couple of knobs and fussing with the legs to get them level, you just twist one knob. Plus, there’s a single latch that lets all the legs loose, so you can set up instantly. It’s the fastest setup we’ve ever seen. It was a relief to know we’d be able to get to the location, set up quickly on rough ground, and know the gear was going to work. And as a bonus, the tripod looks great too.

To summarize, flowtech75 is the perfect companion for our shooting style. It packs quickly, is perfectly stable even with a very heavy payload, and doesn’t weigh a lot. Plus, people on every shoot comment on how beautiful it is (yes, we admit it, we’re cinema geeks!). In addition to the projects mentioned above, we’ve also used flowtech75 for the Armoy Road Races and other shoots all over Dublin and across England and Scotland.
With all the things that can go wrong on a shoot, now the tripod is one less thing we have to worry about. Quite simply, flowtech75 is the best tripod I’ve ever used.