When The New York Times video journalist Jonah M. Kessel was recently tasked with shooting news documentaries in parts of China, he chose to rely on Miller Camera Support Equipment, a leader in the production of innovating camera support solutions, and its Air Tripod System.
"I've been using Miller tripods exclusively since 2012 after I had tested a few models at trade shows in Europe and America," Kessel says. "I've been narrowing my focus in filmmaking to short form cinematic documentary. I do shoot news once in awhile; however, I work mostly as a solo operator creating narrative nonfiction pieces, so Miller recommended I try out a few of their lightweight models. Since then, I've never turned back."
This is why as soon as Kessel heard word of the lightweight Air Tripod System, designed to provide single operators with a complete run-and-gun system, hitting the markets, he had to get his hands on one. While he primarily relies on the Miller Compass 20 Tripod System for his projects, the Air Tripod System's durability and small footprint prove especially essential on Kessel's reporting assignments in remote regions where weight becomes a bigger issue. "The tripod and head are actually small enough to strap to the outside of a backpack, which is quite hard for most true fluid head tripods to accomplish," he says. "Yet, I still have the ability to shoot within a wide range capacity."
For his recent reporting projects in China, Kessel paired the Air with a Canon EOS C100, which he says is the smallest camera that allows him to work fluently when shooting documentary style. "Others will often cite DSLRs, which are technically smaller, but by the time I strap enough accessories on them to make them function like a proper video camera, I haven't really saved any room, just created more parts," he says. "The lightweight Air and C100 combo works great when I am doing extensive travelling and shooting in places where I need to be able to operate professionally but not look like I'm part of a Hollywood crew while doing it."
Additionally, the robust mobility of the Air Tripod System affords Kessel an important advantage as a solo operator, as he can quickly move in and out of scenarios with his whole camera kit strapped to his back. "It's such a lightweight and functional tripod system, one that allows me much more mobility than the television crews who I often end up competing with as a solo operator."
A reporter constantly on-the-go, Kessel's future plans with the Air will continue to entail shooting with the system in far-off places and in challenging scenarios. "The legs are super light, easy to carry with the strap built-in and simply far more advanced than any other tripod I've encountered in the same price range," Kessel concludes. "Also, the head hits a sweet spot, offering incredible functionality for its small size. For run-and-gun shoots in challenging locations, it is important to find the lightest possible option that lets you work quickly and comfortably-and, for me, that's the Miller Air."