Article: Frustrated Videographer Creates Spider Pod
Mark J. Pescatore
Charlie Kendall has a list of complaints about shooting from large stage risers. They're unstable, they're bulky, they require two people to setup, they shake when people sit on them or bump into them, and videographers shake them when they move their own camera.
"Those were the things that really frustrated me," says Kendall, who has operated Moon Bounce Media (a video production company in the DC Metropolitan area) for over twenty years, and has worked extensively for government agencies and major corporations.
Taking matters into his own hands, the frustrated independent producer and director of photography decided to do something about it.
He went into his garage and built a portable tripod riser out of wood. When he started showing up with it on jobs, producers and other industry professionals thought it was ingenious-and started asking Kendall where they could get one.
Encouraged by the response, Kendall spent two days at the patent office looking for similar products. When he didn't find any, he started filing for patents and re-engineering his invention to make it stronger and more compact.
Six years and about a dozen prototypes later, his solution has been developed into an innovative product called the Spider Pod, that debuted at NAB '97 and has enjoyed brisk sales ever since.
"I think it's a unique product because it solves multiple problems for videographers shooting events, and there's no other product out there like that right now," says Kendall, who is president of Spider Support Systems.
The Spider Pod is a two-piece tripod riser and platform that elevates a camera tripod and operator two feet. The two pieces fold into one unit about the size of an artist's portfolio for transport and can be carried by a built-in handle (hard and soft travel cases are available).
Granted, the Spider Pod weighs 46 pounds when it is packed for transport, but as a videographer, Kendall wanted something with a little bit of weight. After all, the platform is designed to hold 300 pounds, and the tripod riser can hold up to 200 pounds. "You want to make sure it can hold all that and be stable," he adds.
"One of the key things is that it works with any style of tripod," says Kendall, and the Spider Pod can be used with an ENG-style or studio configured camera as well. The legs on the riser can also be adjusted for uneven surfaces.
Kendall says customer response has been great; in fact, users visit his booth at trade shows and tell him stories about how they've used the Spider Pod in a variety of settings. One customer, for example, used the Spider Pod to get an over-the-shoulder shot during surgery.
In response to videographers needing additional space for movement around their tripod, Kendall debuted another new product at NAB in '98, The Expansion Web. The new interlocking accessory panels of the Expansion Web extend the standing area around the Spider Pod for camera operators using studio configs, or for operators who want to use a chair for longer shoots. The panels can also be arranged to allow total mobility around the tripod.
Article: Spider Support Systems' Spider Pod
By Christian Keller
At one time or another, every photographer runs into the problem of shooting an event where getting the shot is an extreme challenge. Battling other photographers, reporters, spectators and immovable objects causes us to do unsafe things with our equipment. You could pray you got the shot after struggling to hold the camera above your head and pointing it in the general direction. You could gamble with your gear and max out the height of your tripod to a point where a mere breeze makes your setup as sturdy as a house of cards. If these problems have plagued you in the past, Spider Support Systems has the solution for you.
The Spider Pod is a two-part system that raises the camera operator and his tripod two feet above ground level. The operator's platform and the "spider" (tripod riser) are separated to eliminate the possibility of camera shake while you shift from foot to foot.
The "Spider" portion of the system has three arms that radiate out two feet from the center of the assembly. Four legs, one under each tripod leg and one under the center, sturdily supports up to 200 pounds (91kg) of tripod and camera. If you find yourself on uneven ground, one of the legs has the ability to adjust to give you a flat shooting surface. A 3-inch (7.6 cm)-wide channel runs along each arm, allowing you to use your tripod's footpads, or you could use the tripod's floor spreader for more security.
With the Spider comes the operator's platform. Although it's a little more advanced and rugged, it resembles a stepping stool you could find in your kitchen. This platform can hold up to 300 pounds (136 kg), supporting the most donut-loving cameraperson. You get a little extra peace of mind knowing the fold-out legs of this platform lock securely.
The spider pod can be folded flat into either a soft or hard case. One of the best features of this system is that it takes so little time to setup or break down. I practiced with it the day I received it, and I was able to get the setup down to 30 seconds. Basically, you detach the operator's platform and pull it out of the "spider". Pull the legs out and lock the hinges, the platform is done. The spider is just as simple. Lossen the knurled locking knob, spread out the Spider's legs, then tighten the locking knob, and the spider is assembled.
Overall, this is one piece of equipment that every free-lance photographer, production company and television station should have. This system is extremely sturdy and should stand the test of time.
I took the Spider Pod out to several events. It worked wonderfully at press conferences. I set up in the back of a crowded room and was able to get clear shots of the speaker. I also took it out to several football games. There, I was able to set up on the track and get great shots right over the players and coaches on the sidelines.
The Spider Pod doesn't make video or create flashy effects. It is a very well-built and easy-to-use portable platform that lifts you and your tripod 24 inches (61 cm) above floor/ground level. It's strong and stable, and should last for many years.
Folded flat, it is 28 inches by 28 inches (71 cm x 71 cm) and weighs in at a sturdy 46 pounds (20.9 kg). For planned events such as debates, concerts, sporting events, press conferences and EFP, it is an extremely valuable tool and worth its weight in gold.