Playing the &#39Ace&#39 in Sierra Leone


When Sierra Leone won independence from Great Britain in 1961, the country was seen as the “Athens of West Africa’. Once famous for its high level of education, Sierra Leone is now among the poorest countries of the world and ranks near the bottom of the Human Development Index 2011.

Since 2002 when the 10-year long civil war came to an end, the country has worked to rebuild itself. Aid has been supplied by various organisations including Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency from Great Britain. On behalf of Tearfund, London-based cinematographer and photographer Ralph Hodgson shot a film about the current situation in Sierra Leone.

Hodgson documented village life in the rural part of Sierra Leone and showed the progress of Tearfund-sponsored education projects. To capture the images, the filmmaker used a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 35mm/50mm and 85mm lenses as well as the Ace tripod system by Sachtler, part of Vitec Videocom, a Vitec Group company.

“The thing I especially like about Ace is that it’s so lightweight yet robust. Ace can also be set up quickly, and you can start filming immediately,” explains Hodgson.

Thanks to the special fiberglass-reinforced composite material, Ace is lightweight and weighs only 4.4 kg (9.7 lbs) with a mid-level spreader and 4.6 kg (10.1 lbs) with a ground spreader.

Hodgson works mostly as a photographer. However, in Sierra Leone, he also shot videos. “Working with Ace is child’s play,’ he says. “The tripod system has a good feel to it, is stable, and has a very good fluid head, with which smooth pans are performed almost automatically.”

This is because of a special Ace feature, the new patented SA-drag damping (Synchronised Actuated Drag) with three vertical and three horizontal grades of drag (+0). The five-step counterbalance provides easy and quick balancing of camera set-ups of up to 4 kg (8.8 lbs). Thus Ace is an ideal tripod system for lightweight HDV camcorders and video-enabled DSLR cameras.

In Sierra Leone, Hodgson filmed under difficult weather conditions – extreme humidity with temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius and dusty air. Thanks to Sachtler, the professional photographer was able to depend on his equipment and completely concentrate on his work. However, it was not only the professional product features that won Hodgson over. In particular, the price-performance ratio was an important factor for him when choosing Ace, as it is – in his opinion – “the best product in its class”.


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