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Young George Washington using a surveyor's tripod Young George Washington.jpg
Young George Washington using a surveyor's tripod

A tripod is a portable three-legged frame or stand, used as a platform for supporting the weight and maintaining the stability of some other object. The three-legged (triangular stance) design provides good stability against gravitational loads as well as horizontal shear forces, and better leverage for resisting tipping over due to lateral forces can be achieved by spreading the legs away from the vertical centre.



First attested in English in the early 17th century, the word tripod comes via Latin tripodis ( GEN of tripus), [1] [2] which is the romanization of Greek τρίπους (tripous), "three-footed" (GENτρίποδος, tripodos), [3] ultimately from τρι- (tri-), "three times" [4] (from τρία, tria, "three") [5] + πούς (pous), "foot". [6] The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek 𐀴𐀪𐀠, ti-ri-po, written in Linear B syllabic script. [7]

Cultural use

A ding (Chinese ceremonial cauldron) from late Shang Dynasty. Liu Ding.jpg
A ding (Chinese ceremonial cauldron) from late Shang Dynasty.

Many cultures, including the ancient peoples of China and Greece, used tripods as ornaments, trophies, sacrificial altars, cooking vessels or cauldrons, and decorative ceramic pottery. Tripod pottery have been part of the archaeological assemblage in China since the earliest Neolithic cultures of Cishan and Peiligang in the 7th and 8th millennium BC. [8] Sacrificial tripods were found in use in ancient China usually cast in bronze but sometimes appearing in ceramic form. [9] They are often referred to as "dings" and usually have three legs, but in some usages have four legs.

The Chinese use sacrificial tripods symbolically in modern times, such as in 2005, when a "National Unity Tripod" made of bronze was presented by the central Chinese government to the government of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to mark its fiftieth birthday. It was described as a traditional Chinese sacrificial vessel symbolizing unity. [10]

In ancient Greece, tripods were frequently used to support lebes, or cauldrons, sometimes for cooking and other uses such as supporting vases.


Seabees train with the M240B mounted on the M122 tripod. US Navy 070406-N-0775Y-078 Equipment Operator 1st Class Shannon Farber instructs Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Carmichael Yepez how to aim a M-240B machine gun during a weapons training exercise at a range in Camp Han.jpg
Seabees train with the M240B mounted on the M122 tripod.

Tripods are commonly used on machine guns to provide a stable mount for the weapon when firing. [11]

Tripods are generally restricted to heavier weapons where the weight would be an encumbrance. For lighter weapons such as rifles, a bipod is more common. However, in recent times tripod saddles have become popular for precision rifle shooting sports, with the weapon placed in a vise-like rest which is mounted to a tripod head [12] [13] or with the weapon mounted directly to the tripod head.



A tripod used to support a rooftop television antenna TV antenna tripod.JPG
A tripod used to support a rooftop television antenna

Tripods are used for both motion and still photography to prevent camera movement and provide stability. They are especially necessary when slow-speed exposures are being made, or when telephoto lenses are used, as any camera shake while the shutter is open will produce a blurred image. In the same vein, they reduce camera shake, and thus are instrumental in achieving maximum sharpness. A tripod is also helpful in achieving precise framing of the image, or when more than one image is being made of the same scene, for example when bracketing the exposure. The use of a tripod may also allow for a more thoughtful approach to photography. For these reasons, a tripod of some sort is often necessary for professional photography. In relation to film/video, the use of the tripod offers stability within a shot as well as certain desired heights. The use of a tripod within film/video is often a creative choice of the Director.


For maximum strength and stability, as well as for easy levelling, most photographic tripods are braced around collapsible telescopic legs, with a center post that moves up and down. To further allow extension, the center post can usually extend above the meeting of three legs. At the top of the tripod is the head, which includes the camera mount (usually a detachable plate with a thumbscrew to hold the camera). The head connects to the frame by several joints, allowing the camera to pan, tilt and roll. The head usually attaches to a lever so that adjustments to the orientation can be performed more delicately. Some tripods also feature integrated remote controls for a camera, though these are usually proprietary to the company that manufactured the camera.


A surveyor's tripod is a device used to support any one of a number of surveying instruments, such as theodolites, total stations, levels or transits.


The tripod is placed in the location where it is needed. The surveyor will press down on the legs' platforms to securely anchor the legs in soil or to force the feet to a low position on the uneven, pockmarked pavement. Leg lengths are adjusted to bring the tripod head to a convenient height and make it roughly level.

Once the tripod is positioned and secure, the instrument is placed on the head. The mounting screw is pushed up under the instrument to engage the instrument's base and screwed tight when the instrument is in the correct position. The flat surface of the tripod head is called the footplate and is used to support the adjustable feet of the instrument.

Positioning the tripod and instrument precisely over an indicated mark on the ground or benchmark requires techniques that are beyond the scope of this article.

Tripods have also been used in the industry of film and photography since its invention was made to provide easier long exposure images for photographic studios.


Tripod for offshore wind turbine Cuxhaven 67 (RaBoe).jpg
Tripod for offshore wind turbine

Many modern tripods are constructed of aluminum, though wood is still used for legs. The feet are either aluminum tipped with a steel point or steel. The mounting screw is often brass or brass and plastic. The mounting screw is hollow to allow the optical plumb to be viewed through the screw. The top is typically threaded with a 5/8" x 11 tpi screw thread. The mounting screw is held to the underside of the tripod head by a movable arm. This permits the screw to be moved anywhere within the head's opening. The legs are attached to the head with adjustable screws that are usually kept tight enough to allow the legs to be moved with a bit of resistance. The legs are two part, with the lower part capable of telescoping to adjust the length of the leg to suit the terrain. Aluminum or steel slip joints with a tightening screw are at the bottom of the upper leg to hold the bottom part in place and fix the length. A shoulder strap is often affixed to the tripod to allow for ease of carrying the equipment over areas to be surveyed.


The astronomical tripod is a sturdy three-leg stand used to support telescopes or binoculars, though they may also be used to support attached cameras or ancillary equipment. The astronomical tripod is normally fitted with an altazimuth or equatorial mount to assist in tracking celestial bodies. [14] [15]


Laboratory tripod Laboratory tripod.jpg
Laboratory tripod

Laboratory tripod is a portable, three-legged platform equipment, which is usually made of lightweight metal such as stainless steel or aluminium so that it can be moved conveniently within the lab. The main usage is to support or hold the flasks and beakers during experiments.

See also

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Grip (job) Camera supporting equipment technician

In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, grips are camera support equipment technicians in the filmmaking and video production industries. They constitute their own department on a film set and are directed by a key grip. Grips have two main functions: The first is to work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes. The second function is to work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups necessary for a shot under the direction of the director of photography.

Grips' responsibility is to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. This equipment, which includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes, and static rigs, is constructed of delicate yet heavy duty parts requiring a high level of experience to operate and move. Every scene in a feature film is shot using one or more cameras, each mounted on highly complex, extremely expensive, heavy duty equipment. Grips assemble this equipment according to meticulous specifications and push, pull, mount or hang it from a variety of settings. The equipment can be as basic as a tripod standing on a studio floor, to hazardous operations such as mounting a camera on a 100 ft crane, or hanging it from a helicopter swooping above a mountain range.

Good Grips perform a crucial role in ensuring that the artifice of film is maintained, and that camera moves are as seamless as possible. Grips are usually requested by the DoP or the camera operator. Although the work is physically demanding and the hours are long, the work can be very rewarding. Many Grips work on both commercials and features.

Mycenaean Greek Most ancient attested form of the Greek language from the 16th to 12th centuries BC

Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland and Crete in Mycenaean Greece, before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus ad quem for the introduction of the Greek language to Greece. The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century BC. Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.

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The xiphos is a double-edged, one-handed Iron Age straight shortsword used by the ancient Greeks. It was a secondary battlefield weapon for the Greek armies after the dory or javelin. The classic blade was generally about 45–60 cm (18–24 in) long, although the Spartans supposedly preferred to use blades as short as 30 cm (12 in) around the era of the Greco-Persian Wars.


Levelling or leveling is a branch of surveying, the object of which is to establish or verify or measure the height of specified points relative to a datum. It is widely used in geodesy and cartography to measure geodetic height, and in construction to measure height differences of construction artifacts. It is also known as spirit levelling and differential levelling.

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A bipod is a V-shaped portable attachment that helps support and steady a device, usually a weapon such as a long gun or a mortar. The term comes from the Latin prefix bi- and Greek root pod, meaning "two" and "foot" respectively.

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  1. tripus . Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project .
  2. Harper, Douglas. "tripod". Online Etymology Dictionary .
  3. τρίπους . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  4. τρι-  in Liddell and Scott.
  5. τρία  in Liddell and Scott.
  6. πούς  in Liddell and Scott.
  7. ti-ri-po is found on the PY Ta 641 and PY Ta 709 tablets. 𐀴𐀪𐀠𐀆, ti-ri-po-de (found on the PY Ta 641 tablet), is the NOM dual form of the word. "The Linear B word ti-ri-po-de". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of ancient languages.Raymoure, K.A. "ti-ri-po". Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean. "PY 641 Ta (2)". "PY 709 Ta (2)". DĀMOS: Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
  8. Stark, Miriam T. (2006). Archaeology of Asia. Blackwell Publishing. p. 44. ISBN   978-1-4051-0213-1.
  9. Wolfram, Eberhard. A History of China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 3rd edition, 1969. Cf. p.49 for illustration of Ancient bronze tripod found at Anyang.
  10. "National Unity Tripod presented to mark Xinjiang's 50th birthday". China: People's Daily. October 1, 2005.
  11. "M122 Tripod". Army Study Guide. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  12. Zant, Cal (26 March 2014). "Shooting Rest: HOG Saddle & PIG Saddle Review". Precision Rifle Blog. Archived from the original on 21 June 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  13. Ewing, Melvin (30 August 2021). "Other Product Review HOG SADDLE – FULL REVIEW". Sniper Central. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  14. "Telescope and Tripod". Universe Today. 21 May 2008.
  15. Rotoni, Vito (23 May 2003). "Telescope Support Stand System: Background of the Invention". U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 7048238. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2009.