High-End Cine Baseplates: Worth their Weight in Gold?

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The video camera baseplate—such a basic, humble camera component yet so important to a smooth shoot. Few moments are as aggravating to a camera operator or assistant as struggling to mount their camera with a baseplate that is not quite functioning. So, are high-end, cine-style baseplates worth their weight in gold? While some systems may be close to the current cost of an ounce of gold, luckily there’s no comparison pound for pound. Read on for reasons why high-end plates are worth it.

ARRI BPS-2 Bridge Plate Set

Baseplate Basics

Precision machining is the hallmark of a high-end camera component; those stringent tolerance standards are why professional systems provide reliable use for years. Anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and solidly crafted screws and levers are also standard on quality baseplate systems.

Cine-Style baseplate systems consist of two pieces: a sliding “bridge” plate and a bottom “dovetail.” The dovetail design enables you to slide the upper bridge plate back and forth to balance your camera rig on your tripod head, essential when changing lenses, adding or removing a monitor, matte box, or other accessory.

Dovetail Baseplate System

Dovetails have sloped edges at the back (and sometimes the front) with a spring-loaded safety button that pops up after the bridge plate passes over it. This button blocks backward motion, acting as a safety so the bridge plate and your attached camera don’t inadvertently sail off the dovetail during a tilt move. The front and/or back of a well-built dovetail will have a screw-in safety post that can be removed for specific setups where you want to mount the bridge plate from the front of the dovetail. High-end dovetail features include full stainless-steel threaded inserts for durability, large, easy-to-use release buttons, and multiple tripod threads for attaching a tripod plate at the right spot for overall balance.

ARRI Dovetail Plate
ARRI Dovetail Plate
Wooden Camera 2060 Dovetail Plate
Wooden Camera 2060 Dovetail Plate

ARRI offers both cutout-style plates in 12, 18, and 24" lengths that shave weight off your rig, and standard solid-style dovetails in 12, 18, and 24" sizes. ARRI’s compact 6" cutout model is ideal for car rigs, camera carts, or rigs not requiring balancing. Chrosziel also offers a sturdy 23" version and Bright Tangerine’s Left Field 12" dovetail features marks on both sides for quick repositioning. Wooden Camera’s 2060 12" dovetail 18, and 24" dovetails natively fit the popular OConnor 2575 and 2060 tripod heads. Use the longer dovetails to support larger zoom lenses or teleprompter setups and the shorter and medium-length ones with primes or shorter zooms.

Bridge Plates

Also called “sleds,” bridge plates serve as a base on which your camera can slide back and forth on the dovetail. Some bridge plates incorporate 19mm or 15mm studio rod support, while others support rods via add-on rod brackets. Pro features include one or two 3/8"-16 screws with a locating pin (1/4"-20 screws are scoffed at on pro plates); the locating pin may be spring-loaded or a removable screw type. Together, these two or more points keep the plate from twisting when mounted on your camera. The bridge plate’s sliding function locks with a two-stage mechanism, usually a button and lever combination.

ARRI SBP-1

For convenient support of both accessories and larger, heavier lenses on your dovetail, check out ARRI’s flat-top BP-8 which is compatible with a range of cine cameras. The contoured BP-12 with built-in 19mm rod support and the BP-13 with 15mm studio rod support are will fit most ARRI ALEXA models and can be use with adapters with many third-party cine-style cameras.

Left Field Quick Release Baseplate

Bright Tangerine’s Left Field Quick-Release Baseplate Kits are tailored to individual cameras, suiting them for owner-operator use. Kits are available for select ARRI, Blackmagic Design, Canon, RED, and Sony cameras. The versatile Left Field 15mm LWS Quick Release Baseplate Core make use of separately available riser blocks to fit a variety of cameras.

Do you rely on a sturdy, pro baseplate system when capturing video? Let us know below what you think of these basic building blocks and check out the B&H Photo website or stop in the B&H SuperStore for all your Pro Video equipment needs.

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