If anything is named properly in the film industry, the cheese plate is a cup of milk shy of being perfect.
Named for the numerous holes all over the surface, the cheese plate is an integral part of filmmaking. While some might think of it as purely a grip item, the Camera Department relies on variations of the cheese plate as well, making it one of the most universal items found on a film set.
Let’s look at what makes up a cheese plate:
Your traditional cheese plates come in two colors: silver (metal) or black (anodized), are square or rectangle in shape, and have a plethora of holes to help you mount and rig wherever and however you need to get the job done. The reason for the black option is simply for cutting down on the reflections towards the lens.
More unique cheese plates come in round circles or even angled plates. They’ve even found ways to create camera mounts on top of cheese plates. Other variations of the plates come with counter-sunk holes for clean mounting and some even come pre-tapped with standard 3/8”-16 and/or ¼”-20 threads for easier mounting and rigging. Tapped threads are commonly found in the camera department but come standard on the Filmtools Teenie Weenie plates, as well.
While grip cheese plates are two-dimensional, meaning they are usually flat plates, the Camera department variations are often seen more as a building block to mount accessories to, rather than simply hold the camera or light in place.
Cheese plates found in the Camera Department are commonly created to hold a battery on a camera rig. They almost always have pre-drilled holes that line up for specific battery plates and will generally have the ability to mount onto a set of 15mm or 19mm rods.
With the boom of DSLRs in the industry, camera equipment manufacturers found a way to help turn this small image capturing device into a full-fledged production camera. The addition of a light, battery, audio recording device, or even a microphone wasn’t as simple as one thought. Small-form cheese plates, such as “cheese sticks” or “cheese bars,” became more useful in small spaces and on cameras that didn’t have mounting options built-in. Manufacturers have also tapped-holes into rig components as a way to get a cheese plate functionality onto the rig, as well.
A cheese plate can be a life saver on a film set. Whether you’re a grip, trying to mount a camera to a car or a camera operator just trying to get your rig to function properly, cheese plates are there to help make your job easier.