The Vinten blueBridge tripod adapter Once upon a time (barely a decade ago), it wasn’t unusual to shoot many projects—large and small— with a single, medium-to-large video camera and tripod. However, ever since the “beefy” RED Ones and compact DSLRs burst onto the scene—along with a plethora of cameras of many shapes and sizes in between—production planning now entails supporting multiple cameras in various sizes and configurations. As most camera support gear is optimized for cameras of a particular size range, this can easily generate a logistical headache.
Also, providing a tripod for each weight class of camera and lens could prove physically daunting and break pocketbooks.
So, whenever feasible, sharing support gear among cameras seems the ideal way to reduce the volume of support gear needed for a given project.
Along these lines, Vinten has devised a way to make tripods more versatile—literally bridging the gap between lightweight and light/heavyweight cameras and tripod heads—with a simple, inexpensive mechanical gizmo, the blueBridge. This is essentially a tripod head adapter that works with many of their current tripod heads, including their economical Vision Blue series.
The blueBridge is a metallic mechanical adapter that mounts on a tripod head in lieu of a standard camera plate adapter, extending the lower payload range for Vinten Vision and Vision blue tripod heads. It basically does this by changing the camera’s center of gravity in two ways: (1) by raising the camera two or more inches above the tripod head, and (2) by making it feasible to change the center of gravity simply by sliding the bridge fore and aft within the dovetail mounting channel, on the tripod head.
On a Vision blue head, the channel itself is four to five inches long and the diagonal blueBridge can overhang the front and rear edges of this channel by two inches on either end. This adjustment range provides a great deal of latitude for adjusting (forwards and backwards) the camera’s center of gravity when mounted on the head. And in turn, makes it feasible to counterbalance smaller, lighter weight cameras which would otherwise be too light to properly counterbalance on heads intended for more massive cameras.
In terms of the Vision blue series, blue- Bridge extends the lower range for standard Vision Blue tripod heads from 4.6 pounds down to a mere 3.3 pounds and from 6.6 pounds down to 4.6 pounds for Vision blue 3s. When used with Vision blue 5 heads, the adapter moves the bottom from 12 pounds to 9.2.
The blueBridge is constructed from a single piece of very sturdy metal (probably a magnesium alloy). Its top plate has a long slit from front to back, enabling the mounting screws to move fore and aft around two inches, thus shifting the center of gravity proportionally each way. When dealing with fairly lightweight cameras, this two-inch forwards or backwards movement can often spell the difference between being able to achieve counterbalance on one of the Vision blue tripod heads or not.
The base of the blueBridge is flared outwards to dovetail with the channel on the tripod head. This fl ared base slides easily and securely into the channel on the head, just like the sliding “mounting plate” it replaces. Once in the (mounting) channel, the blueBridge can be locked in place via the locking knob on the tripod head anywhere within the channel’s reach.
Moreover, the camera that you’re using may be fastened atop the blueBridge anywhere along the two-inch slot which bisects the camera mount from front to back. This slot is designed to enable the quarter-inch fastening bolt to slide easily from the front to the rear of the camera plate, and to provide more latitude for accommodating the camera’s center of gravity on the head with the blueBridge adapter. I should add that the slot is slightly recessed to enhance snugness when the quarter-inch camera fastening bolt is tightened.
The blueBridge’s glossy black metal strongly resembles a frame for a short set of porch stairs without the steps and set at about a 45 degree angle. This angle enables shifting the center of gravity forward or backward as much as six to seven inches on the tripod head. The center of gravity may even be extended a bit further to accommodate Canon EF and other long lenses which have their own mounting rings and are designed for re-adjusting their center of gravity for use with “middleweight” DSLRs.
Right out of the box, Vinten’s blueBridge is ready for immediate use with a Vinten Vision and/or Blue series tripod.
I tried it with a payload consisting of a Canon XH A1 camcorder (weighing 5.3 pounds), along with a battery and a shotgun mic. My support system was Vinten’s Vision Blue 5 head and tripod. Ordinarily, this head should be used with cameras in the 12 to 26 pound range.
The blueBridge is only supposed to extend its lower capacity to 9.2 pounds, and initially I wasn’t able to counterbalance my lighter camera package, although it did sit quite nicely in the horizontal plane. In spite of this balancing issue I was still able to pan easily and tilt up and down (moderately) without real problems.
While this weight deficit didn’t seem overly problematic, I was determined to counterbalance the Canon camera package, on the Vision blue 5.
(The obvious and easy solution would have been to swap the Vision 5 for a Vision 3 head, which allows counterbalancing of cameras down to 4.6 pounds. However, I decided to be inventive and try to make do with the Vision blue 5.)
My solution was to flip the blueBridge around so that it moved the camera forward by several inches, rather than backwards. The horizontal displacement I achieved in this fashion offset the weight deficit and allowed me to counterbalance the 5.3-pound camera package.
After counterbalancing the XH A1 package on the Vision blue 5, I pushed this envelope further by adapting a still lighter-weight camera—JVC’s HM100 (about three pounds)—with the blue- Bridge. This time, flipping the blueBridge around and pushing the COG forwards by several inches was not sufficient to accommodate this much lighter camera.
This proved not to be a deal-breaker, as the camera was able to rest almost horizontally, and I could pan easily and tilt up and down at least 30 degrees without any real problems.
This enabled me to get buttery slow camera moves with the HM100 on the Vision blue5 when shooting a jazz concert. With the blueBridge and Vision blue 5 combo, I was easily able to keep my pans and tilts restrained, yet smooth, while staying in focus, and thus maximizing all of the high-def detail and drama inherent in each shot.
The super-slow camera moves facilitated by the blueBridge device also provided ample time to reframe shots from medium to close-up and back to wide, all imperceptibly, as slow zooms. Without the blueBridge I would have been limited to a lighter tripod head without the solidity necessary for ramping up the pan and tilt stiffness for the super slow, ultra-smooth camera moves I achieved with the blue- Bridge and Vision blue 5 pair.
The blueBridge is one of those impressive compact, “cheap” tools that can have an oversized impact on a production in terms of workflow and what ends up on the screen. The device achieves the former, by eliminating the need to carry more than one size of tripod on a shoot. In doing so, the device also facilitates much “stiffer” and slower camera moves than would be feasible with lighter-duty tripod systems.
The blueBridge transforms a Vinten Vision blue tripod package into a universal system which can support everything from small DSLRs to big cameras packages such as the RED camera. Further, it can enable DSLR shooters to capture slow, majestic camera moves that otherwise would require larger cameras and support systems.
The blueBridge can enable small production companies and others to add cameras as needed without necessarily having to increase their tripod inventory and can also help improve the quality of camera moves in all applications.
Carl Mrozek operates Eagle Eye Media, and specializes in wildlife and outdoor subjects. His work regularly appears on the Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel, CBS, PBS and other networks. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full range of ENG and EFP applications from TV commercials to documentaries, music videos and more
Enables ultra-slow, smooth pans and tilts with smaller cameras on the same tripod and head used with larger cameras; compact, durable, easy to use, inexpensive; eliminates the need to take a second tripod on location