Take your cue from the Boy Scouts and be prepared. It’s a great motto for life, but it’s especially pertinent when you work in showbiz, particularly on-set. You’ll find kits for quick fixes everywhere, and in a lot of those boxes, you’ll find gaffer tape to keep you ready for any situation that might be thrown your way.
Shooting video? Whether it’s an event, interview, vlog, short film or a feature -- just to name some types of productions -- there’s a lot to keep in mind, especially if you’re doing it with minimal crew. Talent, props, lighting, sound… the list goes on! For instance, if you’re the videographer of a wedding, sure your subjects are already predetermined, but the space and lighting might not be as you saw it during rehearsal. Add in the complications with gear, and you’ll know that being organized and prepared will serve you well in any situation.
That’s why gaffer tape comes in so handy! A production of any size wouldn’t be caught dead without a few rolls stashed away. Gaffer tape gets its name from the gaffer, also known as the chief lighting technician. From the first shot to the wrap, gaffer tape is used everywhere.
Versatile and strong, gaffer tape sticks well to almost any surface. Its cloth backing means it isn’t reflective, and can blend in seamlessly. When you want to draw attention to something, however, you can also pick up a roll of fluorescent gaffer tape to get the job done. Make subtle markings on the ground to make sure everyone gets in the right spot, or mark off an area with a bright tape to make sure someone knows where not to be.
Beyond fluorescent tape, gaffer tape comes in a variety of colors, making it easy to color code and stay organized. If you can’t get your hands on multiple colors, you’ll still be able to write on the back with a felt-tip marker, so getting two colors instead of five might just do the trick for you. Colors in general are a great way to keep the cast and crew organized as well, if everyone adheres to the same color coding.
For more subtle purposes, gaffer tape is strong enough to hold on to cloth and lighting and sound equipment. For quick fixes on costumes, lighting gels, microphone packs and more, a simple roll of black gaffer tape is easy enough to whip out and tear off a few strips. The strength of the tape makes it ideal for coated cables, stage floors and more.
The strength of gaffer tape goes beyond its hold, however, and it is water resistant! Despite the cloth backing, gaffer tape will be able to withstand inclement weather. For productions that aren’t happening on the driest of days, gaffer tape can replace the rubberized or plasticized tape you might keep on hand, and it won’t catch the light, either.
Light and versatile, it’s easy to see why gaffer tape is an indispensable part of a production. In the hustle and bustle of a set, trying to coordinate what might seem like a few hundred things, anything that could make your life easier is worth a shot. Why bother tote around a roll of duct tape, a roll of masking tape and a role of hem tape when gaffer tape can do it all?