105 Tips for Grips and Electrics to Live by
Working as a grip and electric can be damn hard, there is a ton of gear to learn, the days are long and the work itself can be very physically demanding.
That’s why we want to share these grip and electric tips with our readers!
We have compiled a list of 101 Grip and Electric tips that will make every day on set just a little bit easier. If something is unclear and you would like it further explained feel free to comment below or get in touch with us directly via email.
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If you have something you would like to add to this list feel free to share. We are all about sharing information here and just like on a film set we believe nothing should ever be kept a secret.
This is a bit of a weird post. Some of it is more catered toward working as a Gaffer or working as a Key Grip and some of it is more catered toward working as a 3rd. Either way I think these are very valuable pieces of information.
101 Tips for Grip and Electric Tips to Live by:
Set Ears, Set Awareness & Safety for Grip and Electrics
1. Learn the voice of your Key (key grip and/or gaffer) & Cinematographer. When they speak pay attention.
2. Listen for the Assistant Directors, you can always be one step ahead if you pay attention.
3. When ever possible pay attention to what is going on in other departments. Much of the support they require can be determined this way. I hate to say it, but eavesdropping is kind of necessary sometimes. A good lighting technician knows whats going on around them and in other departments.
4. Listen for people in your department and be aware of any support co-workers may require. Often times just flying someone a sandbag, stinger or a larger flag can really speed things up. Remember, teamwork is very important.
5. When flying in large or heavy items be sure to call it out. Calling out things like “dolly track flying in, watch your backs” is a must. Never turn a corner or go through a door without calling it out.
6. When flying in dolly track on your shoulder keep the track diagonal, pointed toward the ground, never horizontal at head height. If you accidentally bump someone at least it will only result in a bruised shin, not a broken nose or black eye. That being said, you should never be accidentally bumping anyone with track. Pay attention.
7. When carrying dollies up or down stairs communicate clearly and make everyone aware of what is going to happen. Discuss everything prior to beginning to move the dolly. Never be a hero. If you begin to slip or lose your balance make everyone aware.
8. Work safely, never run, always double check all your work. As a grip be sure all the C-Stands are set correcting (righty tighty) and as an Electric be sure your cable is neat and properly run and that you are not overloading a breaker. The last thing you want is a flag falling or a breaker trip in the middle of a take.
9. Safety chains are to be added to ALL rigging. If no safety chains are available sash chord may be used. When using sash chord as a safety you can use a bowline or slip-bowline on the lamp side and a clove hitch or bowline on the side you are safety-ing to. If using a clove hitch on the side you are attaching to you might need to add a half hitch or two to keep the clove hitch from slipping if weight is added. A slip loop will also aid in pulling the knot apart later. – This correction comes from Michael Taylor AKA Hollywood Juicer with some help from our friend Randolph Sellars
10. Always wear appropriate shoes. If necessary buy quality insoles, they can make your days a little easier to get through.
11. Add some sash chord to things like knives and wrenches. When on a ladder or lift, wrap the sash around your wrist. The last thing you want is to drop something on someone’s head.
12. Use sliced tennis balls or empty water bottles on “hot points”. A hot point is basically an edge you can hurt yourself on. When a tennis ball or water bottle doesn’t work some brightly coloured tape can do the trick.
13. As an Electric never leave open holes in your line. This refers to leaving cable like sea way or joy live with open, exposed holes.
14. Learn the names of your coworkers. It is understandable that you might not be able to learn all the names on set, but be sure to know everyone in grip, lighting and camera (this includes the DOP of course) teams. Basically anyone you will be working along side.
15. Be respectful to other departments, don’t be one of those grips that bumps heads with the electrics or one of those electrics that hates the camera team. Remember, you are all working under the same person and working toward the same goal.
World domination!…I mean creating art…or something…
16. If uncomfortable with an assigned task or unsure, always ask! Someone else might be more suited for that job (say climbing a 12step ladder to rig a light) it takes time to hone your skill and become comfortable with the various situations you might be put in. I think most gaffers can agree that they would rather reassign a task than have a nervous, potentially clumsy tech doing a dangerous job. That being said, don’t be a baby. Every day on set you should be pushing the limits of your skill.
17. Although we all love having a fun time on set, keep personal conversation to a minimum or at least away from set. Even work related conversations should be kept fairly quiet. All it takes is one tech to speak too loudly for everything to spiral out of control. The last thing you want is the AD quieting down the crew like you’re a bunch of first graders.
Tools, Belts and Personal Gear
18. Come to work prepared to do your job. Check out this other post about technician tools. You can also check out our amazon film gear store. Is anything missing? Feel free to contact us and let us know.
19. Label your personal gear. You can buy a cheap label maker on Amazon.com. People won’t intentionally steal from you, but sometimes they just forget. I’ve had several wrenches go missing, but I’ve also accidentally walked away with a cube tap in my pocket or pony clamp on my belt at the end of the day.
20. Although you should have your most important tools on your belt at all times that doesn’t mean you should carry EVERYTHING! In fact, having too much stuff on your belt can be dangerous or a nuisance to the sound department. Often times when I’m rigging in a lift all day I take my belt off and clip it to the bucket of the lift. This keeps all of my tools close, but gives me the freedom to move around safely and easily. When rigging using ladders I’ll take my belt off completely and just climb around with a wrench and a multi tool or whatever else I need.
21. Invest in a proper multi-tool. Leatherman is the way to go. You can get cheap alternatives, but a Leatherman is industry standard and will last you years. Check some out on Amazon.com.
22. Always be sure to return tools to the original owners. This goes for gear too. If an electric lets you use an extension chord you should try to return the cable in the same condition it was given to you.
Grip and Electric Gear Staging
23. Gear is to be staged neatly. Like items kept together, everything easily accessible. When finished with a piece of gear it can be returned to the staging area, but not returned to the truck until wrap.
24. Staging should be set as close to the set as possible without being in the way.
25. Lowest level grip and electric should be standing by gear whenever not on a task. When something is called for the lowest team member is already standing by to fly the requested item in.
26. C-Stands and other stands to be stacked neatly, Baby C-Stands or preemie stands never mixed in with regular stands.
28. A couple of each apple box can be stored a little closer to set than the staging area as they will probably be used more often.
29. Do not lean smaller flags or nets on top of larger flags or nets. The stem can cause the net to stretch or tear. If staging in a smaller area the smaller flags, nets and/or silks can be stored slightly behind and to one side of the larger item, but never completely blocking it’s accessibility.
30. Silks and nets can be protected by sandwiching them between flags. This is great for staging as well as transportation.
Electric Specific Tips
31. When turning on a light you can call it out before hitting the switch. Calling out “Sparking, watch your eyes” or “striking” isn’t always completely necessary though. With smaller lights you can get away with turning them on without saying a word if no one is around. Often times calling out that you are turning a light on will just draw more attention to it or cause people to look at the light. Use your judgement and call things out as necessary.
32. When panning, raising our tilting lights be sure to communicate what you are doing as you are doing it. If you arrive at the fixture and have to do some minor things before doing what was asked of you be sure to let the DOP or Gaffer know. It is as simple as saying “sorry, stand by please”, this lets people know you are not prepared to do what was asked of you and need a moment to prepare.
33. Always spot lamps before sparking them. Spotting a lighting fixture puts the bulb at the rear of the lamp, away from the fresnel. This is good for two reasons, 1. When turning the light on the sudden change in temperature will not cause a cold fresnel to crack, 2. The lamp will already be in the spot position to aid in aiming.
34. Always leave some cable bundled at the base of a light. 10-20 feet should be fine, but you can also decide how much based on the limitations of the gear and how much you think the lamp will be moving around.
35. Cable is wrapped clockwise and never wrapped in over-under fashion. Only BNC cable is to be wrapped that way.
36. When plugging in sea-way never sit or drop your knee. Feet are to be planted at all times.
37. When setting up HMI’s plug in the head cable to the lamp first, then work your way back to the ballast, saving the power to the ballast for last. Be sure the main breaker is in the off position before plugging in ballast.
38. Keep the sound department happy by keeping ballast outside of the room you are shooting in. HMI’s usually come with 100ft of cable, so keep your ballast away from set. Don’t wait for the sound guy to ask you to move it
39. All cable to be stored in separate piles. 50′ AC kept separate from 25′ AC etc.
40. If the monitor is moving around a lot, pay attention. The lowest level electric should provide power where ever it ends up, don’t wait for someone to ask. You may also work something out with the 2nd AC, trainee or who ever is in charge. It can be as simple as labeling a 50′ stinger “monitor”.
Grip Specific Tips
41. Textiles and blue / green screens should never touch the ground. It is very important that these stay clean. A black smudge on a green screen can make lighting it a nightmare.
42. When building 6×6 or 8×8 frames, the frame can be set on stands horizontally, making tying of the textile easier. If building alone you can tie opposite ends or corners first, this insures the textile never touches the ground.
43. When building 12×12 or 20×20 collapsible frames the frame is to be built in the “A” position. When tying the textile to the frame you must tie to the top of the “A” first, keeping the textile off the ground.
44. When removing textiles from frames you can untie all ties except the ones in the middle by the ears. These are saved for last because it keeps the fabric off of the ground and aids in folding the fabric.
45. When folding fabrics “pretty side” must face inside to keep fabric safe. “Pretty side” refers to the cleanest, white side or side that faces camera of the textile or green screen.
46. When setting flags “pretty side” always faces out.
47. It is the responsibility of the Grip Department to flag lights that cause flares off of the lens. This can be done very close to the lamp or very close to the lens, depending on the limitations of the frame and set. If there is nothing that the grips can do the camera team might be able to help this out with an eyebrow or sider.
48. Lights to be boxed in as necessary as the gear allows. Cinematographers generally want light spill kept off of walls. This could also be done using black wrap.
49. Do not lean flags, nets or silks against the set walls or set dressing. The stem can scratch walls or cause damage to set dressings.
50. If a “sandwich” is called for this refers to 1 of each type of net and silk sandwiched between two flags.
51. Save your back, kick sandbags off of stands. Try not to carry more than two sandbags at a time. When moving sandbags more than a couple of feet make use of tongue dollies. Save your back and your energy.
52. Depending on the weight of sandbags do not pile more than 10-12 sandbags on a tongue dolly. Anymore than 12 sandbags can cause the tongue to break.
Supporting the Lighting Department As a Grip
53. When lights are set they may be bagged. When in doubt just ask if you can bag it.
54. On some sets the electrics will be fine with bagging their own stands or even prefer it, this will not always be the case. If so, stand by appropriate amount of bags. When brooming the set or moving around lights farther away from set do not just take bags. Pile them neatly, close by.
55. When lights are going up watch for leveling needs. Stands can be leveled using pads, wedges and/or apple boxes.
56. If lights are to be raised very high they should be leveled and bagged before going up.
57. Standing by stands, flags, nets and/or diffusion frames as lights are going up is a good habit. In most cases some sort of gripology will be required. It is better to be prepared for such things rather than your boss having to wait.
58. Lights should be easily accessible by the electrics, this could mean setting up a ladder at the base of a light or even standing by an apple box.
59. Large sources cannot have gel clipped to bar doors, they require frames. Their heat output causes gels to melt over time. Have appropriate frames standing by and/or be prepared to skin frames as necessary.
Working on the Set as a Grip and Electric
60. Learn “Camera Left” and “Camera Right”. These mean from the point of view of the camera. If you are facing the camera “Camera Left” means your Right.
61. Learn “Lamp Left” and “Lamp Right”. This mean from the point of view of the lighting fixture.
62. Learn “Up Stage” and “Down Stage”. Down Stage means closer to camera, Up Stage means farther from camera.
63. As a gaffer you should be watching every take if possible. It is understandable that this may not always be possible, but it is your responsibility to act as a second set of eyes for the DOP.
64. Treat all gear with respect. If and when something is damaged or goes missing you must report it to the best boy or the Key Grip / Gaffer if necessary.
65. After a set up is completed the floor may sometimes be cleared and lighting and shaping may begin from scratch. On other sets it could be as simple as mirroring the last setup. Which ever it may be, always be prepared.
66. When not on any particular task you may spend your time cleaning up the staging area or preparing stuff for the next setup. You never want to be caught sitting around. There is always work to be done on a film set.
68. A book light is when you diffuse a bounced light source. It is called a book light because from above it resembles an open book from the top view. Check out this great blog about book lights on the hurlbutvisuals.com blog.
69. When building a book light is is customary to box in the book light, keeping any spill from escaping and creating a clean looking light source.
70. As a grip when setting flags be sure you are not setting stands on top of cable. Doing so will make it more difficult for the electrics when they must move things around.
71. Try to Work Smart, Not Hard. Plan things out instead of just diving in. It will save you time later.
72. Save your back, get into the habit of always lifting with your legs, never your back. This goes for lighter items too. The key is to keep your back straight and bend at the knees.
Using Stands & Setting Flags, Frames & More
73. Sandbags should be set on the biggest leg of a C-Stand or centered around the stem. This may change depending on your bosses preferences. Sandbags should never be touching the ground. A Sandbag touching the ground is not doing it’s job.
74. Biggest leg should always be pointing in the direction of the weight. In situations where this is not possible extra care must be taken. Additional sandbags can be added to the stand or the stand can be tied, clamped or supported in whichever way is safest.
75. Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty. Grip heads always tighten toward the weight, gravity should cause the grip head to tighten further, not loosen.
76. Always start with top riser before moving to the next riser. When you reach the top of a riser bring it back down at least 1″. Not doing so may cause riser to jam and stand to bow if enough weight is being held.
77. Be sure you have a sandbag before setting any flags. If your boss asks you to set a flag or frame you should arrive at the fixture with the necessary stand, the flag and a sandbag. Once the flag is set you may bag the stand.
78. All frames should be set parallel to the face of the lamp unless told otherwise.
79. Diffusion frames should be set far enough from the fixture to fill the frame. A full frame is a happy frame.
80. Use appropriate sized frames, flags and stands for the job. Bigger lights get bigger flags etc.
81. Diffusion should be set after any colour. This has to do with potential gel kickback. This includes clipping gels to barn doors.
82. The farther the flag from the light source the harder the cut will be
83. The closer the flag to the light source the softer the cut will be
84. Whenever a net is called for it is customary to bring an additional net. If a single is called for bring a single and a double. Offer up what was called for first, if a double is necessary it is already standing by.
85. Sometimes the Key Grip, another grip of even the Cinematographer will hold a flag where it is to be set. You may need to “find” them with the appropriate stand. This can be very intimidating, take your time and remain calm.
86. Similar to above, you can “sell” or “option” things like frames and flags to the DOP or Gaffer. This is done by holding up the flag or frame and asking them if they like it or buy it. If bought you can go ahead and set it on a stand or have one of your techs “find” you.
87. When setting flags, never fully block the light source. The flag is to be lowered, raised or moved into place slowly. Often times the Cinematographer or Key Grip will talk you into position. Pay attention.
88. C-Stands are not to be used outside unless there is no other option available. If using a C-Stand is the only option then you must use more than one sandbag. Often times using a secondary C-Stand for support may also be necessary
89. Courtesy flags may need to be set for monitors or camera team. A good grip does not wait for this to be asked for. Attention to detail and anticipation is important.
90. Always look up when setting large frames, flags or lights outside. Stay at least 10ft away from overhead electrical cables.
91. When working outside you are almost guaranteed to use anything from 6×6 – 20×20 frames. Be prepared and build them at the top of the day. This can save much time later.
92. When using large frames it may be necessary to tie these down. Come prepared with heavy duty rope, dog screws or anything else you might require.
93. Always pay attention to weather, things can change from one moment to the next. Wind can pick up or a storm can come in. I know it sounds unlikely, but I’ve been there before. Safety first.
94. Tar paper is to be placed over lamps and on ballasts on rain days. If tar paper is unavailable you can also put a 4×4 frame at a 45 degree angle over the lamp. If extra concerned, heat shield can be placed over the front of the lamp just like any other gel. If it is windy this keeps rain from hitting the lens and cracking it.
Wrapping the Set
95. If dealing with a package truck driver you must neatly pile gear at the tale gate or near the hatches of the truck. The driver is in charge of the count, make it easier for him.
96. As a Grip It is often times easier and more efficient to wrap like items. For example, put flags & frames away first, them move onto stands, then go around with a tongue dolly collecting sandbags.
97. When wrapping lighting gear it is customary to switch lamps off and begin with wrapping cable while fixtures cool. When finished with cable those lamps should be ready to be put away.
98. When counting AC and other cable at the end of the day, laying them out in rows of five is the easiest way of counting. Like all other cable, keep 25s and 50s separate.
99. If asked for an ETA on your wrap, it might be beneficial to over estimate. Wrapping takes time, you never know what can go missing or other unforeseen issues.
100. ALWAYS do a dummy check. Missing gear makes you and your team look bad. Two sets of eyes are always better than one.
Added by Our Readers
101. This one comes from LordBronco – Always have a Head-Mounted Hands Free LED flashlight on you at all times. Best is a bright white/Red combo. 20 bucks at an outlet store or you can find some on Amazon.com
102. This one comes from Randolph Sellars – A scrim bag should always accompany every light unless of course the light doesn’t use scrims such as a kinoflo or china ball. When using a china ball, always have an in-line dimmer ready if needed – same goes for tungsten practicals.
103. Another from Randolph Sellars – When setting a kinoflo light, if not instructed, ask the gaffer or DP if they want the grid or not. It’s a good idea to have a small loop of sash cord tied to the kino ballast handle. This enables the ballast to hang off the stand knuckle if the light is to be moved often.
104. Randolph gives us another great one – When setting a light, make sure to clarify any vague instructions. A vague instruction like “go up with the light” might mean “tilt up” or “raise up on the stem.” “Make the light hotter” might mean “spot the light” or move the light closer to the subject. As a grip or electrician, “call out” a response to instructions like an outfielder “calling out” his intention to catch a fly ball. As a DP, it’s frustrating to call out an instruction and not know if it was heard or if it is being taken care of. If you are the closest person to a lamp or C stand, say something like “I got it, baby flying in.”
105. This one comes from me, Iggy - When running cable remember the saying “Fuck the Truck”. Meaning, male end goes toward the power source.
Keep in mind that we don’t have to leave it at only 101 grip and electric tips. If you think that something is missing please feel free to contact us and we will add it to the list.
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