How to Use Gaff Tape Like a Pro on Film Sets5 min read

stack of different colored gaff tape for film set
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Many people believe that, in the world of film, technology is the most important thing on set. While having the right film lights, cameras, and other technological wonders is certainly vital, there is one more item that is surprisingly crucial, and that’s tape; gaff tape, to be precise.

Through the skillful use of gaff tape, you can hold your part of the world together. If you are wondering what it takes to use gaff tape like a pro on a film set, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Gaff Tape?

using black gaff tape to cover cables on film set

Also known as “gaffers tape,” gaff tape is a heavy cotton specialty tape that is fairly similar to duct tape. Unlike duct tape, which is usually a slightly shiny silver, gaff tape tends to be matte, ensuring it doesn’t reflect light around the set in undesirable ways.

Additionally, while incredibly strong, gaff tape won’t cause damage when you remove it later. There also isn’t any sticky residue to deal with, which is crucial when you’re working with high-value equipment.

What Is Gaff Tape Used For?

Gaff tape is used on a film set in a number of ways. One of the most common is taping cables down to floors, ensuring they aren’t a tripping hazard and keeping them from accidentally getting yanked. However, it can also be used for securing gels to film lights, setting marks for actors, attaching items to walls, bundling cables together, and so much more.

The biggest benefits of gaffer tape are that it’s highly durable and incredibly versatile. Even if it’s walked across or rubbed numerous times, it won’t typically tear or pull up. But it’s also non-permanent, allowing you to remove and adjust it whenever the need arises, giving you the on-set flexibility you need to make changes between scenes or at any other time.

How to Use Gaff Tape Like a Pro on Film Sets

Pulling off a piece of white gaffer tape

While using gaff tape might seem like an incredibly straightforward thing to do, handling it well does require some expertise. If you want to use gaffer tape like an absolute boss, here are some tips that can help.

Practice Tearing It

Generally speaking, using scissors to cut pieces of gaff tape isn’t the most efficient approach. It’s time-consuming and requires walking around with a sharp object. Plus, you have to juggle the tape roll, the loose end, and the scissors, which is hard to do without seeming a bit clumsy.

Instead of relying on scissors, get used to tearing the gaffer tape. If you can quickly rip the pieces you need from the roll, then you’ll work much faster on-set.

Build in a Tab

building a tab on a roll of gaff tape

One issue with tape is usually getting an end off of the roll when you need a piece or off of the floor or an item when you need to remove the tape. Since you don’t want to get stuck spending valuable time trying to scrape up an end with your fingernail, make creating a tab on each end a habit.

At times, the simplest way is with a quick twist. As you pull the tape up from the roll, do a fold move so that the piece you’re removing is at a 90-degree angle to the roll. Then, when you rip it, you’ll end up with a small triangle tab that you can use for easy removal.

Alternatively, you could simply fold over the ends. However, that can take extra time, so it may not be ideal if you need to move quickly.

Embrace Vibrant Colors

Gaff tape is available in a range of colors. While that may seem unnecessary, the variety is actually incredibly beneficial. You can designate specific colors for various purposes, allowing you to create quick visual cues for yourself or other people on set.

For example, if a scene involves two actors, using a different color for each one’s marks ensures they know which ones are theirs. It only takes a quick glance to identify the right marks, allowing the actors to move through the scene with greater ease.

However, that isn’t the only case for getting comfortable with bright colors. It can make organizing equipment and storage easier, as you have strong visual clues that catch your eye.

Know When Gaff Tape Isn’t the Right Option

While gaffer tape is incredibly versatile, that doesn’t mean it’s always the right option for the job. In some cases, an alternative is actually better.

Generally, gaff tape is meant to be non-permanent. While it will hold firm for quite some time, it is removable, so it may not stay in place forever. As a result, if you need a more permanent solution, duct tape could be the smarter choice, as it isn’t generally meant to be removed once in place.

Similarly, gaffer tape is water-resistant, while duct tape can be practically weatherproof. If you need a robust option for extreme conditions, gaff tape may not be your best bet. Ultimately, what’s important is to get comfortable with gaff tape. Learn its benefits and drawbacks. Get used to tearing, placing, and removing it. Learn about your color options and embrace them. If you do, you’ll be using gaff tape like a pro in no time.

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