One of the most useful expendables you’ll need for filmmaking is tape—and it helps to know which specific type of tape to get. After all, you don’t want the items you use on set to end up interfering with visuals, or leaving any residue or damage behind once you wrap up.
Gaffer’s tape was developed specifically for the filmmaking and photography industries. In most cases, it is the best solution. Here are several common uses for gaffer’s tape on set, as well as specific reasons why you should select it over other kinds of tape.
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What is Gaffer’s Tape
Gaffer’s tape is a special kind of tape that was created for photographers and filmmakers by Ross Lowell, a lighting designer. It holds up to wear and tear, won’t interfere with your shot, and can be used for a variety of situations.
Gaffer’s tape is generally 2”, but it is available in various widths. For example:
- Spike Tape is ½” wide gaffer’s tape
- Camera Tape is 1” wide gaffer’s tape
- Gaffer’s tape is also available in 3”, 4”, and 6” wide rolls
The name of the tape is likely because photography and film sets use gaffers to oversee the lighting for a shot. Gaffers are the head of the lighting department on set, and are also known as the Chief Lighting Technician. They run the Grip/Electric crew and work with the cinematographer to ensure that each scene is set up with the perfect lighting.
Benefits of Gaffer’s Tape
You may end up using many different types of tape on set—but gaffer’s tape is especially handy to have on hand, for a variety of reasons. Other kinds of tape simply don’t offer all of the benefits as gaffer’s tape, which include:
- It won’t leave any residue or damage behind upon removal
- It does not have reflective properties due to its matte finish, and so will not interfere with visuals
- It’s highly heat resistant (up to 93 degrees Celsius), making it ideal to use on hot equipment such as lighting
- It can be easily torn by hand and holds up to foot traffic
- It comes in a wide variety of colors, each of which have specific applications on set
- There is even fire/flame retardant gaffer’s tape available!
Common Uses for Black Gaffer’s Tape
Black gaffer’s tape is the most widely used, because it blends well with typical theater or production stages, as well as the black cables of film cameras. Film professionals use black gaffer’s tape to:
- Secure backdrops to the floor
- Secure microphone stands in position
- Provide a black edge to props such as tables
- Fasten props to walls, shelves, or painted surfaces
Another common use for black gaffer’s tape is what’s known as “greeking”—blocking out a trademarked or offensive part of an object that can’t be moved out of your shot. Covering this up with black gaffer’s tape often keeps the object from being noticeable or identifiable.
Common Uses for White Gaffer’s Tape
White gaffer’s tape is mainly used to label objects. Use your white gaffer’s tape on the slate, on equipment such as walkie-talkies assigned to specific people, and even personal gear. You can write in a variety of colors on white tape, and gaffer’s tape is especially beneficial because it’s waterproof. Or, use white gaffer’s tape on a white surface that may be causing a reflection in your shot.
Common Uses for Colored Gaffer’s Tape
While white and black gaffer’s tape will be used the most, there are certain circumstances where you’ll need gaffer’s tape in a variety of colors. A bright, eye-catching color is especially helpful for taping down cables to prevent tripping hazards—this way, you can ensure your crew will see the cables and stay safe. Colored gaffer’s tape is also helpful for labeling and signage.
The most common use for colored gaffe tape, however, is to label actor marks. There is a specific kind of gaffer’s tape known as “spike tape,” which was created uniquely for this application. Spike tape has a paper backing and is narrower, making it easy to remove from carpeting. As you mark out where actors should stand during a scene, make sure you use the same color for each actor throughout the entire production so there is no confusion.
Gaffer’s Tape vs. Duct Tape
Gaffer’s tape is unique and much more useful on set than other common tape products such as duct tape. Although it can be handy to have duct tape on set for various applications, you’ll find that duct tape:
- Is difficult to remove and leaves a residue behind
- Can be seen under bright lights
- Does not adhere to carpet very well
- May interfere with your visuals
- Cannot hold up to heat or foot traffic as well
- Can’t be easily torn by hand
Unlike other tape products, gaffer’s tape was specifically designed for production crews and is the best option for a variety of applications on your film set.
Find All the Gaffer’s Tape You Need at Wits End
Gaffer’s tape is one of the most versatile items to have on hand for every film production. From securing a backdrop to marking where actors stand, gaffer’s tape helps you handle a variety of circumstances on set—without any risk of causing damage to surfaces or leaving residue behind as you pack up.
When you’re ready to purchase gaffer’s tape, consider ordering from Wits End. Wits End has gaffer’s tape and spike tape available in a variety of colors, as well as all the other film supplies you need for a professional and successful shoot.