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The Many Uses of Gaffer Tape in Film Production

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/7/2011

Here is a look into gaffer tape, which is a versatile work tape that is used in the film industry.

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    Film Industry Supplies

    Some of the more common film industry supplies used in production have become required institutions of themselves. One of these is gaffer tape, which is titled after the electrical and lighting department on a film set. Gaffer tape is inexpensive and one of the most standard of all film industry supplies, and will likely be in the pack of every single below-the-line crew member on a professional set. If you are wondering why you will actually need to add gaffer tape to your list of film industry supplies here is a look at all the different ways that gaffer tape is actually used in film production.

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    Electrical

    Gaffer tape is a sturdy tape that is also very pliable, unlike electrical tape. This means that it is going to be easy to tear segments of, use, and then remove without any issues. This makes it a good option for use along with electrical cords and securing areas around lighting kits. This may allow you to separate the cords running power in various directions, which are more numerous on sets than in any other working situation. Since the temporary furniture of the lighting equipment tends to not be native to a location it is important to try to limit the exposure of stray wires as much as possible with your gaffer tape.

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    Marks

    The position of the camera is meant to capture the objects in front in their correct position. Usually, the actors will be walking into frame or moving into it in some other way, and this does not ensure that they will hit the right position for the selected framing. To make sure that they will be able to get into the suggest position you must set marks, which are actual "marks" on the ground where the must hit so as to fit the shot. Gaffer tape is often the primary film industry supply that is used to place these actor marks because it is often easy to see, especially since there are multiple colors available, and it is easy to move on and off without damaging the surface or leaving fragments.

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    Art Direction

    There are a lot of different props, set dressings, and other things that are brought into a location so that you can transform it until it matches the one from your screenplay. You do not usually have the ability to actually alter the location in a lasting way, so instead you have to make the location look as though it is really existing without making it difficult to "break down," so to speak. To do this you will often apply gaffer tape to hang things up on the wall, bring together cloth accessories, and nail props down so that they will not move.

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    Pulling Focus

    Though artist tape can often be an easier use for this, gaffer tape is often used to mark focus on the camera you are using. The focus must be manually pulled in film and HD cameras, and you can then look at the focus settings so that focus changes will retain a sharp image. You can then use the gaffer tape on the focus ring so that you can mark the focal points you will need to turn to. This allows for clarity and ease when the director of photography needs to change the focal length, and is often used by the assistant camera person in these situations.