Key GripBuy good equipment

As a Key Grip, you need to make a good first and lasting impression with your equipment. Buying professional-looking equipment can help protect you if things go wrong when you are working for someone else, because people equate good-looking equipment with quality. On the other hand, if anything goes wrong, your employer may well blame your tools if they look sub-standard. If you have non-professional looking equipment, the filmmaker may blame anything that goes wrong on your efforts.

You might be tempted to use homemade equipment that you know well and that works well. However, that choice is a high risk strategy. If you value your reputation, then buy some good-looking tools.

Equipment you will need

Depending on your job, you might need the following equipment:

Moving cameras and other equipment: Two types of dollies are used to move cameras and other equipment: doorway and western dollies. Both the doorway and western dollies are made of a wooden platform attached to a steel tubing frame. The platform has a recessed camera tie-down area. They are useful for carrying cables, camera cases, lighting fixtures and much more.

A doorway dolly is less expensive, fits through standard doors and moves in straight lines. The dolly can be steered using the pull handle (like a wagon), although some newer dollies allow the operator to steer from on-board the dolly. This dolly comes with pneumatic tires, but can also be fitted with track wheels for a straight track. The steering handle of newer versions can be tilted down to give more space between the dolly and the operator.

The western dolly is more expensive, bigger, and can move larger equipment. The larger wheels give a steadier ride. You can also fit them with flotation track wheels, allowing it to be used on curves. The push bar can be side-mounted for close shots. Recent additions include allowing for the mounting of two seats and complete camera configuration, as well as pop-off wheels. This dolly’s wheel can also be extended so that it’s more stable.

Both dollies can be turned upside down for very low shots and both are carpeted to be non-slip and low-maintenance.

Health and safety is very important, so whenever you are using a dollie, consider using this process for the safest dismount for a camera person:  !) step on the arm; 2) get another grip to take the camera person’s place; 3) lock the brakes;  4) put the arm on the chains; and 5) and reduce the lead or mercury for counterbalance.

Dulling shiny objects: Dulling spray will dull down surfaces like chrome or mirrors to hide a camera’s reflection. Once sprayed, the surface looks foggy, a bit like dew on your car fender. You clean the spray off using a clean cloth. It leaves a slight, waxy shine. To get rid of the spray completely, use a warm, moist towel. If you don’t have dulling spray, you can use hairspray or a light coat of Streaks and Tips, although these won’t work as well.

Mount for lighting fixtures: A bazooka is a piece of equipment used to mount lighting fixtures and grip accessories onto the holes in the catwalk (the deck where the action to be filmed takes place, sometimes also called decks, greens, beds, green beds).

Clothing on set: Wearing dark clothes helps reduce reflection problems.

Tapes for all purposes: Many different types of tapes can be used for multiple purposes on set.

  • Double-faced tape: Two types of double-faced tape can be used on set. One type is sponge-like, while the other, called tack tape, is like thin cellophane. Both sides of both types of tape are sticky so that you can hold objects down during and after a shot.
  • White tape: This tape is used for identifying damaged equipment. This is a standard procedure in the industry, so having this equipment is important and expected.
  • Gaffer tape: Gaffer tape is a cloth-based tape, used when you need strong tape. It is often grey, and looks like the tape used for air-conditioning systems. Prevent tire tracks by putting tape over the thread on hard wheels and electric scissor lifts.
  • Paper tape: Use this tape to prevent light reflections. Is is matte and can be bought in black, so the camera just picks up a dull, dark area. Sizes come from one inch up.
  • Seven-day tape: This tape is a low-tack blue tape that comes off without marking surfaces. It sticks and removes well without taking paint. Please note that it is called “seven day tape.”
  • Black photo tape: Affixed to fluorescent lights, this tape will reduce glare.

Flying or hanging a rag: When you fly a rag in a frame or hang it, face the ribbon of the single, double or silk away from the camera, which is the color canvas edge that supports the grommets.

Fire-retardent cloth: You can use Duvatayne cloth for blacking out windows or making a scene look like it’s night. You can also use it for many other tasks, like as a non-scratch cloth or a shoulder pad.

Lubrication: Use silicone spray as a lubricant where you can’t use oil. It is good on dolly tracks that have dirt on them.

Ageing people or toning down bright objects: Streaks and tips is a spray-on hairspray that you can use to tone down a bright object or make an object look aged.  An example might be aging a fence that looks too new for the scene, for example. Once sprayed, the object will take on the spray’s colour, drying very quickly. The spray comes in a range of many colours. Use Streaks and Tips for greying actors’ hair at the temples, too, to give an actor an older look. A bonus of using this spray is that it washes out easily with water.

Smoke masks: If you are using created fog or sprayed special effects smoke, you need smoke masks, for everyone’s health and safety. It is good to have enough masks for everyone; if you supply only some people, others may think you are not concerned about them. This can happen especially when one or more people are very worried about health and safety issues. Recognize that some people will be very particular, while others are much more relaxed.

Explosion safety: If you are filming an explosion or a gun being fired in your film, again you obviously need to be on top of health and safety. Use Lexan, a piece of clear plastic, in front of the camera to protect the operator and camera from an explosion that’s being filmed or a gunshot near the camera. It comes in different sizes and thicknesses. Cut it with a 7 ¼’ circular saw using a combination carbide-tipped blade. Let the blade settle into the plastic, then start cutting.