Grip 101: What Grips Do

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What to Know About Being a Grip V.2


Grips or Key Grips are lighting and rigging technicians in the North American Film Industry. On a film set, Key Grips run their own department which works closely with the camera department and the electrical department. Grips provide camera support on set by mounting camera equipment to  Tripods, Dollies, Cranes, Jibs, Ladders, etc etc. wherever the Director of Photography(DP) needs the shot and no matter how ridiculous. It is up to the grips to get the shot needed by the DP. Grips also work closely with the electrical department by helping set up light fixtures to create the right ambiance on camera under the direction of the DP


Grip Responsibilities


  • Lighting
    1. There are Union Grips as well as Indie Grips that populate the Industry. On union jobs, grips themselves do not handle the electrical equipment. That is all done by the electrical department led by the Gaffer. Grips set up and take down all the non electrical equipment that manipulates light, such as stands that hold nets, flags and other tools that diffuse or otherwise modify the intensity or shape of light.


Grips also help out by setting up scenes with “passive fill” light or “negative fill” light. Passive fill is when light is bounced back and reflected to a non-key light side (in Lighting, that’s the 2nd point where the light source isn’t directly pointed at the subject to help create a three dimensional appearance on film. “ Negative fill” is a term used to describe when there is ambient light, such as sunlight or city lights, that need to be blocked out in a shot. Grips help out by setting up large butterfly frames, usually 4’ x 4’ or 6’ x 6’ in size, covered in solid black rag

material in order to block out unnecessary illumination. When shooting daytime exterior shots, grips do the same but with the sun as the primary source of light. Large overhead frames (from 8’ x 8’ - 12’ x 12’ or larger) in order to shape or filter sunlight. Lighting for exterior shots can be quite extensive and the use of cherry pickers or condors is quite common. Condors and useful at night when they are used to raise lights to and diffusing material in order to create the moon-light effect.


  • Rigging

Grips also meet the needs for rigging while on set

Grips rig equipment around the set to in order to find the right angles and shot for the DP and Director.

Examples include rigging cars with hood mounts and side mounts for driving shots, “tenting out” or :black-out” windows and doors to create the right lighting atmosphere

Grips use many different types of equipment and rigging sets; ranging from basic to advanced kits.

  • Safety

Grips have to maintain safety on set as it pertains to equipment and the natural force of gravity,

Equipment has to be grounded and stable due to other crew members having to be on, around or otherwise use said equipment.

In some cases, Key Grips are held responsible for injuries that happen on set that are caused by falling or malfunctioning grip equipment.

  • Tools and Vernacular

Grips need experience and knowledge in common mechanical tools such as those used by plumbers and construction workers.

A tool belt should be maintained and at the ready for Grips to use

Common Words used by Grips:

          Arm up (Arm down) – To raise (or lower) the arm of a crane.

Baby – Light fixtures between 750 and 1000 watts that are manufactured with a 5/8 inch female receiver for attaching to mounting hardware.

Baby Plate – Used for mounting light fixtures that have a 5/8 inch receiver, also known as a ‘baby,’ to a flat surface, such as a wall or floor.

Bar – A horizontal metal tube used to suspend lighting equipment.

Batten – A narrow length of wood or metal used to fasten or secure equipment, such as the phrase “batten down the hatches.”

Bar Clamp (Furniture Clamp) – A clamp with two jaws attached to a bar that can be used to mount a small light fixture. One jaw is fixed to the bar and the other can be adjusted with a screw mechanism. Often used on set along with a bar clamp adapter.

Beef – Refers to the power of a light, such as “beef it up.”

BFL (Big F** Light | Big Fat Light) – Can refer to any of the large, heavy lights on a set.

Big Ben – Refers to a cheeseborough clamp with a one and 1/8 inch pin attached and can be used for several options, including along with a pipe to create a temporary overhead grid.

Black Wrap – A black aluminum foil generally used as a heat insulation or to shape the direction of light.

Blonde – 2,000 watt open-faced light fixtures usually made by an Italian manufacturer.

Boom Operator – The person who holds the microphone boom.

Boom up (Boom down) – To raise, or lower, a camera or microphone that is already mounted on a crane or dolly.

Butterfly Frame – A large aluminum frame that filters light through a fabric stretched from edge to edge, often used during outdoor shoots.

C-Stand – Originally known as a century-stand, it is designed to take up very little space and is generally made up of four parts, including the base, a vertical leg with multiple stands, a gobo head and a gobo arm. One of the most common pieces of equipment on a film set, it can hold a variety of reflectors, lights, show cards or boom microphones.

Chain Vise Grip – A vise grip with a chain that is often used to hang a lighting fixtures or equipment.

Condor – Named after the company that originally made extendable boom arms, it now refers to a variety of lift devices, including cherry-pickers. Generally used on set to position light between 30 and 120 feet in the air.

Cookie (Cucoloris) – A perforated material used to break up light or project a shadow pattern. Random shapes cut out of plywood or poster board are known as hard cookies, while random shapes cut out of plastic impregnated screen, are known as soft cookies. Natural cookies are created by placing objects found in nature, such as tree limbs, between a light source and an actor or subject.

Craft services – The catering service that provides buffet style snacks and drinks that are available to cast and crew throughout the shooting day. Should not to be confused with other catering companies that may be hired to serve full, hot sit-down meals, such as lunch or dinner.

Cutters – Generally refers to flags larger than 30 inches by 36 inches as well as odd shaped ones such as 12 inches by 42 inches or 18 inches by 48 inches which are used to block light from specific areas of the set.

Dailies (or Rushes) – The unedited footage of the day’s filming, often viewed by the director, director of photography and key production staff after shooting has wrapped for the day.

Dance Floor – Not to be confused with a traditional dance floor used for weddings or special events. A production dance floor generally refers to putting down a double layer of 3/4 inch plywood with the seams offset, topped with Masonite, to allow a camera dolly to ride smoothly in any direction. This process usually occurs when a floor or surface area is not level.

Dot – A small round scrim, mesh, net or solid material used to dim or control the brightness of a light, commonly used when a light cannot be dimmed electronically. May also be used when dimming a light would cause it to change color, such as fluorescent bulbs changing to an orange hue.

Duvetyne – A black, cotton fabric used to make flags, cutters and butterflies. The opaque material can also be used to reduce reflected light.

Feathering – A process of slowing down and speeding up a camera dolly extremely smoothly. For example, starting from a full stop, still position, the camera dolly must smoothly move up to the desired speed to capture the shot and then ease equally smoothly back to a complete stop.

Flag – A Duvetyne-covered metal frame used to shield certain areas from unwanted light or to create shadow areas on the set. May also be known as a solid or a gobo.

Gobo – A commonly used acronym for “Go Between,” “Go BlackOut” or “Goes Before Optics,” it is a dark plate, screen or partial screen placed in front of a lighting source to shield a lens and control the shape of emitted light. Sometimes also called a flag.

Grip Head – A mount on the top of a stand used to attach flags or cutters.

Hi Roller Stand – A wide based stand that may extend up to 20 feet, it provides stability when used as support for butterflies and overheads on locations or supports large backdrops in a studio setting.

Junior – A 2,000 watt light fixture that usually includes a one and 1/8 inch pin and is mounted into a female receiver on a stand.

Junior Plate – Used to mount light fixtures with a Junior pin to a flat surface, such as a wall.

Kill it – A command to turn off a light or cancel a lighting request.

Key light – The primary light source used during a scene.

Manmaker (Apple Box, Pancake, Half Apple, Quarter Apple) – A sturdy wooden box placed under an actor, crew member or object to make it taller or raise it up. Depending upon the height required, boxes are available in several options, including one inch, two inches, four inches and eight inches high.

Mafer Clamp – Featuring one flat and one v-notched jaw, both with padded grip surfaces, the clamp is used to attach equipment to an array of irregular surface, such as furniture.

Movie Slate – Clapperboard: A board placed in front of a camera at the beginning, and sometimes at the end, of each take of each scene. The board is usually black and white and is used to identify the scene and take numbers.

Offset Arm – A stand-mounted lighting fixture that can be extended off center over a wall or other object.

Redhead – Refers to 1,000 watt open-faced light fixtures.

Sandbag – Heavy cloth bags filled with sand that are used to secure equipment on set. Available in a variety of weights, sandbags commonly used by production companies are designed for ease of movement, such as draping over uneven objects like the legs of a lighting stand.

Side Arm – An extension tool that can be clamped onto a stand to allow for slightly offset positioning of a light or light control device. Available with baby or junior fittings, it is important to sandbag the opposite leg of the stand from the sidearm to prevent the stand from tipping over.

Snot Tape – A nickname for Adhesive Transfer Tape (ATG) 3M Scotch 1/2 inch tape, which is used to affix lighting gels to their frames, a pressure-sensitive tape.

Storyboard – An illustrated outline of a scene or film plot sequence.

Triple Header Baby – A piece of equipment mounted on a light stand which allows multiple light fixtures to be hung on a single stand with baby pins.

Triple Header Junior – A piece of equipment mounted on a light stand which allows several light fixtures to be hung on a single stand with junior receivers.

Wrap – The completion of a shot, a day’s filming or the entire production.

  • Specialty Grips

There are a few different types of Grip Positions available on a film crew and are as follows:

Key Grip or First Company Grip: the boss or head of the grip department.

Best Boy Grip or Second Company Grip: this is the key grip's right hand person. He or she will act on behalf of the key grip in areas such as booking crew and equipment rental.

3rd Grip, Company Grip or Gang Grip: the majority of grips fit into this category. They work on set under the direction of the key.

Construction Grip: Constructs and dismantles the set. On the sound stage, construction grips are responsible for laying out, building, moving, and adjusting major set pieces (e.g. walls, ceiling flats) when something needs to be moved to get a camera or lights into position. Construction grips also build decks and platforms. This job is exclusively practiced in the New York area.

Dolly Grip: operates the dollies and sometimes camera cranes. He or she is a first hire, like the key grip.

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