By Ellis Vener
Do you need gaffer’s tape at all? Yes you do. Unlike duct tape, gaffer’s tape leaves almost no sticky residue, is waterproof, and is easy to cut and deliberately tear. At the same time it is strong and reasonably heat resistant. You might even need different colors of it.
We use gaffer tape for a wide variety of jobs, not only for taping down cables and identifying bits of gear, but also for holding props in place, marking where people need to stand, locking down focus rings (useful for aerial, macro and stitched panoramic photography) and de-linting subjects’ dark clothes. It’s also useful for making minor repairs. But, until recently, the problem with gaffer tape has been that it mostly came in long three-inch wide heavy rolls and only in black, gray, and white. We use gaffer’s tape a lot, but a single full-size roll of the stuff will last me a couple of years at least as mostly we only need small short lengths, unless we're taping down power cords. Rather than buy and carry around full-size rolls of different colors Visual Departure’s microGAFFER packages solve both the space, weight and price problem. It’s also an advantage that it comes in a range of colors.
For starters, the microGAFFER rolls are small—only 1 inch wide and 8 yards long—and come on small cores. A roll is small enough to fit a couple of them in your jeans pocket or in a small camera bag compartment. A package of four rolls is roughly the size of a 50mm Canon or Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens and hood.
Beyond securing cables, gaffer’s tape in different colors works great to create quickly identifiable markers for different tools. You use it to know this power cord goes to this light or this remote goes with this camera, this lens hood goes with this lens, etcetera. Even if you don’t have a lot of gear, this makes for a more efficient way of working and packing up before and after a shoot.
MicroGAFFER tape kits come in four-roll packs and in two options. The monochrome packs contain two black, one gray and one white roll. The microGAFFER Fluorescent tape kits each contain one roll of really bright orange, green, pink and yellow tape. The street price for either kit is $19.95.
Background: So what the heck is a gaffer and why do they have a need for a special type of tape? On a movie or television set, gaffer is the official title for the chief electrician. This means that the gaffer (and the gaffer’s assistant, known as the best boy) and the rest of the electrical department are responsible for all of the lighting instruments, a job that includes making sure all of the electrical cables stay safely and securely connected. Grips, on the other hand, are the people responsible for setting up and rigging the lights and modifiers. The worlds of cinematography and still photography have always borrowed from each other—some tools, like collapsible softboxes, have migrated from the world of still photography to film photography, while other tools—like gaffer’s tape and C-Stands—have migrated the other way.