Industry Highlight: Film & Television
It’s easy to think of only industrial applications when we talk rigging, but rigging’s found everywhere—Especially behind the TV screen in the entertainment industry.
When making a feature film or TV show, it takes many people behind the scenes running the lights, camera, sets, costumes, makeup…and the rigging! In the film industry, rigging technicians are referred to as grips. Although it’s one of the lesser-known film-industry teams, they are an integral part of many different aspects within film-making.
Next time you’re enjoying a movie full of fun camera angles or high-speed Hollywood chase scenes—Know that a grip made that possible!
What Does the Grip Department Do?
The grip department is in charge of all rigging needs behind the scenes—Lifting, carrying, transporting, rigging, operating, building, and placing production equipment where it needs to be. This means they’re in charge of all equipment that helps to lift or hoist other equipment, often with a main focus on:
- Camera rigs -- Used to stabilize camera movements or to achieve difficult angles
- Lighting rigs -- Used to achieve specific lighting techniques or effects.
But it doesn’t stop there. Grips often play more roles then the actors on set, including the role of carpenter, electrician, mechanic, and of course, rigger. They’re the people who make showbiz function.
The grip team is often led by what is referred to as the “Key Grip”, the team lead, and the “Best Boy”, the second-in-command.
Rigging Equipment Used in Film
Grips have to be ready to be thrown into many different types of rigging jobs on set working with equipment like:
- Cranes -- Want to see a camera crane in action? Check out this video.
- Static Rigs
- Camera Mounts
- Light Mounts
Rigging Grips often work with specialized companies to tailor-make pieces of equipment to facilitate what’s needed for the specific production. Things like difficult camera maneuvers sometimes require specialized equipment, especially if the filming is taking place in a location with extreme terrain and/or severe weather conditions.
Check out this video by the RocketJump Film School that goes through some of the equipment used by Rigging Grips and how to use it! Pigeon plate? Gobo head? Quarter apple? Yes, these are real terms and not random gibberish! Of course, it makes sense a fun job like this would mean lots of fun nicknames for the rigging equipment used.
One of the key types of equipment you’ll see featured in this video are different types of lifting clamps. Lifting clamps are used to latch onto plates, sheets, grinders, pipes and other materials for positioning, hoisting and transferring. This eliminates the need for creating a hitch or drilling into the material—A key element when working on sets that can’t be modified for rigging purposes.
Hercules SLR sells Crosby lifting clamps with a variety of working load capacities and jaw opening sizes. Crosby lifting clamps are produced using advanced manufacturing techniques and are able to withstand abusive field conditions. Each clamp is individually proof tested to two times the working load limit and you’ll always find the Crosby logo, working load limit (WLL), jaw opening, unique serial number, and proof load test date permanently stamped on the clamp bodies.
How Grips Facilitate Safety on Set
Like we always say here at Hercules SLR, rigging is all about safety. The end goal of any rigging task should always boil down to getting the job done while keeping the people, product, and environment unharmed. Since Grips are responsible for all of the rigging on set, they also become responsible for some of the most important safety precautions.
As the video above goes through each of the pieces of hardware and how to use them -- They are sure to mention what measures are necessary to keep the equipment safe and secure. Nobody wants expensive lights or other film equipment falling mid-shoot and smashing into a million pieces, and more importantly, nobody wants that to happen over an actor or crew member’s head!
Some of the mentioned safety measures include:
Cotter Pins: Cotter pins act as a locking mechanism and prevents parts from slipping off other parts.
Safety Cables: Safety Chains are an important part of many different applications of rigging and simply stops the fixture from falling if the hardware fails. The safety is attached to the hardware and looped around the beam or bar it is attached to. This way if the clamp fails, the fixture will only drop a short distance and be caught by the chain.
Safety Tip -- Always check the weight rating set on safety chains to ensure it can take the weight of the clamp and anything it’s holding -- Otherwise, it too will break in case of the hardware failing!
Sandbags: Sandbags are a popular choice for counterweights in the film and theatre industry. In the video, you see them used to weight down a floor plate, but they are also used to secure scenery and props, balance hemp rigging, and a variety of other purposes. They come in a variety of sizes and weights!
Cribbing: Cribbing is used only when clamping on a wooden surface as there is little way to tighten a clamp onto a wooden surface enough for it to be secure, without damaging the wood. Cribbing refers to two pieces of wood that you place on either side of the wooden surface so you may tighten the clamp as much as needed without worrying about damaging the structure itself. This may be seen as more of a cosmetic precaution in other industries, but within the film industry, it’s the only way they can tighten their clamps to a safe point while on the set of a historical home, school or hospital.
As you would imagine, filming doesn’t always take place in locations that are set up for rigging. Often times Grips are faced with figuring out how to rig in tricky locations that may seem impossible to reach. So how do they do it? Rope access!
Rope Access is an innovative access solution that enables a technician to use two ropes and a harness system to position themselves in nearly any work environment. This eliminates the need for scaffolding or other heavy access equipment in locations that simply can’t support it. Using the unique gear system, the grip can maneuver themselves with complete 360-degree mobility in difficult locations while completing the task at hand.
Confined space training may be necessary based on the environment they are working in, and is a great way to ensure the safety of your team while rigging in tight locations. Confined Space Entrant/Attendant
Training (CSEA) is just one of the many courses available at the Hercules Training Academy!