Industry Highlight | Film and Television Rigging

film and tv entertainment rigging

Industry Highlight: Film & Television 

Lights, Camera—Rig?!

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:

  • Tripods
  • Dollies
  • Tracks
  • Jibs
  • 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.

Rope Access

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


Entertainment Industry Rigging Safety | 12 Tips from CM

entertainment industry rigging, hercules securing, lifting and rigging


Columbus McKinnon joins us on the Hercules SLR blog to share their best tips for safe entertainment industry rigging.

Read on & learn how to set-up and stay safe in the theatre, arena or wherever the lights, camera & action take you—What are you waiting for, check out CM’s entertainment industry rigging tips.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #1 | always check for damaged cablesentertainment industry rigging, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging

Before you plug it in or switch it on, always check for damaged cables. It only takes a few seconds to make sure things are safe, but it takes a lot longer to heal from electrical burns. Always assume there could be a hazard. 


ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #2 | help fight the good entertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & riggingfight against rust & corrosion 

Keep up with frequent and periodic inspections of your rigging and hoists. You can find details on what is required for frequent and periodic inspections in your Lodestar Manual, as well as in the ANSI E1.6-2-2013 standard.


ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #3 | inspect your rigging before and after every useentertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging

Like many riggers, synthetic slings are super strong, but also very sensitive to being rubbed the wrong way. Always take a moment to inspect your rigging before and after use. The scuff mark on this sling was an indication to examine for other damage.

If you can see the core material, then it is time to retire the sling. Sling inspections are 50% visual and 50% tactile.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #4 | before getting into entertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigginga high-reach, or any other aerial work platform, take a few minutes to do a pre-operational inspection of equipment

Working safely at height requires constant attention to detail.

Before getting into a high reach, or any type of aerial work platform, take a few minutes to do a pre-operational inspection of the equipment. Whether the damage in these pictures occurred from corrosion or a single incident, it is an indicator that there may be other unseen problems with this machine. 

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #5 | look out for those who can’t do so for themselves entertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging

Some days you never know what nature is going to put in your path. While our own safety is paramount, it is also important to look out for those who cannot do so for themselves. Be nice to our little furry and feathered friends. Find a gentle way to help these birds relocate to a more suitable home.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #6 | check compatibility between rigging attachments and their respective capacities  

Rigging to the low steel and need maximum trim height? Using a beam clamp is a more practical alternative than rigging with wire rope slings when you have to get tight up to that beam. Remember to check for compatibility between rigging attachments and their respective capacities.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #7 | hardware compatibility is critical to safe rigging applications entertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging

Hooks are designed to take load in the “saddle” or “bowl”. The safe working load of a hook can be severely reduced when loads are applied to the tip. While this example may or may not lead to a failure, it still begs the question of what other shortcuts or missteps may have been taken during this installation? Will that loose piece of sash cord get sucked into the hoist? Safe rigging is all about attention to detail.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #8 | know your voltage setting 

Do you know which voltage setting your CM Lodestar is set for? It only takes a minute to pull the cap off and check. Most entertainment applications will use the low voltage option. Luckily, Lodestars are equipped for dual voltage options. 

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #9 | consider using clove hitches  entertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging

Using a clove hitch on the chain, 6-12 inches below the hook, can make it much easier to clip into your rigging point. With one hand (or foot) on the rope, the other is free to complete the attachment. Also, there is no chance for the rope to get pinched between the hook and shackle. Always remember to back up that clove hitch with a half hitch on top to prevent roll-out.






ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #10 | important truss tower safety considerationsentertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging

Portable truss towers have become very popular in recent years. They are easy to erect and can be installed quickly with a small crew. Three important safety considerations for these systems are:

  1. Evaluation by an engineer for site-specific considerations and high wind action plans.
  2. Maintaining weather monitoring systems, so prompt action can be taken should inclement weather occur.
  3. Securing the load from swinging with proper rigging hardware. The lever hoists, in this example, are also being used to focus the speakers. 

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #11 | inspect your PPE before each use

The personal protective equipment we use is only effective if we inspect and care for it properly. Before putting on that harness or lanyard, take a moment to inspect all of the stitching, buckles, and attachments.

Make it a habit to do “buddy checks” with your co-workers too. A second set of eyes may see something yours did not. If it doesn’t look right, don’t use it.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY RIGGING TIP #12 | make an effort to seek knowledge and personal growth

No matter how much you already know, there is always room for more training. The culture of our industry is more focused on training than ever these days. Whether you find that training online, on the job, or in a classroom, never be afraid to ask questions. The more knowledge we have, the safer we, and those around us, will be. entertainment industry rigging safety, check cables, hercules securing, lifting & rigging












Hercules SLR is part of the Hercules Group of Companies. We have a unique portfolio of businesses nationally, with locations coast-to-coast. Hercules Group of Companies provides extensive coverage of products and services that support a variety of sectors across Canada which includes the energy, oil & gas, manufacturing, construction, aerospace, infrastructure, utilities, mining and marine industries. 

Hercules Group of Companies is comprised of: Hercules SLRHercules Machining & Millwright ServicesSpartan Industrial MarineStellar Industrial Sales and Wire Rope Atlantic.

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