I just spent a couple of weeks gaffering for DP Paul Dudbridge on a feature shoot in South Wales. It was pretty much my first time gaffering, and I certainly made some classic mistakes. Here are some tips I’ve compiled as a result of my recent experiences.
- Make sure cables have slack so the DP can adjust the positions of lamps.
- Take extra time running cables initially so they are least likely to be in shot and won’t have to be rerouted later.
- Swap out batteries on LED panels during coffee breaks or other downtime so they don’t go off during takes.
- Keep track of how much power you’re drawing off each circuit to avoid tripping breakers. See Gaffering Basics for more on this.
- Make sure you have access to the consumer unit (fuse box) so you can reset a tripped breaker straight away.
- If drawing a large load off a 13A socket, periodically check the plug isn’t getting too warm – occasionally they can melt.
- Righty tighty, lefty loosy. Make sure the weight on a C-stand knuckle is pulling it clockwise, i.e. tightening it.
- Bulbs are most fragile when they’re hot – i.e. when they’re on or have recently been on – so handle them with particular care.
- Observe the minimum safe distances illustrated on the lampheads. The heat can crack a window or burn a flag if placed too close.
- When bouncing tungsten lights off the ceiling, black-wrap them straight away to cut out direct spill.
- Be sure to disable the building’s fire alarm or bag the smoke detectors before switching on a smoke machine.
- Keep an eye on the smoke level in the room and top it up when necessary.
- Stay within earshot of the DP so you can respond to requests.
- Anticipate DP requests: if you look at the monitor and see that the backlight is flaring, get a flag ready; if a lamp looks too hot on camera, break in a dimmer.