The Long and Short of Tape: How to Use It like a Pro on a Film Set

Whether you’re a one-man-band or a 1st AC on a major production, you’re gonna wanna know how to use tape on a film set.

Tape: a glorious invention that peaked its sticky head out in 1845 and went on to evolve and change to suit every user’s needs, whether it was to seal wounds after surgery, waterproof grenade cartridges, or, you know, to make a bomb ass prom dress

For filmmakers, it’s all about gaff tape. It’s essential. It’s critical. Some even say that it’s the lifeblood of the moving picture (no one has ever said that) and filmmakers all across the globe would be lost on set without it (everyone probably says that).

So, if you’re gearing up for your first gig as a 1st AC or are amassing supplies for your own project, you’ll definitely want to know how the pros put gaff tape, as well as other types of tape, to work on set. In this super quick video, Justin Robinson of Film Riot gives you a ton of great tips on working with the sticky stuff. Check it out below:

Using Gaff Tape Like a Warrior Princess

First of all, can I just say that I’m really amazed at the places my job takes me sometimes? Like, I just studied the history of adhesives and tape for a good 20 minutes…and I do not regret it. (Looked at duct tape dresses for a solid 10 minutes on top of that.)

Moving on.

So, Robinson goes over a few really important things regarding the use of gaff tape, including the different types that are used on film sets and what they’re used for. However, he also goes over one very, very, very friggin’ important little thing that many new filmmakers don’t do that will immediately make you everybody’s least favorite friend: how to rip tape.

No one wants to fumble with tape while department heads are screaming at them to put down markers or label some memory cards, ripping one of those long spaghetti strips in front of the entire crew like a goddamn IDIOT. All you gotta do to avoid all that drama is just fold it, baby. Do a little “twist and fold” move before you tear yourself a piece so you leave a tab on the end of your piece as well as on the roll.

Wut dat 1st AD Do?

Now, if you’re reading about how to use gaff tape like a warrior princess, you’re either:

  • bored
  • in love with adhesives
  • a 1st AC
  • a bored 1st AC who’s in love with adhesives

No doubt you want to be really, ridiculously good at your job, right? If you’re not exactly sure what it takes to be good at your job, check out this video from The Slanted Lens, which goes over a lot of great advice on how to be a good 1st AC.

The 1st AC’s Toolkit

Since we’re on the topic of tape and stuff, let’s talk about 1st AC gear. Assuming you’ve watched the first two videos, you know your shit when it comes to tape and being a good 1st AC, but as the saying goes: a person is only as good as their tools (which is kind of dumb…pretty sure Picasso could make a masterpiece with literal shit). So, what kinds of tools should a 1st AC have on hand when they’re on set? Let’s find out, friends! Here’s a great video by Constantinos Christou that lays out all the essentials for a 1st AC’s toolkit.

Well, it’s been real, gang. I’m hoping that these videos got you nice and acquainted with not only, you know, tape, but with the filmmaking gig that is often attached to that tape (probably with more tape). If you’re a 1st AC or have ever been one, please share your own insight about the job down in the comments below! 

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