What is a Gaffer Tape Used for ?

If you are a film junky like me, you must be one of those people who like to watch movies till the last credits roll up. Have you ever wondered who or what the gaffer is? Well, a gaffer, in a film crew, is the head electrician. Basically, as a gaffer, you will execute the lighting plan for the movie production or sometimes even the sound design. As a result, one of the handiest tools you will need is a gaffer tape.

There are no questions about it, a gaffer tape is simply a must have in any film set.  You can use a gaffer tape to tape down film paraphernalia since the tape is made out of strong and tough pressure sensitive cotton not to mention the amazing adhesive properties. Furthermore, a good quality gaffer tape can be removed easily from any surface without leaving a sticky residue thanks to the petroleum –based adhesive make that they come with.

And since you are going to use it on a film set, you will appreciate the fact that they not only come in a variety of colors but are mostly made of non-reflective material to give you an easy time lighting and setting up your production set. Unlike a duct tape, gaffer tapes will not stretch even if you are only using a short piece. Plus, gaffer tapes tear straight which can be quite handy during a fast paced shoot that requires you to act quickly.


In this post we will take a look at some of the main places where a gaffer tape is mostly useful in film production, with a definitive guide on the brands that exist out there.

Where to use a gaffer tape in film

As modest as the gaffer tape is, its usefulness should not be overlooked. You will need one for practically every quick fix in any department of film production. With over 50 use cases, I came up with some of the most common ones. Check them out.

What are some General purpose uses of a gaffer tape?

Well great! Let’s start with the general purpose use cases. They include;

  • Labeling everything from lapel mics, to walkie talkies and props
  • You can also use it as a sticky note when there is no pen and paper around
  • Use it to label stand ins and give your actors and crew direction around the set
  • When the wardrobe doesn’t fit, you can use a gaffer tape to hold things in place
  • Easily remove logos from props with a gaffer tape
  • You can mark prop locations on set with a gaffer tape
  •  Hang up paper or cloth
  • Sealing a leaking sandbag

Using a gaffer tape for Electricity and Grip

When it comes to electricity and grip, the use cases for a gaffer tape are endless. Here are some of the most common ones;

  • Use it while marking positions for your lights
  • Label and identify power settings when adjusting from one shot to the other
  • Use it to attach two reflectors together
  • Keep cables plugged in ( especially if you have old wall outlets)
  • Label storage cases or boxes
  • Attaching gels to lights
  • Taping cables to the floor to prevent grandma from tripping J
  • Attaching a small light to hand prop
  • Securing cables to a stand
  • Secure two connecting cables at a plug. Make it easy to pull off by rolling the edges of the tape
  • Attach an umbrella to a light or camera tripod to keep it dry

Camera and sound recording

Nice! We all know that the sound and camera departments pretty much make up the entire film shooting process. After all, how you use your gaffer tape depends on the problem at hand. Here are some of the most useful examples in these two departments.

  • Prevent microphones from getting muted accidentally with a gaffer tape
  • Attach a filter to a lens
  • Use it to hold a broken lens in place
  • You can use it as a label for your channel mixers
  • If you have no other alternative, use it to tape a lapel mic to an actor
  •  in a low budget shoot you can use it to protect the bottom of your camera
  • You can mark your manual set up on your DRLR to know when what mode your shooting with a single glance
  • Use it as extra protection from scuffing your camera and sound gear

Where can I buy my gaffer tapes

As a specialized item, one of the best places to shop for a gaffer tape is in a film or prop store in your location. If they rent out film equipment or sell filmmaking gear, there is a good chance they will have some quality gaffer tapes. Furthermore, since a gaffer tape comes with a variety of use cases beyond film, you can also check out photography shops, music stores as well as other industrial stores. If you still can’t find anything, it would be a good idea to check online. Here are some of the best brands you will find online.

Top 3 best gaffer tape brands

Tape King


The Tape King is a go to gaffer tape for any film maker on a low budget. The reason is simple; it comes with a much lower cost per roll especially when compared to its competitors. Even though it has a slightly lower quality, it still delivers the adhesiveness you would expect with a gaffer tape and it leaves little to no messy adhesive residue behind. With its black matte vinyl finish this gaffer tape can easily blend wherever you put it as it has a non-reflective surface.

Xfasten


Built as a cotton cloth tape, the XFasten Gaffer Tape is one of the best you will find as it boasts of a rubber adhesive that is also abrasion and water resistant. It is designed for those who do not want to break the bank while still looking to get value for their purchase. You can easily start a tear at your desired length thanks to the fact that it’s made with a stiffer edge that lets you use your hands as a  pair of scissors. And, if you are going to use it in a darkened theatre, you will love its non-reflective properties. However, there have been a few complaints about its adhesion being a little weak. The good side to this is that it only requires a small amount of force to rip it off once you are done with it. No pain at all.

Gaffer Power


There is a reason why Gaffer Power is the best selling gaffer tape and an Amazon’s Choice. Simply, put, Gaffer Power is made to fit industry standards of what a gaffer tape is. Although slightly pricey, this gaffer tape has it all. From the easy to rip properties, non-reflective surfaces and even its water resistance qualities that keep the surface of your gear protected. In fact you will be hard pressed to find any complaints about this gaffer tape as it is an all purpose tape that just works.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you are better off ordering a couple of gaffer tape rolls for a rainy day if you are involved in film productions. If you only do one man projects where you do the whole shooting by yourself, a good example being a YouTube channel, a gaffer tape will be your savior most if not all the time, literally. Hopefully by now you get the point; you can use a gaffer tape for pretty much anything both in and out of film production. So get out there and start rolling that tape to get the best out of your film shooting experience.

  • Updated a couple of months ago