If you're thinking about becoming a cinematographer, you might find yourself taking on the role of a gaffer or grip as you build your career. While you can learn what exactly a gaffer is here, they are considered to be the chief lighting technician on set, while the grip department can support both the camera and lighting departments.  

When it comes to performing either position on set, you simply cannot show up empty-handed. You're going to need some essential tools to do your job efficiently, effectively, and safely.

As a gaffer and set lighting technician in Portland, Oregon, I entered the world of video production as a one-man band filming BMX videos, weddings, and corporate events. I eventually started meeting crew who were specialists in their department, which opened my eyes to another level of production. I always had a huge interest in lighting and eventually realized that was my path. I decided to dive deep into the electrical department.

The gaffer is the head of the electrical department, and it's their job to work with the DP to help them realize their lighting needs and execute the plan with their team. This requires a mix of technical knowledge and creativity. Electricity can be dangerous, and it takes a great department leader to ensure that everyone on set is safe.

The electrical department not only powers their own lights, but makes sure the camera has power, video village, sound, crafty, HMU—it all comes back to the electric department. Even within the department, people can specialize in certain areas. Electricians might specialize in rigging, first unit, best boy, generator operator, etc.

The majority of my work here in Portland is corporate jobs with a one- to three-person grip and electric (G&E) crew. At this size of production, often the line between grip and electric is blurred. So it’s good to have a basic understanding of both departments. At the Hollywood level, a gaffer might not touch a piece of gear for an entire movie. At a smaller scale, I’m much more hands-on and do much of the heavy lifting myself.

Since I’m used to working with a small crew, this is the toolkit that I’ve put together to make sure that I can get the job done without excuses.

The List:

Essential Gear

Essential Tools 

Essential Electric 

Did we miss any gear? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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