Gaffer Tape: Everything You Always Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

Sometimes the glue that holds it all together isn’t glue at all. But tape. And not any kind of tape, mind you. This particular variety goes by many names: gaff, gaffe, gaffs, gaffer, and gaffer tape. But when it comes down to it, as Marty Gage says, “No matter what you call it, it’s just great tape!”

With 15 years of experience in the industry, Marty Gage knows a thing or two about the importance of high quality gaffer tape. He teamed up with a leading tape manufacturer and in 2013 launched Gaffer Power, a company determined to create the market’s best gaffer tape.

Gaffer Tape

Gaffer Tape: Everything You Want to Know

Filmmaking Stuff: So, what is gaffer tape, exactly?

Marty Gage: Gaffer tape is a heavy-duty, pressure-sensitive cotton cloth tape with adhesive properties. In other words, it’s tough and it sticks! It is used mainly in theater, film, and television productions as well as during live performances and any other kind of stage work. If you’re on a set of some sorts, you won’t have any difficulty finding gaffer tape!

Filmmaking Stuff: What are some specific ways gaffer tape is used on set?

Marty Gage: Although gaffer tape can be used for many things, its primary purpose is for securing cables to a stage floor or other surface. Since it’s easy to remove and doesn’t leave any sticky residue, it’s without a doubt the most popular roll of tape on set.

Filmmaking Stuff: Why not just call it tape?

Marty Gage: It got its name because the chief lighting technician on a film crew, also known as a gaffer, uses tons of this type of tape. When cables are taped down on a stage or other surface they are said to be “gaffed”.

Filmmaking Stuff: Why is this tape ideal for film and television?

Marty Gage: The main reasons are that it doesn’t leave any sticky residue, it’s easy to remove, and very easy to tear. So you can use it for markings and of course securing cables. It’s also very strong and waterproof.

Filmmaking Stuff: Sounds like a pretty integral element.

Marty Gage: From day one of shooting and right up until the very last Martini Shot, if the crew is on set, the gaffer rolls are being used.

Filmmaking Stuff: Would you use different tape for an exterior shoot versus interior?

Marty Gage: Real gaffer tape is waterproof so it can be utilized for both indoor and outdoor shoots. I say “real” because there are import gaffer tapes out there that are crap. No one on a film set would be caught dead with the import stuff. Premium gaffer tape, like Gaffer Power, is manufactured in America.

Filmmaking Stuff: You said it’s used for theater too. The heat given off by theater lights doesn’t compromise the integrity of the tape?

Marty Gage: Gaffer tape is the best tape for a theatre production as it is strong and hides in the background, and unlike duct tape for example. And again, when used for an extended period of time it won’t leave behind a sticky residue. So it’s the perfect tape for theatre.

Filmmaking Stuff: Gaffer Power manufactures a few different styles. How are different sizes and colors beneficial?

Marty Gage: There are many variations of gaffer tape. The two inch black tape is by far the most popular as it is used for securing cables. It is great because it doesn’t reflect light and blends nicely in the background. A one inch black gaffer tape can be used to help actors find their marks. White gaffer tape is also useful for markings and also to write notes on it. Lot’s of equipment boxes are labeled with white gaffer tape.

Filmmaking Stuff: You’ve mentioned a few times how great this product is because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue. Sounds like this tape may be more handy to have around the house than duct tape.

Marty Gage: With duct tape, the moment you apply it to something, forget about it! It ain’t going nowhere! This obviously is a good solution for things requiring permanent fixes. But trust me, you do NOT want to use duct tape on your computer or lamp cords! Since it’s been around now for quite some time, gaffer tape is starting to make it’s way into regular homes.

Filmmaking Stuff: What are some other ways you’ve seen gaffer tape used?

Marty Gage: Many people use gaffer tape for hanging pictures, adding weather proofing plastic to windows, repairs around the house, car patch-ups, hockey sticks, wallet patches. We actually have a 101 uses of gaffer tape on our site!

Filmmaking Stuff: Over one hundred? What’s the strangest way you’ve seen it used?

Marty Gage: The weirdest thing I’ve personally seen, is someone using tape on their toothbrush to create a better grip!

Filmmaking Stuff: I think I need to keep a roll of this around the house. Where can I buy it?

Marty Gage: It’s actually hard to find if you don’t live in a city with lots of filming. That’s why so many people buy it online. If it is available in your city, gaffer tape can be found in select hardware stores, audiovisual and camera shops.

What this boils down to is, if you’re involved in video, film, or theater productions, you’d better account for lots of gaffer tape in your budget. And heck, order a few rolls for yourself too. It’s about time to hang-up those portraits that have been leaning against the wall of your living room.

– – –

After 15 years of working in film and television in a variety of capacities, Marty Gage teamed up with a leading tape manufacturer in the US to produce a new brand of premium grade gaffer tape. Gaffer Power® was launched in December 2013 and is now the top selling brand of gaffer tape on Amazon. Gaffer Power® comes in several sizes and color and continues to expand in stores across America.

Photo of author

ARTICLE BY Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest filmmaker blogger. Please see more information about their bio in the post above. If you'd like to write a guest article for Filmmaking Stuff check out our Write for Filmmaking Stuff page for details about how YOU can share your ideas to the filmmaking community.