Gaffer (filmmaking)

Gaffer (filmmaking)

A gaffer in the motion picture industry is the head of the electrical department, responsible for the execution (and sometimes the design) of the lighting plan for a production. In British English the term gaffer is long established as meaning an old man, or the foreman of a squad of workmen. The term was also used to describe men who adjusted lighting in English theatre and men who tended street lamps, after the "gaff" they used, a pole with a hook on its endFact|date=June 2008.

Sometimes the gaffer is credited as Chief Lighting Technician (CLT).

Experienced gaffers can coordinate the entire job of lighting, given knowledge of the time of day and conditions to be portrayed, managing resources as broad as electrical generators, lights, cable, and manpower. Gaffers are responsible for knowing the appropriate color of gel (plastic sheeting) to put on the lights or windows to achieve a variety of effects, such as transforming midday into a beautiful sunset. They can re-create the flicker of lights in a subway car, the motion of light inside a turning airplane, or the passage of night into day.

Usually, the gaffer works for and reports to the director of photography (the DP or DOP) or, in television, the Lighting Director (LD). The DP/LD is responsible for the overall lighting design, but he or she may give a little or a lot of latitude to the gaffer on these matters, depending on their working relationship. The gaffer works with the key grip, who is in charge of some of the equipment related to the lighting. The gaffer will usually have an assistant called a best boy and, depending on the size of the job, crew members who are called "electricians", although not all of them are trained as electricians in the usual sense of the term. Colloquially they are known as 'sparks'.

Many gaffers are expected to own a truck complete with most basic lighting equipment and then rent extra lighting equipment as needed.


The exact origin of "gaffer" remains obscure. There are, however, a few hypotheses:

Early studios were "available light" only, so there were articulated mirrored panels in the roof of the studio buildings that could be pushed from the floor by long "gaff" poles to bounce the sunlight to where it was needed on the set. Because the Earth moves continuously these hinged panels would need to be gaffed after each take. Once electric lighting instruments became the standard equipment, the light operators were known as electricians while the older, more experienced lighting technicians were still known as gaffers. Eventually it came to mean someone in charge of lighting.

Also posited: early films used mostly natural light, which stagehands controlled with large tent cloths using long poles called gaffs (a gaff is a type of boom on a sailing ship), or a pole with a hook on the end to assist in bringing nets or large fish aboard.

It should also be noted that gaffer tape, an adhesive tape used on the theatrical stage and the film set may have its name derived from the job of gaffer. It is known for having many uses, and its wide-spread utilitarian use could be easily likened to duct tape.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Below the line (filmmaking) — In budgeting a motion picture or television production, below the line costs include the salaries of the non starring cast members and the technical crew, as well as use of the film studio and its technical equipment, travel, location, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Grip (job) — In the U.S. and Canada, grips are lighting and rigging technicians in the filmmaking and video production industries. They constitute their own department on a film set and are directed by a key grip. Grips have two main functions. The first is… …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Parry — Articleissues cleanup = October 2008 context = October 2008 importance = October 2008 intromissing = October 2008 refimprove = October 2008 wikify = October 2008Michael Parry is an American filmmaker. He attended the American Film Institute s… …   Wikipedia

  • List of film topics — This is a list of film related topics. National cinemas | glossary | Lists... | genres/plots | personnel | details | success | recognition | links | geography | other | see also National and regional cinemas: *African Cinema *Cinema of Albania… …   Wikipedia

  • Film editing — is part of the creative post production process of filmmaking. It involves the selection and combining of shots into sequences, and ultimately creating a finished motion picture. It is an art of storytelling. Film editing is the only art that is… …   Wikipedia

  • Tania Villarreal Ramírez — El texto que sigue es una traducción defectuosa o incompleta. Si quieres colaborar con Wikipedia, busca el artículo original y mejora o finaliza esta traducción. Puedes dar aviso al autor principal del artículo pegando el siguiente código en su… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Film crew — For the comedic team, see The Film Crew. A film crew is a group of people hired by a production company for the purpose of producing a film or motion picture. Crew are distinguished from cast , the actors who appear in front of the camera or… …   Wikipedia

  • Director of audiography — The Director of Audiography (DoA)[1] is the head of the sound department and the person responsible for planning the audiography and managing the audiographers of a film. The role of audiographer and the title director of audiography derives from …   Wikipedia

  • Dan Rahmel — (born 1972) is an American author best known for his work relating to Visual Basic and database servers. Rahmel first began work as a writer for various magazines including DBMS, American Programmer, and Internet Advisor. He co authored his first …   Wikipedia

  • Post-production — Video editing suite Post production is part of filmmaking and the video production process. It occurs in the making of motion pictures, television programs, radio programs, advertising, audio recordings, photography, and digital art. It is term… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.