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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 to work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes. The second main function of grips is to work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups necessary for a shot under the direction of the director of photography.
Grips' responsibility is to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. This equipment, which includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes, and static rigs, is constructed of delicate yet heavy duty parts requiring a high level of experience to operate and move. Every scene in a feature film is shot using one or more cameras, each mounted on highly complex, extremely expensive, heavy duty equipment. Grips assemble this equipment according to meticulous specifications and push, pull, mount or hang it from a variety of settings. The equipment can be as basic as a tripod standing on a studio floor, to hazardous operations such as mounting a camera on a 100 ft crane, or hanging it from a helicopter swooping above a mountain range.
Good Grips perform a crucial role in ensuring that the artifice of film is maintained, and that camera moves are as seamless as possible. Grips are usually requested by the DoP (Director of Photography) or the camera operator. Although the work is physically demanding and the hours are long, the work can be very rewarding. Many Grips work on both commercials and features.
In the UK, Australia and most parts of Europe, grips are not involved in lighting. In the "British System", adopted throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), a grip is solely responsible for camera mounting and support.
The term "grip" is from the early era of the circus. From there it was used in vaudeville and then in today's film sound stages and sets. Some have suggested the name comes from the 1930s–40s slang term for a tool bag or "grip" that these technicians use to carry their tools. Another theory is that in the days of hand-cranked cameras, it was necessary for a few burly men to hang onto the tripod legs to stop excessive movement of the camera. These men became known as the "good grips"—as they were constantly being instructed to "keep a good grip on the tripod".
US grips typically belong to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Canadian grips may also belong to IATSE or to Canada's other professional trade unions including Toronto's Nabet 700, or Vancouver's ACFC. British grips usually belong to BECTU (Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph & Theatre Union).Read more...
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