Tabbing tape is important for many reasons, but none is more important than speed. Often times on set there isn’t room to be wasting time picking at a roll of tape or running your fingers along trying to find where it breaks. Having it tabbed means you can grab a piece quickly and easily.
This technique I will show can be used on any type of tape, though it’s harder on gaffers/cloth tape, and will help keep your tape roll more accessible in the future. (This trick is for people who are right handed so those who are lefty’s just reverse the instructions – or learn to be ambidextrous).
Step 1 – Tab the tape to begin with
When starting with a fresh roll or un-tabbed roll, you may have to simply fold it over and tab it to begin with. That’s OK because if you use this technique, the roll will forever stay tabbed afterward.
Step 2 – Pull up on the tape and place the tip of your finger behind it on the left side
Make sure not to place your finger all the way across the tape roll, only the tip. Protrude your finger only about 1/4″ in. This is used for leverage in the next step.
Step 3 – Pull the tape down and to the right, forming a right angle
This is the part where most people flub up. It should all be in one fluid motion. You will have to pull the tape away from you, down and to the right all at the same time. It’s tricky to get at first but after practice you’ll begin to master it.
Step 4 – Remove your finger from behind the tape and press your left thumb over top of it
At this point you are creating the tab for the next piece of tape you will rip off. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it should be creased nicely.
Step 5 – Pull down on the tape with enough force to rip it
Finally the last step is just to pull down and rip the tape off. With heavier tapes (i.e. cloth) you will have to use a lot of force. With paper tape it’s not much at all. Do it quickly though or else it won’t come off and will bunch up.
Remember, all of these steps should happen quickly in a span of about 3 seconds. Here is a video I made demonstrating the technique a couple of times:
Being able to master this technique means keeping up during marking/blocking rehearsals and saving just enough extra time on set to catch a breather. And in the end, that tiny sliver of time can be the difference between a good camera assistant and a great one.