This post comes by way of reader Naj who wrote:
“I see many different kinds [of tape] on Filmtools…and am wondering if you could explain what each is used for? I need to do a bulk order and don’t want to get the wrong ones.”
I’d be happy to explain the different types of camera type, Naj! Let’s begin…
Also known as: Marking tape
Paper tape is mainly used to mark actors, place focus marks, make dolly marks and is also used in situations where you don’t want a surface to be ruined from the tape’s adhesive. Paper tape, overall, is more lightweight and easier to carry around on a strap or leash.
On both film and digital shoots, paper tape is used in a variety of colors and widths. A good base of tape variety is five colors. You may need more on certain shoots, but you can always use alternate methods to differentiate the marks.
Paper tape is most commonly available in 1/2″ and 1″ sizes, though there is an all-purpose 2″ black paper tape that is useful. Using 1/2″ or 1″ tape is dependent on the market you work in and the other camera assistants on the shoot. 1/2″ tape is generally cheaper, although I use 1″ tape because I like the extra visibility it affords.
In short, it’s all a matter of preference as long as you keep it consistent.
Also Known As: Gaffer’s tape, spike tape, camera tape
Cloth tape is more commonly referred to as camera tape. It is made of the same material as gaffer’s tape and is more durable since it contains threading. The downside of its sturdiness is that camera tape can leave residue on certain surfaces and is harder to tear on-the-go.
On film shoots, cloth tape is used for many purposes, such as taping magazines and rolls of film. Usually a certain color is assigned for the different types of film stocks that a clapper-loader will use to mark magazines. On digital shoots, cloth tape is less important and I find myself using paper tape more often.
Other instances you can use cloth tape are when you want to attach anything to the camera or to differentiate camera accessories on multicamera shoots.
I should also note that when people say “camera tape” they are usually referring to the 1″ size. When people say spike tape, it is usually referring to the 1/2″ size.
Whenever you want a more sturdy and permanent solution to paper tape, camera tape is where it’s at.
One of the reasons Naj was confused by FilmTools was the prevalence of a few brand names. Some websites organize their listings in a way that makes it seem like a brand is actually a type of tape.
Here are some of those brands:
- Pro Tape
It is good to read the description of a certain type of tape before deciding to order or not order it. While some manufacturers become heavily associated with a type of tape, many of them make an assortment of styles and colors.
Meet Your Needs
Naj is rightfully worried about ordering the wrong tape. Not having the right tools and expendables can adversely affect your ability to do a job efficiently on set.
When you place your order you should make sure to be looking ahead to the type of productions you’ll be working on. For example, paper tape is used similarly in digital and film shoots, but camera departments working with film stock are heavily dependent on cloth tape. You should be aware of the type of production and order appropriately.
If you are ordering without an inclination of future productions, try to get a few basic colors of each type of tape (white, black and red are the most used). When you do get on a production, use the expendables budget to order the rest of the tape that you may not have.
When planning to place a big order, it’s worth your time to call your expendables seller or email them to see if you can get a discounted rate. You can also name the type of tape, color, size and they will find it for you if you are confused by their online store. I strongly recommend The Expendables Recycler for large orders.
A camera assistant without tape is like a painter without a brush — it’s essential to many of the things we do. When armed with the right kind of tape, a good AC can put in some great work and make great things.