Learning the over/under method of wrapping cables is only half the battle — the other half is trying to keep them working for as long as possible.
One cable you’re likely to encounter on set is the BNC cable, used mainly for video village and monitoring purposes. It’s common to rent out hundreds of feet worth of these cables and run circles constantly keeping track of them.
In my experience, BNC cables are highly fickle and, if not treated right, can easily stop working. So here are a few best practices’ guidelines to keep in mind to help you make your BNC cables last — at least until you have to return them!
1. Loop the BNC Cables on the Camera
Proper wrapping of the cables is important, but you also want to make sure the cables aren’t under any stress in other situations.
The locking mechanism these cables use means they won’t just pop out, so pulling on them puts tremendous stress on the cable itself and whatever it’s connected to. When they’re connected to the camera, try and loop the BNC cable around some piece of the camera (use Velcro if you have to) to keep the cable from being tugged directly on the connection itself.
This loop method also affords you a few inches of leeway if you start to run out of slack.
2. Always Have Somebody to Wrangle
On moving camera shots, whether handheld or on a dolly, have somebody who follows behind the camera to wrangle the cable. Most of the time I ask the 2nd Assistant Camera (AC) to wrangle after they are done slating, but if that isn’t possible, borrow a production assistant (PA) for whichever shots you need.
Without somebody wrangling, you present a safety hazard, and also have people constantly walking on the cable and equipment possibly resting on it. All of that weight on the cable — especially in the wrong way — can compromise its build and cause it to start acting up.
If you absolutely do not have anybody who can wrangle the cable, throw it over your own shoulder if on handheld or use camera tape to attach it on the dolly in a way where it hangs off the side instead of the back.
3. Keep the Center Pin Straight
Grab one end of a BNC cable and stare directly into it and you’ll see
the eyes of God a single pin sticking straight up. If you think this sight looks familiar, it’s because the single-pin structure is the same as the cables you use to hook up your cable box, just with a different connector.
That one pin used to establish the communication between the cable and the device you attach it to. Because of that, it’s a pretty big deal.
If you keep staring, you’ll notice that there is almost nothing else around this pin which means it’s very susceptible to being bent. You can avoid that happening by never forcing the cable into anything and also being sure you place it in straight.
When the cable does become bent because the Camera PA got too hasty with it, use a pair of needle-nose pliers to delicately straighten it out.
4. Lay Them Flat During Storage
Each cable has a natural curve and bend to it and to do anything other than coil it along this bend is to dramatically shorten the lifespan of the cable. Even though they can twist, turn, twirl, and twine, those moments should only be temporary.
When you are storing the cables away, let them hang loose or lay flat on top of each other in a natural curve.
And don’t stack heavy cases or gear on them in a way where it could puncture the cable and damage the internal wiring.
5. Prepare with BNC backups
When assembling your camera package (whether by rental or purchase), always get double the length of BNC cable that you need. If possible, get a backup cable of each length (i.e. two 15 ft cables, two 50 ft, etc.).
Barrel connectors or “bridges” are also crucial to have backups of in your toolkit. Often it is the BNC barrels that go bad and not the cable itself. If you don’t own any — or want more for safety — many rental houses will gladly supply you with a few if you ask.
BNC cables are notorious for turning up at the end of the shoot dead and sometimes it’s an accident, other times it’s out of ignorance. But I promise if you adhere to these 5 tips that you’ll lengthen the timespan you’re able to keep a BNC cable operational.