What makes the film industry unique is the diversity of the work. One week will be dedicated to glamorous wedding dresses while the next is jammed with trucks driving through mud. In the G&E department, rigging grips must be prepared for both circumstances. The former may be simply being prepared with an isreali arm for the camera op's monitor, and the later may be rigging a camera to a moving bull dozer.
The underlying basis of rigging is safety and efficiency, which work hand in hand. Making a rig with minimal parts results in less joints that could break, less time to create it, and more equipment for the next rig. The best way to practice this is to construct triangles. This combined with three points of contact to a stable surface will keep valuable equipment safe and ready for action. Unfortunately, not every surface has baby pins welded to it. That's where Cardellini's and c-clamps come in handy.
I once rigged a 1x1 Astra LED inside a helicopter flying over New York with no doors. A loose light combined with gravity and thousands of feet to accelerate could equate to property damage or serious injury to an unlucky pedestrian. To avoid dropping a miniature comet above New York City, I found three points of contact and used the minimum amount of G&E gear. Those three points were an arm rest, a handle above the opening, and the seat itself. Cardellini's are my personal go to for adding baby pins to surfaces, they're more compact than c-clamps and stronger than mafer clamps. That combined with a small strip of duvatyne in between the clamp and the helicopter avoided scratches on the metal and plastic. The last thing any grip wants is a pilot yelling at the producer about scratches on their bird.
From there, I used 20” and 40” arms to connect the baby pins to the yoke of the Astra, allowing me to tilt the light. It is important to note that grip heads are all hand tightened, which means they could be loosened. The solution is tying safety chain tightly around the grip head and ideally a hole in the stable surface. If there is no hole, loop it around the Cardellini to be safe. God forbid the grip head gets loose, the safety chain will hold a rig together for enough time for someone to fix it. If you don't have safety chain, use tie line or strong rope to add that extra level of security that will keep your producers at ease.
In the film making chain of responsibilities, rigging grips are tasked with the safety of the production's equipment and crew. To achieve that, they get to make a heaping pile of assorted metals into elegant and effective fixtures that camera departments drool over. It won't get boring easily and, best of all, craft services are normally pretty damn tasty.
Written by: Steve VanMaele, Gaffer