Gripology

Much of the focus in production is devoted to trying to keep up with the dizzying array of new video formats, codecs and cameras, plus the maze of postproduction gear and challenges that we all must be aware of. New innovations in grip and lighting gear often are overlooked by producers, directors and DPs. It’s too easy for us to take grip gear for granted; isn’t grip gear all those C-stands and Hi-Rollers that mostly live on the grip truck? Whether you’re on a production that has a full grip department or are shooting an indie project with a small crew, grip gear is universal. We all use it and need it, no matter what kind of production we’re involved in.

…if you don’t have the proper tools to move the camera or position and control the light, achieving the look you’ve envisioned for the project may prove to be your biggest challenge.

The evolving technology of grip equipment recently has become the most interesting in the smaller-scale levels of the production industry. The good news is that grip equipment has begun to evolve and change over the past few years. Manufacturers are reacting to the changing production environment with smaller, lighter and less expensive gear. But most importantly, grip equipment manufacturers seem to be thinking outside of the box with the design of a whole new crop of innovative grip tools.

In the quest to discover what’s new in the world of grip gear, I paid a visit to Matthews Studio Equipment. Located in Burbank, California, Matthews has a long history of innovating new categories of grip gear for all levels of video and film production. I sat down with Matthews CEO Ed Philips to discuss some of the new solutions that he’s bringing to the market.

"Grips have several responsibilities these days," says Philips. "One responsibility is to move the camera safely from point A to point B. The other might be to come up with whatever mounting or rigging might be necessary for the production. The third aspect is lighting control."

As our conversation continued, I posed three different common production scenarios to Philips to see what kinds of solutions Matthews could offer to overcome the challenges presented in each situation.

SCENARIO ONE: CAMERA MOVEMENT

In order to smoothly move the camera, the most popular solution is a camera dolly. Precise camera movement enhances production value and gives the shots a more visually sophisticated look and feel. Many productions can’t afford the budget to rent a high-end dolly like a Fisher or a Chapman. In order to transport a heavy dolly that may weigh hundreds of pounds, the producer must provide a box van or larger truck with a hydraulic lift gate. If you add the costs in time and money to transport a heavyweight dolly to and from the location, as well as the labor needed to move it around the set or up and down stairs, the costs can be prohibitive for smaller productions.

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