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Film Gear: Clamps

by on Jun.08, 2012, under Gear

Looks like you’ve got Clamps.

Clamps are often the silent heroes of the grip department.  Sure, a C-stand can hold up anything, as long as you have enough of them, and room to set one up on the floor.  But what about when you can’t put anything on the floor because you want to do a 360 pan around.  Or maybe you need to hang a light from a rail.  Who ya gonna call?

Clamps are champs

I generally don’t like buying a lot of gear.  It’s expensive and heavy to haul around, and small stuff can sometimes walk away on a big set.  So when I add something to my kit, it’s almost always because I was on a shoot where that item was either missing—and sorely missed at that, or the item was there and saved the day.  The fact that I have several types of clamps should indicate just how often the right one can save your keister.

A clamp is simply a piece of hardware that can be secured to something.  On a film set, they invariably have a 5/8-inch spud or two for attaching lights or gobo-heads.  Clamps used on film shoots often have accommodations to attach securely while doing minimal marking or damage to the surface they’re being attached to.  That’s an important consideration on location shoots.

Film crews use a lot of different kinds of clamps for different purposes.  In the photo above the clamps are: a pony clip, Cardellini clamp, Gaffer Grip, and C clamp (going clockwise from the top).

Pony Clip

Pony Clip

A pony clip is the simplest clamp out there—just a little spring-loaded clip with a spud screwed on.  I would not hang a heavy light off one, but they can be useful for a very small light like an inky or a battery operated LED light.  These often get used just as clips or for holding a piece of showcard from curtains.  Worth having a few because they’re cheap and you don’t want to be in a situation where a f@#$ing pony clip could have saved the day but you didn’t have one.  But these are nowhere near as cool as the other kinds, so… moving on.

Cardellini Clamp

Cardellini Clamp

Okay, now we’re talking!  The Cardellini clamp is a marvel of engineering.  Place the jaws over any round or flat surface and just turn the handle to tighten it in place with the spud where you want it.  The curved jaws won’t slide on a round pipe and these things are so rock solid you can hang anything off them.  Bonus points, the textured rubber pads don’t mark surfaces unless you go all Conan and squeeze down the jaws like a vise.

I must confess that I have a bit of a fetish for old-school machined metal, and with its helical screw drive, the Cardellini pushes my buttons.  These things are just cool!

Gaffer Grip

Gaffer Grip

A Gaffer clamp is the Hulk version of the pony clip—even without a Cardellini-style locking device, these guys are strong enough to hang something heavy.  They make a heck of a hand-strengthener, I’ll tell you that.  Plus, they have these nice little rubber feet on their contact points so they don’t scuff up surfaces.  So they’re the kinder, gentler Hulk—like Mark Ruffalo at the end of the Avengers movie setting off on his super-hero bromance with Tony Stark.

Gaffer grips are great for attaching a light to the top of a set, or a countertop, or any other flat surface.  In a pinch, a Gaffer grip lets you attach a light to the back of a chair or some other object that needs to be peripherally in the scene.



The C-Clamp is essentially your standard hardware-store C-clamp like your dad had in his workshop.  There are two modifications for film use.  First, of course, is the spuds that are welded on.  The second is a little subtler.  Where many C-clamps may have a round pressure plate, a C-clamp for use on a film set has a pair of plates with U-shaped cross-sections that can secure firmly to either flat surfaces or rail/pipes.  This is crucial, so don’t get stuck with an old-style C-clamp.  They’re not safe on film sets!

Please remember, any time you attach something with any king of clamp, be sure to use a safety wire.  That’s not optional! I’ll discuss these in an upcoming post.

You may notice that my name and number are written on the C-clamp.  It’s standard practice on a set to have your gear labeled.  It’s very, very common for gear to get co-mingled on a film set, and you can’t be ignoring your job on set to keep track of where your stuff is at any given moment.  Typically, each person collects his or her personal gear when the set is wrapped and each person does their own sponge-count of how much gear they got back.  Without a name on your stuff, it’s easy for it to disappear, often innocently.  In fact, that is a good reason not to use personal gear on someone else’s shoot.  But of course, it happens all the time.  Many people use asset tags, but they often don’t stick well to things like these.  For me a Sharpie industrial pen is a good solution.

More Film Gear

Since there aren’t really a lot of sources of information about the everyday heroes of the film set, and because I just dig the stuff, I’m planning to write more posts about the everyday gear I use in making films and series.  I’m hoping you find it as cool as I do.  Let me know if this is something you’d like to see more of.

Douglas Horn is a feature film writer-director and a creator of independent series.  Douglas and Dan Southworth founded the web media company Popular Uprising.  The company’s action/sci-fi series DIVERGENCE will release its first season in 2012.  More information at:


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