Video Production Roles: Key Grip

Key grip building a light stand on production set

July 5, 2022

There are all types of roles in video production. One of the most important is the key grip. The key grip ensures safety for lighting and filming equipment. Without a knowledgeable key grip, a production set can be dangerous.

Ray Edwards is a key grip, dolly grip, and electrician with JB Media Productions and other companies in the Pittsburgh area. Ray has been gripping for over 30 years. He began with bigger films, then moved on to smaller productions and learned a ton along the way.

Through his time working in video production, Ray has expanded his knowledge to more than just gripping. This is helpful because, the more experienced a crew is, the better they can understand what each department needs and how everyone can help each other.

Ray explains:

“It’s like a machine. The smoother that machine works, the smoother the shoot goes.”

Want to learn more about Ray’s experience as a key grip? Read on.

Looking to hire a quality video production team? Give JB Media Productions a call at 412-719-7182 to find out how we can make your vision a reality.

What Does a Key Grip Do?

Key grips play a vital role in video production services. The key grip on set manages all grip crews. These crews typically handle lighting and camera movement.

As key grip, Ray closely monitors and helps out with the setting up and tearing down of equipment. Additionally, key grips are in charge of crew safety, risk management, and equipment maintenance.

Grips don’t do the wiring for light and camera equipment but they do make sure it is secure and in the right spot.

Here’s how Ray explains it:

“Electricians create the light and grips shape the light.”

Without the key grip, production sets would not run smoothly and safely.

Key Grips and Safety

Safety is one of the most important aspects of the job. Ray says, “Every department looks to us for safety. Without safety, it’s going to be a disaster.” According to U.S. Risk, dozens of people are injured during a film production every year. Key grips are crucial to preventing accidents on set.

Key grips are in charge of setting up and tearing down heavy equipment, including lighting and camera equipment. For example, many sets utilize overhead lighting in addition to stand lights. The key grips will make sure that the overhead lighting equipment is securely rigged. This keeps everyone who has to stand underneath the lighting, such as the actors, safe from a potentially dangerous situation.

Through his years of experience, Ray has seen equipment become worn down and even break. Situations like this can be especially dangerous if the affected equipment is used overhead. It’s these kinds of issues that key grips have to keep an eye out for. The most experienced key grips know how to anticipate issues and avoid mishaps.

Key Grip Equipment

Key grips manage all kinds of equipment. From lighting stands to rigging equipment, key grips are very familiar with the different pieces that make a set run smoothly. Here are a few different pieces of equipment that Ray listed:

  • C-stands and combo stands
  • Cardellini, mafer and C-clamps
  • Flags, silks and rags
  • Cheeseboroughs
  • Steel pipes
  • Planks
  • Dollies and dolly tracks
  • Nets

Key grips keep track of all of this equipment. From storage to production, key grips ensure all equipment is accounted for and properly set up.

Preparing for a Production

Key grips know just how important it is to prepare for a video shoot. When starting a new project, key grips will send someone to perform a scout of the shooting location. This gives the team an idea of the physical environment they are dealing with. Afterward, the team will go through what they’ll shoot, how they’ll shoot it and how to best bring out the director’s vision.

Scouting the location ahead of time ensures that grips can complete their jobs efficiently and safely. Part of scouting is completing health and safety risk assessments. Scouts will check for any issues such as unstable flooring or a lack of overhead rigging

Ray explains how important it is to have the right number of grips to set up. When shoot locations are quickly set up, there’s more time to get the production done. This also gives the rest of the crew time to be creative and add something special to the production to enhance the director’s vision.

A Typical Shoot for Key Grips

On a shoot day the first thing key grips will do is load in. This means bringing in all of the equipment that may be necessary for that shoot. Often, they don’t know if the location will have ramps to easily bring equipment in. The equipment can be very heavy so having to carry everything up stairs makes the job more time-consuming.

Sometimes doors are too small or there’s no place to rig overhead lighting, cameras and other equipment. This is why scouting is important – to know what to prepare ahead of time.

After the job is over they have to load out. This includes tearing down, counting gear, making sure nothing is left behind and bringing everything out the truck.

It’s important that directors understand how long it takes to produce a video – and the set up and tear down of equipment is a major factor that often gets overlooked. The more communicative the entire crew is, the more organized production schedules are.

Hiring an Experienced Production Crew

It’s always important to hire a highly knowledgeable and experienced production crew. This is especially true of key grip. A great key grip, like Ray, will bring out the director’s vision and keep the set safe.

Ray describes his favorite part of the job:

“The best part of my job is anticipating the unexpected. You never know what’s going to happen.”

At JB Media Productions, we hire only the best crew. We love working with people like Ray, who play an important role in the production process. Our team provides production services for commercials, video marketing, corporate training videos, short films and much more.

Visit our work page to see what we’ve done for others – and what we can do for you too.