What do Grips do?

Grips' responsibility is to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. This equipment, which includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes, and static rigs, is constructed of delicate yet heavy duty parts requiring a high level of experience to operate and move. Every scene in a feature film is shot using one or more cameras, each mounted on highly complex, extremely expensive, heavy duty equipment. Grips assemble this equipment according to meticulous specifications and push, pull, mount or hang it from a variety of settings. The equipment can be as basic as a tripod standing on a studio floor, to hazardous operations such as mounting a camera on a 100 ft crane, or hanging it from a helicopter swooping above a mountain range.

Good Grips perform a crucial role in ensuring that the artifice of film is maintained, and that camera moves are as seamless as possible. Grips are usually requested by the DoP or the camera operator. Although the work is physically demanding and the hours are long, the work can be very rewarding. Many Grips work on both commercials and features.

What is the job?
Grips work closely with the director, director of photography (DoP) and the camera operator to ensure that all positioning or movement of cameras is achievable. Grips are usually responsible for pushing the dolly (the wheeled platform which carries the camera and the camera operator) and must create smooth movements that do not distract from the onscreen action. On large projects with multiple cameras, the key Grip is responsible for the main camera (camera A), with other Grips providing additional camera support.

Grips begin work in the later stages of pre-production, when they join all other heads of department to carry out a technical recess. If particular challenges are identified, Grips work with specialized companies to devise tailor made pieces of equipment to facilitate difficult camera maneuvers which are sometimes performed on location in extreme terrain and/or severe weather. During shooting days, Grips and their team (which may include other Grips, a remote head technician, a crane operator, tracking car drivers, and all construction standbys) arrive on set early, unload all the equipment, and ensure that everything is prepared for the day's filming. After the Director has rehearsed the actors, all the shots are choreographed, using stand-ins (the line-up), and Grips subsequently set up any required equipment. Whenever a crane is used, a minimum of two Grips are always employed, collaborating closely with the crane operator about mounting and moving the camera. Grips should be ready as soon as the camera starts to roll, and they must anticipate all the camera moves, while also keeping in mind the preparations required for the next camera setup. At the end of each day's shooting, Grips oversee the packing up of all camera support equipment.

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Job description sources include (but are not limited to), and wikipedia.