What is a Gaffer?

Written by 90 Seconds
Last updated: October 4, 2023
What is a Gaffer?

A gaffer plays a pivotal role in the world of video production as the head electrician on set. Their primary responsibility is to execute the lighting plan for a production, working closely with the Lighting Director and/or Director of Photography. The gaffer ensures that the light illuminating the subject or dressing the set is optimised to achieve the desired visual aesthetics.

As a highly skilled technician, the gaffer possesses extensive knowledge of lighting equipment, electrical systems, and safety protocols. They collaborate closely with the Lighting Director and/or Director of Photography to understand the creative vision and lighting requirements for each scene. This collaboration allows the gaffer to determine the appropriate lighting fixtures, positions, and intensities needed to achieve the desired look and atmosphere.

During production, the gaffer leads a team of electricians and grips, assigning tasks and coordinating the setup and operation of lighting equipment. They meticulously place and adjust lights, using a combination of knowledge and creativity to create the desired mood, highlight key elements, and enhance the overall visual composition.

The gaffer is proficient in manipulating lighting instruments, controlling light levels, and shaping the quality of light through the use of diffusers, filters, and other accessories. They ensure proper power distribution and implement safety measures to prevent electrical hazards on set.

Beyond technical expertise, the gaffer possesses excellent communication and problem-solving skills. They effectively communicate with the director, cinematographer, and other key crew members to understand their vision and collaborate on achieving the desired lighting effects. The gaffer also troubleshoots any lighting issues that arise during production, making adjustments and modifications as necessary to maintain consistency and quality.