People in theatre, video and film know that spike tape is a valuable tool for making sure that performers, props and set pieces end up where they belong.
Spike tape is simply gaffers tape cut to a narrow, half inch width. Since it is available in 20 colors, it can be used to mark locations for different actors (you stand on the red mark while she stands on the blue) as they move through a scene.
Those who study theatrical history know of the legend where spike tape got its name.
In the days of Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, the actual floor of the stage was dirt. In order to lay out specific locations on that stage, the director would actually put spikes into the ground to show the actors where to stand.
I try to spend a few minutes each day reading up on ideas
related to sound business practices. There is an unending source of
good (and sometimes not so good) ideas for business management
One of the ideas that comes up over and over is the timeless concept
that “the customer is always right”. After many years of selling
specialty products online and through catalog sales, I can tell you that
nothing could be further from the truth.
I field at least a couple of phone calls every day from a prospective
customer who needs to be talked out of making a purchase from us. This is sometimes harder to do than one might think, but I would always prefer to lose a sale than to sell you the wrong item.
Over and over, a customer will try to talk me out of recommending that they not use a tape product for an outdoor application because it does not have UV protection and is not intended to stand up to exposure to sunlight.
Time after time, I have to convince a customer that using an extension cord of too small a gauge will create a fire hazard.
I wish I had a nickel for all the times I have tried (unsuccessfully) to convince a caller that the performance of a ProCell battery is identical to that of a Duracell CopperTop.
It has always been our hope that by creating web sites that were deep with information that we could lead customers to make the right choice-a purchasing choice that would provide a product that met their needs. The same theory is at work when we provide information that should help a prospective customer realize that they product they are considering is not the right item to meet their needs.
Sometimes we lose a sale by insisting that the customer is not always
right, but, in the end, this is a lot more satisfying than trying to
always make the sale.
We’ve been selling a product called tie line for a long time. It is used by lots of theatrical and special events production companies for tasks like drapery hanging, bundling and cable management. It is also known by the name “trick line” because its matte black color means that you can’t see it on a darkened stage or against a black backdrop. Its handy for all sorts of special effects.
There’s not really a lot that can be done to improve this braided
cotton cord. Or that’s what I thought until we received our first
shipment from a new supplier for this product. For years, the tie line
we sold had been wrapped on cardboard spools. I have used this product a
lot myself over the years, and it seemed like before the tie line was
gone that the spool had ripped, collapsed, or completely disintegrated
through rough handling and packing into road cases and tool boxes.
This new tie line supplier had spooled their product on a heavy-duty plastic spool and
it works much, much better. The spool can stand up to rough handling,
sweaty palms and a little rain on an outdoor event site. The product
is the same but it is now offered in a much better package.
This new vendor is also supplying us with new smaller 300 foot spools, so now you can buy a spool that will fit in your tool box or under the seat of your truck. No need to lug around a lifetime supply if you only need a small amount.
If you need tie line, but aren’t sure whether to buy the glazed or unglazed version, here’s a little info that might help. If you intend to tie and untie the knots over and over againg (say, for cable ties) use unglazed. It does not hold a knot as tightly. If your use is for something more permanent (e.g. tying a drape onto a truss or batten) use glazed. Knots tied with glazed time line remain tightly bound over a long period of time.
I never cease to be amazed at how a simple change in packaging can dramatically change the way I look at a product.
Recent responses to an older blog posting about using XLR connectors on speaker cables caught me by surprise. It got me thinking about how ongoing evolution in this connector system has allowed it to stay relevant through generation after generation of audio development.
The XLR connector was first developed by James Cannon at ITT and was introduced to the audio market in 1958. Amazingly, through all the changes in connector standards and component wiring, the XLR is still the audio standard for microphone and patch cables.
One reason for its long life is that the basics of the design, much
like good computer software design, have moved into the public domain.
Anyone who has a better idea can bring their own version of the XLR
connector to market.
A simple innovation developed by the Switchcraft company is an example of this design concept.
Cannon’s design for the XLR was for a round connector-a good idea
since it fit well to a round cable and allowed the cable to be dragged
along the floor without catching and tangling. Cannon’s concept called
for both round body connectors on the cable and a round body “chassis
mount” connector-the mating female connector found on the equipment or
multicable box that the cable connector mated with.
A simple innovation by Switchcraft-changing the body shape of the
panel mount connector from round to rectangular-meant that more
connectors could be mounted side-by-side in a confined space since they
could now fit edge to edge. You can see the value of that design change
today by comparing a contemporary audio mixer to one built in the
1960’s or ’70’s.
Many minds contributing to the evolution of the XLR connector means
that it will remain the audio industry standard for many years to come.
Audio and video pros who have all sorts of random “how to wire it” data rolling around in their heads and on countless scraps of paper can now turn the task over to their smart phone. No need to even pretend that you remember how to wire all the cables in their work boxes.
This free app (available both for iPhone and android devices)
provides diagrams for all the popular audio and video connectors that
you might expect to encounter during a day at work.
In addition to common connectors like XLR3 and Speakon, it also includes data connectors, Socapex multicables, HDMI and networking, all diagrammed in an easy to read format.
Just enter “pinouts” in your apps search field. It’s also available on the desktop. Just take a look at allpinouts.org.
Gaffers tape is known and used world wide when hands on showbiz techs need a strong tape with an adhesive that comes up clean. There is no substitute.
However, there does appear to be a substitute name. The British (some Americans, too) call this product “gaffa’ tape.
Regardless of the actual spelling of the name, the root comes from a British slang term for grandfather. The term came into use in the early days of film when the crew that handled heavy lighting and electrical equipment came to be known as gaffers .