Don’t worry, you are not alone. Each of these moments has happened to the best of us and the results are frustrating.
Lucky for you there’s a quick and easy solution that is popular for wrapping cables. If done correctly, it will help you save time on set, keep your frustrations low, and help your video cables last a lot longer.
The Over/Under Method of Wrapping Video Cables
That solution is known as “the over/under method” and is one of the first things you should know how to do when getting into any type of film or video production.
It is one of the best skills you can learn on a set — especially if you can do it fast. Monitor cables get notoriously long (sometimes 100+ feet) and need to be coiled quickly to make moving onto the next scene a breeze.
I was a live sound mixer for my high school’s choir program when I learned to over/under cables. At the end of every show, we had parent volunteers help us clean up and many times I told them to leave the cables after watching so many dads coil a $20 Shure mic cable like it was an extension cord they picked up at Home Depot.
There were so many cables that I threw in the trash as a result of this.
So, why do you have to coil cables in a specific way?
Because each cable has a natural curve and bend to it and to do anything other than coil it along this bend is to dramatically shorten the lifespan of the cable.
Essentially you need to coil with the cable and not against it. That’s why you will be slapped hard on the wrist for trying to wrap cable by running it along your arm and elbows like a piece of rope.
Learning how to over/under a cable is best taught in person with your hands physically on a cable, but the next best thing is this video tutorial from ShopTalk Productions:
Admittedly, the video tutorial is a bit… awkward, but the over/under technique is explained with clarity and it was one of the best videos I found on YouTube.
How Using Over/Under Helps You On Set
The video above talks about the main reason for over/under — to preserve cable longevity — but there are other distinct advantages for coiling cable this way. In particular, you will find that by using over/under, you help yourself in these three areas:
Something briefly mentioned in the video is “payout,” which is when you toss the cable and it uncoils itself. If you do not wrap the cable in the correct way, the payout will have tons of loops and knots in it. On the contrary, a properly wrapped cable will fall flat.
Using over/under is the best way to ensure your “payout” doesn’t cause any safety hazards.
Loops and knots are easy for people to get their feet stuck in and trip over, especially on highly populated sets. Though your ideal situation would not be running the cable through the middle of the set, there are times where you have to set up video village with the cable running through a high traffic area. In this case, a flat lying cable helps to minimize accidents.
Another advantage of a properly wrapped cable is a quick payout. You could stand near the camera, toss the cable to the monitor, and another crew member could quickly plug in to video village.
If you have gotten the cable tangled, however, you will throw out the cable and then waste time trying to get rid of all the loops and knots.
If you try and coil a video cable without doing over/under, chances are that it won’t lay flat and it won’t be easy to stack on other cables. This makes it tough to transport and store on camera carts, in ditty bags, or nearby video village.
It will also, as mentioned above, decrease the lifespan of the cable. When you are leaving these cables overnight on carts, in cases, or in a truck, you want them to lay in their natural position so they remain usable.
When you utilize the over/under technique, you’re making sure you can store the cables compactly and without damaging their internal design.
What Are Your Tricks?
The over/under method is the proper way to wrap and coil video cables. It is also used by the sound department with their XLR microphone cables.
The technique may seem confusing at first, but once you grasp how to twist the cable to go where you want it, you’ll never forget. Then you’ll save time on set while also becoming less frustrated with tangled cables.
I want to turn this article over to you now: what sort of tips and tricks have you picked up while dealing with long cables? How do you teach others how to over/under? And what sort of horror stories do you have about tangled cables? Let me know in the comments!