How to Properly Wrap Cables to Make Them Last Longer and Easier to Use

As a photographer or videographer, you probably have a few (dozen) cables laying around. Believe it or not, there is a proper technique to wrapping them, and it not only makes them easier to store and quickly unwrap, it helps them last longer as well, saving you money.

Coming to you from The Film Look, this great video will show you how to wrap your cables for both ease of use and longevity. It might seem a bit obsessive to worry about how you wrap cable, but I can tell you that after two decades of playing guitar, my cables started lasting a lot longer when I stopped following the "bunch it up and shove it in the drawer" method. On top of that, wrapping them properly makes it extraordinarily easy to sort them and unravel them, which makes you look all the more professional on set. I also prefer the over-under method because the cables lay flat then, which makes it very easy to store them in drawers or on a shelf out of sight, as I don't like a bunch of cables strewn all about. Take a few minutes to learn the technique; you'll be glad you did. 

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Tom Lew's picture

I own a rental studio and the overwhelming majority of photographers renting the space do not know how to wrap cable with the over under method. I'd say about 90% of the photographers coming do the "wrap the cable around and around your elbow and thumb" method. Our extension cords and power cables are bungled and bending every which way and have to be replaced often.

Also I would highly recommend getting BONGO TIES to neatly tie everything once wrapped properly.

Anybody working for me in a grip capacity that can't (or doesn't) do a perfect over/under (properly a "cablemans wrap") is pretty much fired.

Jim Bolen's picture

Yep, I am anal about my cords, and that's why I never have problems with them. As a roadie back in the day, we called it 'stage wrap'.

olivier borgognon's picture

Damn, when sailing and any other rope using activity comes in handy through a video like this one. Basically these are folding methods used by sailors initially, or climbers, and it's great to see how this can be used outside many of the other fields of activity.

Great work on finding the video, great work to the film look for making it and sending it out.

Been using the usual twist method, but the fold in, fold out is really interesting and part of what i'm implementing as of today in my studio.

Over-under is good for data cables (BNCs, HDMIs, USB, XLRs), but should never be done for stingers (extension cords). Those are always over-over.

It's what I do and it's what everyone who's a gaffer/electric does in the film industry. Bates cables you would do figure-eights on the ground and pick up from the middle.

Jim Bolen's picture

I have to politely disagree here. Right out of college I was a roadie for a large corporate production company. All extension cords were always wrapped using the over/under method. I have cords at home that are thirty years old that have only had this method used for wrapping and other than being dirty, look almost new.

I respectfully disagree with you. Ask anyone who is a union gaffer or electric working the film industry and they will tell you the same, over-over for stingers and other power cables smaller than Bates cable. Other source I've gotten to confirm this for not only stingers, but also header cables, people who work at Mole-Richardson and ARRI.

I trust what's taught from our film industry's Local 728 and the guys who actually make film lights for decades.

Over-over is literally the industry standard and if you ever work in any self-respecting film set, if you're caught wrapping stingers over-under, you'll be called on by the gaffer or fellow electric.

And the reason for this is the way stingers come off the spools and how the inner wires run inside. It's different from the way BNCs, HDMIs, XLRs, and USB runs:

It's also in the Set Lighting Technician's Handbook, one of the definite reference manual for our industry for Film Lighting Department:

"All cables and stingers are coiled clockwise. Each loop puts a twist in the cable. When uncoiled, it must be allowed to untwist, or it will start to twist onto itself.
The stranded copper wire inside a cable has a natural twist; coiling counterclockwise works against the grain...
The over/under method shown in Figure 7.6 is used for coaxial cable, dimmer control cables, and audio cable."

Another source, the videos from LEX Products, one of the companies that make all sorts of power cables:

Over-over for power cable

Over-under for shielded cables (DMX, audio, and video)

The main reason people don't generally take the time to over-under stingers (specifically, not general use 'extension cords') or larger diameter cables is because they tend to have a natural wrap at those larger sizes; over-under is the best all around but a major pain for large gauges.

As a reference, beyond stingers, I'm talking about 5ks, or an HMI ballast, etc.

Feel free to ask any Union grips and gaffers/electrics about over-over for stingers and power cables. They do have a Facebook group for the G&E Los Angeles guys and they all stress the right way to do it stingers, which is over-over:

From one of my union friends:

"BNC/SDI is a single strand of copper, therefore you can do over/under or over/over as long as it is consistently done the same way every time.

Stingers are three strand (hot, neutral, ground) each strand is separately shielded as well. When you over under you will introduce tension to the copper within each strand and also within the shielding. This will eventually make the copper strands unable to lay flat. This will severely shorten the lifespan of the stinger""