Wrapping an XLR Cable
When it comes to wrapping an XLR Cable on set, get ready. You are going to do this so many times throughout your profession. Any audiovisual cable is not exempt from needing to be wrapped properly. If you need to learn how to wrap a video cable for your camera department to help out, read on!
Why It’s Important to Wrap your Cables
Wrapping your audio cables is extremely important for a few reasons. First of all, it makes you look extremely clean and professional. I have worked with sound mixers where every single cable on their cart is in shambles. They are not wrapped properly, or they don’t have some type of Rip-Tie or Cable Wrap Accessory on each cable to keep them organized.
Don’t be like this. It is better to be organized and labeled with everything. That way if you ever need help from someone else, they can assist you quicker than hunting. Simply put, If you don’t keep up with your cables and managing them, they end up becoming rat’s nests inside of your car or equipment cases.
Before We Start Wrapping
Please understand this is a process that takes time to master. If you cannot wrap an XLR cable without looking at it, then you are not ready for prime time. I truly mean that. Wrapping an audio cable is a basic skill that everyone needs to master, not just learn. You must practice every day until you perfect the wrap and the speed.
Wrapping your Cables and Speed
When wrapping an XLR cable, be as consistent as you can with the loops. One of the biggest problems I see with beginners is they do not have the muscle memory in their wrapping arm to keep each loop the same size. It doesn’t matter what the preference is (whether or not you want to do big loops or little loops). Just be consistent. However, if you need a little more advice, I recommend that smaller cables have loops that are obviously smaller than longer cables. If your cables are 50′ or longer, then you will need to have longer loops (around 2 feet in diameter) so you don’t have this massive wrap. When you wrap a long cable with little loops, you will only be able to hang one cable off a hook.
Next comes to speed. You do not need to be in some XLR Wrapping Olympics, but you do need to have the speed to not delay other processes that need to be finished. We need to be efficient. If a 100′ cable is taking more than 30 seconds to wrap, you aren’t fast enough for prime time. Keep working on your speed to be as fast (or faster!) than these guys.
Starting From the Beginning
I like to start with the Female End of the cable. This ensures you put the microphone away first. Don’t do the old fashioned “I’m going to wrap this cable while I have a $1600 microphone tucked into my armpit…” Put the microphone away. Then, wrap the audio cable back to the mixer or the cart. Also, quick note on the rip-ties. It is custom to put these wraps at the MALE end of a cable. This way you never have an ugly dirty rip-tie in the shot hanging off a microphone stand. Taken these to improve the visual look on the camera!
Whichever is your non-wrapping arm, place the cable in your hand as if you were going to shake the connector. You want the connector facing your belly, not away from you. Then begin your over under technique as we demonstrate above. The trick is to learn the twisting technique that allows the cable to do the work for your.
Over Under Wrap
Depending on the cable, you will wrap it differently on set. Power cables and audiovisual cables have a different technique. A power cable is wrapped “over over”. An audiovisual cable is wrapped “over under”. This is mostly due to the shielding.
Power cables are thick and have huge shields. Even when wrapped “over over”, they will lay flat with ease. Audiovisual cables are the exact opposite. I recommend wrapping over under like we do in the video because of this braided shield.
A cable that lays flat is the result of proper maintenance. Try wrapping your cable, then holding onto one end, throw the cable out like you were casting a net. It is best to do this outdoors so you can throw the cable as far as you can. Make sure before you throw that you haven’t accidentally put an end through all the loops. If this happens you will have a bunch of little knots to get out of your cable!
Support and Repair
When wrapping an xlr cable is to ensure that the ends of the connectors never hit the ground. When a connector repeatedly hits the ground it will wear out faster. Then the little teeth on the chassis of the connectors will break and your audio cables will come apart much easier.
Higher quality connectors will last longer than cheaper ones, but if they have that tooth it will break eventually if you are not careful.
If this happens, you can easily repair your own cables to save some money. Check out our Soldering 101 Course to learn how to save thousands over the life of your career.
If you have any questions on how to wrap an audio or video cable, please ask in the comments below!