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Movie credit definitions -- We tell you what it means to be a Foley Artist, Best Boy, and Key Grip

The titles producer and director may be self-explanatory, but do you often wonder what gaffers, best boys, and key grips do and why they're called that? Dick Mason, tour director of Warner Bros. Studios, says the titles were handed down from an earlier form of show biz. ''Oral tradition has it that close to 90 of our terms relate to the circus,'' he says. ''Grips used to put up the tents.'' Here's a guide to the endless credits that scroll up the screen as you're trying to get out of the theater:

Key Grip
Move heavy equipment, such as cameras or scenery, around the set. ''A grip is anyone that grabs,'' says Robert Allen of the studio electrician's union.

Foley Artist
A sound recorder who specializes in noises, such as water, footsteps, and breaking glass, that are mixed into the sound track after filming.

Boom operator
Positions the microphone using long poles (booms) to pick up voices and sound effects.

Swing Gang
Set decorators who go from location, ahead of the rest of the crew, to dress the set.

Clapper
The person who, before the director says ''Action,'' holds the clapboard in front of the camera, shouts the take number, and smacks the hinged top.

Gaffer
Chief electrician responsible for lighting the set. A producer in Sydney Pollack's office says the term come from India: ''It refers to the man who leads the elephants along by the trunk with a big stick, or gaffe.'' Webster's says the word is probably a contraction of ''godfather.''

Best Boy
The gaffer or grip's right-hand ''man.'' Sexism? The title appears not to be gender specific.

Originally posted Jan 18, 1991 Published in issue #49 Jan 18, 1991 Order article reprints
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