Home > Gear, Video > Please use “Over-Under” when wrapping cables.

Please use “Over-Under” when wrapping cables.

September 24, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Setting up for a job today, I opened up some wrapped mic cable, fifty-foot lengths of wrapped mic cable, and as I played out the cable, I realized that whomever the (insert pent-up, anger filled, derogatory term here) was who wrapped this cable up- they did not use “over-under” to wrap the cable but made dozens of loops, all in the same direction, which I now had to waste time to fix.

This follows a job just a week ago where I worked with a very tech-savvy kid who just graduated from a University. He was wrapping some cable and I watched him just loop, loop, loop his way through the cable.

I asked him what the heck he was doing.
I’m wrapping cable the right way, he postulated…

 

Apparently he worked on a “film shoot” and a “senior tech” there instructed him that everything gets wrapped in one direction “so the wires inside don’t get messed up.”

It is clear that there are a lot of misconceptions going on here.

Wrapping a cable repetitively in one direction is wrong.

 

It doesn’t matter if it is coax (core shield), twisted pair, electrical cable, multicore, triax or fiber. Using the “over under” method saves the cable, and saves time when the cables get pulled back out to use.

 

I urge all those out there ro read a little bit on the web.

How-To Sound Workshops has a Cable Wrapping 101. (that’s their photography at the top)

 

Stagecraft has online videos (AVI) on how to wrap cable. (That’s a still from their video on the right) and this is how most pros I see wrap cable- though there are definitely different ways to achieve the same goal.

 

The Internet Sound Institute has a nice section on this as well.

The multi-core image is from Answers.com which has a nice page on coaxial cable.

 

It is also called “flip-coiling” due to the nature of flipping thc cable back and forth while coiling it up.

 

Even Wikipedia has an (unusually short!) entry on “Over Under.”

It says, in part, Over/under cable coiling refers to a method of storing cables that preserves the capacitance and common-mode rejection ratio built in by the manufacturer with a twist in the cable, and the shielding that encases the twisted pairs within. It also keeps knots to a minimum, allows the cable to lie flat when uncoiled, and makes running the cables easier and faster.”

 

What it doesn’t say is that constantly twisting a multi-core cable in the same direction forces the outermost wires to travel further than the inner wires, which I have personally known to break over time from the stress. This was in camera CCU cable with 16 different shielded wires inside one fat cable.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia also incorrectly states: “Straight coiling or the practice of coiling a cable in the same direction coil after coil, has the same result as coiling cable on a spool.” This may be where some of the confusion comes from.

If you coil cable repeatedly in the same direction, coil after coil, it does not have the same result as what you find on a factory-made spool. (This is why you must always check several sources and compare information when reading information on the web). A factory spool is made as the wire comes out of a machine, and the spool spins to gather the wire. The wire on the spool has no twist, left or right. The only way to recreate that zero-twist spooling is to use a spool. There are many out there specifically made for video our audio cables- mostly audio snakes, but several companies will make custom-make them for whatever you need. This is the only way to zero-twist wrap your cable because it feeds end-in and is pulled around.

While you can actually do this by hand, it is much more labor-intensive than holding the cable in one hand and wrapping it around and around with the other. Even if you lay it on the ground (as you must do with long multicore or triax) and wrap the cable around in the same direction, you are putting a twist on it. So you must make sure you twist in one direction for one loop, and then twist in the other direction for the next loop.

Not also that this applies to twisted pair cable. That’s ethernet and telephone cable.
I’ve never seen an IT (computer) person do “over-under” but over twisting (or untwisting) the twisted pairs in ethernet cable is bad.
Since ethernet cable is being used more and more in our IT-centric industry (where video is just data to be pushed around) it behooves us to wrap ethernet cable properly.

Even simple coax can be more complex than you can imagine.
It can have any number of layers of core, insulator, and shield.

 

Learn “Over-Under.”
When working with someone else on set, ask if they know “Over-Under” cable wrapping.
If they don’t… then teach them.

.

 

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  1. Lee
    March 28, 2008 at 2:14 pm | #1

    I worked with a Pro Audio guy for years that said he got his first gig by being able to coil cables correctly, and better than all the other guys that applied fot he gig. It was that important to the sound company to have neat and always working cables.

  2. Jon
    August 7, 2009 at 12:25 am | #2

    That’s interesting, never really thought about the science behind wrapping cables. When I wrap shorter cables I just fold them in half a couple of times until I reach the desired length as show in the post “Store Cables and Wires“. I wonder if that has an adverse effect on the life of cables and wires?

  3. September 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm | #3

    This looks very useful….but why do it in green-black on dark-gray? It is impossible for me to read in either IE or Firefox without selecting the text first.

  4. Bryan S
    December 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm | #4

    Interestingly enough, there is conflicting evidence that says that coiling electrical cables (power, feeder, SOCA, speaker, etc) is best done in the same direction rather than over-under. This is because typically they contain stranded wire, which contains a twist built into it. When you coil against the twist, you are also subjecting the cable to stress that will break the strands down faster. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t apparently!

    • February 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm | #5

      But the key point you miss is that Over-Under does NOT twist the wire. It is as good as rolling the wire onto a spool. You twist one loop + you twist the second loop – so that the end result with over – under is zero total twist on the wire after two loops. By constantly turning a wire in the SAME direction, you ARE twisting the wire. And you never know how the internal cables are twisted.

      Want to test this? Take a 20′ cable, or longer. A good, soft cable that lays nice, like a well used mic cable. Now, wrap it up but DON’T do over under, Just keep wrapping it in the same direction, but use a small 6″ loop.
      Do the whole thing.
      Now, take both ends of the cable, one in each hand, and toss the center of the cable out in front of you. It will coil around itself trying to UNTWIST itself from what you did.

      Do the same 6″ loop with over-under and the cable will just fall out as far as you can toss it, and lay down on the floor with zero twist.

  5. June 30, 2010 at 10:18 am | #6

    I find myself wrapping rope like this too… kinda funny, but useful too! If you’ve ever tried to do the cool hollywood toss a coil of rope down the side of the building and not done a proper coil job you know exactly what happens. A wadded mess of rope. It’s a cool thing to be able to toss a big coil of ‘whatever’ and have it lay straight.

  6. anon
    August 9, 2010 at 3:48 am | #7

    > Even Wikipedia has an (unusually short!) entry on “Over Under.”

    Why don’t you help improve it?

  7. Marty the Droid
    June 10, 2011 at 9:21 am | #8

    I married the girl that knew how to coil cables at the end of the gig. The previous ones had whined about how long it took to load out, my wife helps speed the process by over/under coiling the cables while I hump the heavy stuff.

  8. Rainys
    June 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm | #9

    I’ve coiled BNC, XLR or Triax in the over-under manner for eons because that’s how I was trained to do it, but I also thought that this was principally done to frustrate the tendency of a coil to produce a magnetic field, and since analog video is an RF signal, this would be bad indeed. A very cagey pro told me that wasn’t the case; the over-under wrap is to ensure that the cable flies straight out and neat when thrown. After the recent Memorial Day Parade that was televised nationally I was coiling a ridiculously long Triax; hundreds of feet long. I work with the cable, and if it starts making quarter loops as I’m coiling it, I’ll turn the bundle this way or that until I see the cable straighten out again. A guy came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I said that first I let the cable do what it wants to do, then it lets me do what I want to do. The man told me to be the boss! My cables are always neat, and I use TLC when coiling a long cable. It had been a long, hot day, and during strike everybody wants to beat Dodge.

  9. October 9, 2013 at 5:33 am | #10

    i call it a “contractors braide”….but what is the correct term for wrapping extensions cords in this manner? ive heard….”over – under” , “daisy chain”. is there a proper name for this technique?

  1. October 15, 2007 at 3:01 am | #1

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