HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT SELF-TAPE
Lights, Camera, Action. All You.
At the end of the day it is important to keep in mind that casting directors want to see you! You don’t want them to being paying attention to what the camera is doing, how alien like you look under fluorescent bulbs or your dog barking in the other room. So keep distractions at a minimum, and take our other recommendations into considerations. More and more first-calls are being done with a self-tape, so it’s important that you learn to nail it.
- Quiet, at home space, doesn’t have to be soundproof.
- Plain background – ideally slate, blue, brown, gray or green. Paint the wall you’re going to be using, or hang a curtain big piece of paper,or sheet. make sure that it is big enough for a decent range of motion. We are trying to minimize anything that would detract from your face.
- Natural lighting. If you have a natural lighting source for your neutral, clean background – great! As long as it isn’t too bright and casting shadows on your face
- Vs. Lamps. You need two lamps situated to your right and left – with one brighter than the other – for balanced lighting. This can be achieved by taking the lampshade off of one.
- You only want the lighting hitting you from the front and side – never below or above.
- Be aware of the color of lighting. Fluorescent lights give you a greenish glow!
- Your phone is more than enough.
- Shoot in landscape, at eye level.
- Only capture your head and shoulders in the frame. If you need to use your hands, bring them up into the frame. BUT make sure to follow the slate directions carefully. Some casting directors have specific requests – like a full body shot.
- Use a tripod. Not a selfie stick. Not your sibling. Stability = less distraction. If you’re really committed to the guerrilla self-tape, just prop up your phone. Otherwise, we love this smartphone tripod.
- Auto-Focus / Exposure. Once you are situated within the frame, tap on your face until the AF / AE pops up.
- Make sure your lens is clean…
- Change the resolution settings to 720p. HD can be unforgiving.
- Do not use the built in mic. It doesn’t matter what type of device you are shooting on, the sound will drown out. Instead use a lavaliere, which can be clipped to your shirt below the frame, or shotgun if you need to be moving around.
- Check that the batteries are charged and that its on!
- Find an actual actor – I’m sure your dad is great but the more professional, the better. Sure, the off-camera actor is not auditioning, but their level of engagement with you can definitely make you come off more natural, kicking your recording up a couple of notches.
- Have him or her sit off camera.
- Make sure they are quieter than you. Most likely they will be sitting closer to the camera, and you don’t want their voice to drown out your own.
- Don’t look directly into the camera. Ever. This is known as breaking the fourth wall. Whether the reader is the other character or not, imagine there is another person standing behind the camera, at a 45 degree angle.
- Look good. Get rest the night before, brush your hair, wear something plain. Just because this isn’t an in-person audition doesn’t mean you are not making a first impression.
Most of the time, you trim and edit the recording, join different takes together and add a title. iMovie and Windows Movie Maker come built into your computer, but if not Google “freeware editing software.” If you’re working entirely from your phone search for editing apps on iTunes or the Play Store.
These are super simple commands that you can learn with a quick Google search.
- Trim the beginning and end. Especially if you are self-taping, you want to cut out the part where you run in and out of the frame.
- Join several takes together if you are recording different scenes.
- Title card. Use white letters, centered on a black background with a 5 second duration. Include your name, agent, the role and project you’re auditioning for.
- One cut only, please! Unless otherwise asked.
This saves both you and the casting director upload/download time and storage space, and also increases the chance of you landing the gig. No one is going to sit there and wait for your video to buffer all day. Usually you can bring the resolution down to 480P and the image is still clear. Here’s how:
- iPhone or iPad: With free app Video Compressor you can compress to virtually any size you want without a loss in quality.
- Android: VidCompact is free app that allows you to trim, compress and save directly to your gallery! Ready to upload 1-2-3.
- Computer: The built in software (iMovie or Windows Movie Maker) has a simple way of compressing before you share or export.
Now that your self-tape file is perfectly recorded, edited and resized, you have to make sure you label it as directed. If you fail to do so, you risk never being seen, or worse seen and unidentifiable! A good standard is CHARACTER NAME – Your Name
Follow all directions. Make sure you send the final cut exactly as instructed. If it’s sent via YouTube or Vimeo, we recommend making it a private link (or password-protected) because some sides are copyrighted. Other times, casting directors will ask you to put it in Dropbox or via e-mail, at which point you should upload to Google Drive. AND triple check all of your work!!! You’ve heard this since grade school. This is your future, treat it that way.