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  • Writer's pictureClare Lopez

5 WAYS TO LEVEL UP YOUR SELF-TAPE

Updated: Apr 22

There is only one goal when it comes to our Self-Taped Auditions: that the tape allows us to see clearly into the actor's best work. All technical components of a Self-Tape are there to serve that purpose, so that nothing distracts from the actor. 



5 MAJOR ELEMENTS OF A SELF-TAPED AUDITION:


1 BACKGROUND:


When it comes to the background, ultimately all you need is a blank wall and enough space to move. You can use a plain painted wall in a muted color (sky blue, slate blue, gray, sage green ect.) If you don't have a usable wall, you can easily hang a plain curtain, bedsheet, or fabric. Make sure the fabric is ironed and pulled tight, to smooth out wrinkles. If you are feeling really ambitious, you can purchase seamless photography paper, or a collapsible background. Just make sure that there is at least 5 feet in width and avoid any of the chroma key colors.


2 ACTOR FRAMING & CAMERA POSITION:


In order to allow us to see the actor clearly, set the camera on a tripod to the height of the actor's eye level. The actor's face needs to take up at least ⅓ of the frame - so that there won’t be too much negative space in the frame competing for our attention. The ideal Film & TV framing should be in a medium close-up: from just above the top of the head, to the armpit. While keeping this framing, the camera should be around 3-6 feet away from the actor, so that the actor has room to move. This placement will also help the actor be heard clearly. If filming on a smartphone, it should always be in landscape (horizontal) and never portrait mode.  If filming a Commercial, Theatre, or a more physical audition (think Nickelodeon or Disney), be sure to aim for a slightly wider framing: waist up. It is always wiser to find the framing in the room, rather than through the use of zoom or cropping.


3 SOUND & ROOM TONE:


To maximize sound quality, you only need quiet, private space.  A smaller, carpeted room with the air conditioner off will help minimize the room tone of the space. In a pinch, you can always place a rug or a blanket on the ground or over doors and other parts of the room to absorb extraneous sounds.  Silence phones and other devices and avoid interruptions. If using an external microphone, be sure to use a unidirectional (one direction) microphone that only picks up voices and won’t be sensitive to ambient noise.  It’s also important that any off-camera reader stands a few inches to the side of the camera, and 1-2 feet back to keep their voice quieter than the actor’s. 


4 LIGHTING:


The best lighting will allow us to see the actor clearly while separating the actor from the background. This doesn't necessarily require a fancy lighting set up. Simply set up your self-taping space across a large window to utilize natural light. We want to make sure no part of the actor’s face is in shadow, and that the lighting doesn't wash them out, discolor the skin, or otherwise distort any features. Like the camera, lights should be placed at the actor’s eye-level.  By keeping more space between the actor and the wall, the actor’s shadow behind them will be less noticeable. Indirect light is better - if you have access to a few umbrella or box lights, make sure that they are hitting the actor at a 45 degree angle, and keep them at least as far away from the actor as the camera. 


5 BODY POSITION & EYELINE:


We want to make sure that the actor’s body is facing head on in the frame. This means that the actor's eyeline should be just a few inches to the right or left of the lens, so that we can see both eyes clearly. Actors should be given 2-5 feet of space from the background to allow for movement and entrances/exits. The actor should be placed in the center of the frame with their body open and available to the camera. If the scene requires the actor to speak to more than one person, aim to put each character on opposite sides of the camera. When possible, have the actor look at an actual person for their eyeline to allow for a more natural read. Beyond the logistics of actor’s placement, what is the most important, is that an actor’s body maintains a balance of relaxed openness, and energized readiness. The actor must be physically alert and activated in order to be a vessel for impulse and responses. It is absolutely fine for an actor to sit or stand during their audition, so long as their body is physically engaged and fully available to respond in the moment.


FINAL THOUGHTS


Like most of our actor materials, our Self-Tape set-ups will be constantly evolving. The goal isn’t to have the perfect, most expensive set up, but to build a space that gives the actor room to play, while avoiding anything that might distract from the actor’s scene work. 






 


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