The Art of Self-Taping

By Kyle Dean – Has there ever been a project you were dying to audition for, but you just couldn’t make their session for one reason or another? Are you thinking about submitting an audition for an open call on a site such as Actorcast? Whether the auditions are being held in a city far from yours, or you just couldn’t fit it into your schedule, there will always be auditions that you simply cannot make. Thankfully, in this day and age, physically reading in front of a casting director is no longer the only method to audition.  If you are unable to go in on an audition, just ask if you can put yourself on tape.

What is Tape?

These days, putting yourself “on tape” is industry slang for self-recording your own audition. Ironically, most methods of self-taping don’t even involve physical tapes (if they do, you definitely might want to invest in a new camera). Popular types of devices that are used are completely digital – with the recorded footage being stored directly onto a digital drive or memory card. These types of cameras are highly recommended for self-taping, as they are affordable, easy to use, and can upload footage quickly to computers. Most of these cameras even include a “Web HQ” format option, which optimizes your videos for internet viewing.

Lights, Camera, Tape!

When the option of self-taping first came out, actors probably furrowed their brows and complained that reading in front of a camera will never be as good as reading with a casting director, and that you have far less chances of being considered for a role. This mentality is definitely false, as self-taped auditions are not only extremely popular and highly utilized by casting offices, but they are also equally viewed and considered with the live auditions.

Of course whether or not your self-taped audition is considered is completely dependent on the quality of your video. Here are some easy, and crucial, steps to follow to create the best-taped audition.

1) Learn all of your lines and scenes. Unless instructed, you don’t have to have your lines memorized, but being extremely comfortable and familiar with them is a must!

2) Find a quiet room to tape, as well as a solid color background that you can record in front of (white or blue is best).

3) Use a tripod with your camera. Alternatively, someone can hold the camera if they have steady hands.

4) Record a test sample. Using your set up, record a snippet of yourself for review. When looking at the footage, check for image quality, lighting, and sound. Acoustics are very important, and you should be able to clearly hear yourself on the tape. Having a microphone can also greatly help. You should also make sure that you are amply lit.

5) Unless instructed, always have the camera zoomed in from your shoulder and up (medium close-up).

6) Have someone read your lines with you on camera. Grab an actor friend to help you, or just find someone who reads and enunciates well.

7) Don’t look into the camera during your audition. You should always be playing it to the person you’re reading with – who should be near the camera but off screen.

Post-Production Tips

Post-production for your footage is almost as important as the video itself. The goal here is to make your video as easily accessible to the people who will be viewing it. When working with multiple scenes, you can either edit them all into one long scene, or keep them as separate files. Both are fine, although having all the scenes together in one digital file is a tad bit easier to work with. If you do edit them into a single file, separate each scene/take with a transition (fade in/out, dissolve, or a title card). Finally, include a title card over black at the beginning of your tape. It should have your name, the project, and the role you are reading for.

Once your video is complete, it’s time to send it! This is where the most disparity exists, so especially take heed to this advice. The BEST way to send your video is to upload it to a website, where it can be viewed by others by sending them a web link. If you have an ActorCast account, this can be easily done, and the process is secure and streamlined. If not, sites like Vimeo and Youtube work well, with Vimeo being the preferred of the two due to its exceptional video quality and lack of excessive ads and banners. AVOID sending the actual video files – whether via email or online download sites like yousendit. These video files tend to be very big and will require every recipient to download and open your file. This method can become further muddled if your video is formatted incorrectly, or if your download link expires (yousendit).

Taping: The New Frontier

Self-taping auditions have become a staple in casting offices everywhere. Not only do they allow actors to audition for projects that they normally would be unavailable for, but casting offices use this method as a convenient way to view talent from literally around the world. This method even benefits the actor more, as you have full control over how your audition looks. Not happy with one of your takes? Just redo it! This is a luxury that most people would kill for in the actual audition room. Different casting offices have their own methods with how they use taped auditions – some will cast directly off of taped auditions, or they may just bring that actor directly in for their callback/producer session (more common). Regardless, self-taping auditions should be treated like any other audition, and should be afforded all the necessary time, dedication, and perfection to detail like you would in any physical audition.

 

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Kyle

3 Comments

  1. Posted June 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Hey there! I’ve gone into more detail in this note posted on my Facebook page “How to Self-Tape Your Audition Like A Rock Star”. Hope it helps y’all!
    https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=398351991720

  2. Posted June 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    One crucial thing for your post production…make sure your contact info is on the title card, or somewhere on your website.

  3. Posted July 4, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    “What is Tape?” …Too funny! Are we at that point where younger people have no clue what tape is now?

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