From the Cast It Blog Vault: Self-Recording Auditions: Advanced Tips

As we see the quality of self-tapes and the quantity of self-tape opportunities both increasing, we thought we’d re-enforce some old tips on making sure that you are delivering the best self-tape and giving yourself the best chance to book that gig.

We’ve already written several articles about how to “self tape” for auditions. Not to beat a dead horse, but we really cannot stress enough the importance of creating a quality audition video. Video technology is rapidly changing, and more and more casting offices, studios, and productions are making casting decisions based solely off of video rather than physically meeting actors.

Here’s a recent anecdote. I had two clients (actresses) book series regular roles in network pilots this past season, and it was all done without either of them stepping foot into a casting office. Both actresses happened to be out of the country when these pilots (which have both been picked up to series) requested that they audition. Obviously, they were not able to go in, so they recorded their own auditions and had their videos sent to the respective casting offices. A few phone calls and Skype meetings later, these two actresses were approved by the network and officially booked!

We’ve already gone over the basics when it comes to recording an audition. See our last blog article, The Art of Self-Taping. However, basics aside, there are always ways to improve your video auditions, as well as common pitfalls that we in the industry see in a LOT audition videos – pitfalls that can easily be avoided.

Can I use my iPhone to record my audition?

Yes. The latest iPhone, as well as other smart phones, all have really good video recording capabilities, with most of them being in high definition. If you do use a phone to record your audition, treat it like you would any other video camera. Use a tripod (smart phone stands do exist) or have someone with a stable hand hold the phone. Most importantly, make sure you record your audition horizontally and not vertically. Recording an audition vertically often displays incorrectly on computers, which in turn frustrates the casting office trying to view said video. Correcting this is just a matter of orienting your phone horizontally, so it’s definitely an easy fix!

What if I don’t have someone to read with?

Every experienced actor knows that it is much easier to give a good audition when you have someone running lines with you – someone to play off of. Because of this, having a reader in your recorded audition is essential, and should be a top priority. Your reader doesn’t have to be an actor, just someone that can clearly pronounce the lines, and give you something to work with. Grab a friend, family member, or neighbor! There are very few excuses to not have a reader in your audition. Even if you’re traveling and alone in a hotel room, an easy solution is to put a friend on speakerphone and have them read your lines with you. It may sound a little silly, but I have seen plenty of great auditions done this way, and I challenge you to give it a try if you haven’t.

Can I record myself with my computer?

Yes, but only if you are really strapped for resources. Standard webcams on laptops and desktops typically don’t have the best video quality, on top of the fact that you can’t toggle the camera’s settings either (white balance, lighting, etc). Computers are obviously not as physically mobile and adjustable as a camera or phone would be, so audition videos done this way look like online video chats, as opposed to full-fledged scenes. If a computer is all you have, follow all the basic steps for self-recording – ample lighting, having a reader, good sound quality, etc.

Digital formats and methods of transfer

Transitioning toward the more technical aspects of video recording, undoubtedly, there are also a handful of common, yet easily fixable problems that arise when finalizing and sending videos. In terms of formats, make sure your video is in a universally accepted format, e.g. mov, avi, or mp4 files. Most standard video cameras and smart phones automatically save video files in one of these formats, but you should always double-check when viewing the videos on your computer. Caveat – many digital cameras (point-and-shoot, not camcorders) can record video, but the file formats that these files are saved as tend to be more unpredictable than a camcorder’s. If you do notice that your video file is in a weird format, you will need to convert it. This is easier than it sounds, and in most cases, if you go to the “file” menu in the video, you should be able to either “export” or “save as” the file in a different format.

In terms of actually sending your video (whether it’s to your rep or to the casting office directly), there are also several problems that can arise. As video files tend to be quite large, sending these videos over the internet can be tricky since they can’t be emailed and file transfer services like Yousendit have size limits on the files you send (50mb), and require you to pay if you want to send larger files. Uploading to web streaming sites like Youtube or Vimeo is also not ideal because casting offices prefer to have the actual video files of your audition, as opposed to just a streaming link that they cannot download from.

Although there are always roundabout technical solutions to all the above-mentioned problems, one of the easiest and efficient methods to deal with digital formats and file transferring is to just manage all your videos with a Cast It Talent account. Cast It Talent premium accounts allow you to upload a near-unlimited amount of videos (auditions, demo reels, etc) to your profile, and every video uploaded is automatically converted to a universal file format. Once your videos are in your profile, it’s literally just a matter of entering which email addresses you want to send your videos to, and then hitting the “Email” button! The people that get your email will then be able to readily view your video(s) on a private Cast It Talent page, and download the video (if you make your video downloadable). Then, for casting offices, they will also have the unique option to click on the “Copy to Cast It” button that appears with your submission – making it even easier for casting to integrate your videos into their Cast It account (did we mention that nearly every major casting office uses Cast It?). Cast It Talent premium accounts are also significantly cheaper than the paid, premium versions of services like Yousendit or Vimeo, not to mention you get all the synergistic features that Cast It Talent has with Cast It.

Post-Production and beyond!

At the end of the day, most of the above-mentioned pitfalls can easily be identified (and therefore corrected) if you actually view your video before sending! You would be surprised at how many actors record their audition, and then never bother to watch it back before sending. Watch your auditions and check for all the essentials – sound quality, lighting, and anything else that looks out of the ordinary.

Technology and acting are no longer separate entities, and in order to advance in your career, you need to stay up to speed with the latest trends. We’re not saying you have to be a technical wizard, but it is essential to at least have basic knowledge of how to operate camera/video equipment, as well as general post-production skills, to name a few. Actors need to learn about their own business and the technology that drives it, not just the lines on a page.

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One Comment

  1. Inga McClellan
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the advice and the information. I have 2 invites and need to do this right away. Thank you again, Have a Fabo Weekend !

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