Tips to Instantly Improve Your Self Tape Video

What is a self tape?

Self Taping is an increasingly used method of casting in the film and television industry, and now even in theatre. Instead of going along to a conventional audition, casting or screen test, actors are asked to film their own auditions, edit the scenes together and upload or email the finished product to the casting director or production company concerned, sometimes to extremely tight deadlines. While some people embrace the challenge, others find the process daunting and confusing, even terrifying, not knowing where to start, whether they’ve got it right or if what they have filmed is of good enough quality.

Why self tape?

There are a number of reasons that a casting director or production company might ask you to put yourself on tape. They may need to see performers who are from a different country before they go there to shoot, they may be unable to get the director or other members of the creative team into the same room at a given time, or they may simply be looking to save money, as hiring a studio or casting suite is expensive. On the plus side, they will be able to see many more actors than at a conventional audition, you can tape your audition whenever suits you, rather than having to make yourself available at a specific time and you could also save money on expensive last minute train or plane tickets.

Do I need expensive equipment?

No! While this was certainly the case in the past, technology these days means that most mobile phones and tablets now shoot high definition video through their cameras, which is perfectly good enough quality for a self tape. You may also need a chair or stool to sit on, as it’s easier to shoot yourself sitting rather than standing, a solid backdrop, a tripod or ladder to get your device to the required height and keep it still, and good light, if necessary, to make sure you are well lit and not acting with some, or all of your face in the dark.

“The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Top Tips To Instantly Improve Your Self Tape

EYE LEVEL

1.  Best if the camera is at eye level. 

2. Have your reader directly to the left or the right of the camera with their eyes in line with the lens. 

3. Have the reader stand as close to the camera as possible, slightly in front of the camera if possible.

self tape video
Eye Level and Framing Example

FRAMING 

1. Rule of thirds. Top third of the frame going through your eye line. 

2. Close up – Film and TV 

3. Medium – Musical Theater and some Broad Comedy 

4. Wide – I would only use if I were doing Dance. (Dance should include entire body, from head to toe)

CAMERA AXIS

1. If there are multiple characters in the scene, place one character left and one right. 

2. Try to use the camera axis to open up your performance.

3. Looking across the camera opens you up to the camera and the audience. 

4. Staying on one side of the camera will close you off from the audience, which can be a great choice for certain characters. 

MOVEMENT 

1. Side to side movement will sometimes create distraction. You want your feet to feel more planted than in a theater audition. 

2. Moving toward the camera is strong choice, it brings the frame closer to your face, and lets us deeper into your emotional life. 

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