The Ultimate Self-Tape Guide

The Ultimate Self-Tape Guide

This year has definitely been a year that has complety changed how our industry works.

From rules and regulations, to how talent is casted. Nothing has been the same.

I think that if I were to have written this blog year ago, everyone would think I was writing yet another screenplay copying all pandemic movies.

“There is no way that would actually happen.”…

yet, here we are almost one year into this mess, and absolutely everything has been changed to adapt to Covid. Quite frankly, I don’t think it ever will be the same, this may just be our new normal.In a few months (that just happen to seem like a few years) in person castings have become virtually obsolete, Pun very much intended.

While virtual castings may have been what parents dreamed pre-covod, the reality of multiple self-tape request each week has been proven to be overwhelming. Not only for parents, but for Casting Directors and Agents alike. It’s double or even triple the work, if not more.

Parents are being asked to try to replicate what casting office do, and honestly none of us had time to train nor adapt.

Casting Directors know what works. They know how to get a genuine reaction from a child, They have a staff of people dedicated to only making sure they get the best footage possible. The files they send to their clients have always been cohesive and streamlined. They have spent years solidifying a method to provide quality tapes every time.

Now they are relying on you, the parents, to provide the best possible tapes you can.

To be 100% frank, the results have been far from pretty. It’s not anyone’s fault at all, it’s just the hand we have been dealt. 99% of you are not professional acting coaches and videographers, nor do we expect you to be.

To put this into perspective, Lets just say that we get about 100 submissions for one project. That is 100 people sending us at least one tape, if not more per household. That’s 100 people sending via different hosting sites, or text messages, with incorrect file names, and lets not even talk about the video quality. eek.

While we want nothing more than each and everyone on our roster to their chance to shine, we simply cannot hold each persons hand during the very fast paced casting process. We have spent countless hours(and months) trying to whip up the perfect guide on how to completely nail your self-tape castings.

You now hold in your power the ability to completely win over clients and Casting Directors. However, you also power to completely destroy a casting directors impression of you because of one bad self tape. That thought in itself is utterly terrifying.

This is why we took the time to develop our How to to guide to ensure that you never bomb another self-tape again.

In our never before seen Ultimate Self-Tape guide we will cover everything from how to position your camera, how to label your file, how to use drop box /wetransfer, how to dress, how to find the perfect lighting, and everything in-between to completly make a POSITIVE and lasting impression on every industry professional who views your tape.

If you aren’t much of a reader I have included videos, and pictures those who prefer visual guides!

I know it’s so hard to follow every direction (they can be overwhelming).

I will break it down by sections so you can skip through and read up on the areas you most need help with, without experiencing information overload!

For our first blog let’s get down to the basics.

What props/equipment do you need?

Camera

No high tech professional video needed.

Your cell phone/ tablet will work just fine!

Please make sure quality is not grainy when doing your test video.

I prefer the quality of my iPad Pro but sometimes the files are too large, so my iPhone is my go to.

Lighting

Good lighting is key!

It can totally up your self tape game.

Before I dive in to how to make sure your lighting is just right let’s go over a few of our top lighting must haves.

A ring light is probably my favorite light for beginners.

It has a built in tripod for those filming with a phone and most come with a remote so you can control your camera.

Neewer Ring Light Kit [Upgraded Version-1.8cm Ultra Slim] – 18 inches, 3200-5600K, Dimmable LED Ring Light with Light Stand, Rotatable Phone Holder, Hot Shoe Adapter for Portrait Makeup Video Shooting

If you have a bigger budget and would like to splurge on a better light, these LED lights really help disguise any flaws!

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1492248-REG/gvm_800d_rgb_2l_800d_rgb_led_video_studio.html/?ap=y&gclid=Cj0KCQiApY6BBhCsARIsAOI_GjZmYHXoRK4pGIcNmBla8UiU9RPhOyyAQ-5LYJwKDetOSIoxrS078o4aAsYnEALw_wcB&lsft=BI%3A514&smp=y

Tripod

Shaky videos should be a thing of the past!

One of my favorite props is a tripod.

No more weak arms and bumpy tapes.

Make sure your phone/tablet is horizontal when filming (we’ll) get into that later.

I prefer to use a tripod even when I use my ring light, it allows me to get the perfect lighting without compromising the angle of your tape.

Tripod for a tablet

T-SIGN IPad Tripod Tablet Stand, Reinforced Mount Foldable Floor, Height Adjustable 360 Rotating for More 7 to 12 Inch Tablets, Carrying Case, Phone Holder, Bluetooth Remote Control

Tripod for iPhone

Phone Tripod, Torjim 50-inch Extendable and Lightweight Aluminum Tripod Stand with Bluetooth Remote Shutter, Phone Clip, Portable Travel Tripod for Photography, Video Recording, Vlogging, and More

Backdrop

My absolute favorite budget option for mamas on the go is the popable backdrop. I keep it in my car for all those last minute self tape requests.

While you can use with a backdrop stand you can just rest against the wall if you don’t have one.

This option works best for small children since you won’t have the awkward out of frame slate shot (I’ll elaborate soon), for adults and older children check out the paper and backdrop stand options below.

Neewer Chromakey Black Chromakey White Collapsible Backdrop Collapsible Reversible Background 5’x7′ Chroma-Key Black/White

Paper backdrop and backdrop stand-

Stains and rips? No big deal!

Just roll the paper down and boom brand new backdrop!

Great option for those who want to try out different color paper options as well!

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1508550-REG/savage_1_8618_background_paper_super_white.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1531896-REG/impact_bgs_s12_v2_background_support_system_12.html

Last item on my list but by far the most important in my opinion!

Stool

Any stool or chair will work, but in my experience kids tape best when they are relaxed!

Especially when multiple takes are involved.

I prefer a stool, because kids tend to lean back and fidget when they have a chair option.

Folding Stool – Heavy Duty 24-Inch Collapsible Padded Round Stool with 300 Pound Capacity for Dorm, Rec Room or Gameroom by Trademark Home (Black) (161263AMA)

Dressed to Impress

While you may think that wardrobe isn’t important for virtual castings/self tapes that couldn’t be further from the truth!

You should be just as presentable on tape as you are when you do an in person casting.

I know this may seem silly for some, but I’ve seen tapes where the kids literally looked like they just woke up and rolled out of bed. While that may be the case, it’s 100% not acceptable to do a tape in pjs 😆

Hair and makeup

While good lighting helps blur imperfections, there is no light that can make sweaty ponytails look polished 😆

So if there ever is a time you must tape right after a soccer practice session make sure their hair is styled and presentable.

Loose hair always is best, but if it’s already styled that’s fine too! If for example your child’s hair is in braids and you will keep them styled in braids for the shoot days don’t bother taking them out. However, if there hair is in braids and you are about to take them out please let casting know and include a picture of how there hair will be styled for the shoot. It’s always important to not change their look too much! Same goes for boys haircuts.

Very light makeup is acceptable but it should always be age appropriate.

A CC cream/ moisturizer, lip gloss, and clear mascara is usually all they need.

My absolute favorite secret weapon to perfect dewy skin

https://www.ulta.com/true-match-lumi-glotion-natural-glow-enhancer?productId=xlsImpprod17161513&sku=2520146&cmpid=PS_Non!google!Product_Listing_Ads&cagpspn=pla&CATCI=pla-683425019412&CAAGID=107718645596&CAWELAID=330000200001284641&CATARGETID=330000200002459488&CADevice=m&gclid=CjwKCAiA65iBBhB-EiwAW253W95NvK7n5DjiaY4sIkS8osvlRiTMdicJ9laP2_ggJ6U4TuzmlhiN2hoCY_gQAvD_BwE

Barely there lip tint

https://www.benefitcosmetics.com/en-us/product/posietintcheek–lip-stain-travel-size-mini?&sku=IB289&SKU=IB289

Clear Mascara

https://www.ulta.com/professional-natural-lash-mascara?productId=xlsImpprod10821046&AID=165159&PID=10078&CID=af_165159_10078_&clickId=VX1U%3At3Y9xyLWyxwUx0Mo3YoUkEWeAwIeXfX2Q0&SubID=&irgwc=1

If your child has dark circles, or blemishes a tiny dab of concealer works wonders!

Boys shouldn’t be afraid to use a little cover up help. Makeup on set is the norm.

Wardrobe

It should go without saying, but PJs and yesterday’s tshirt with a stain from spaghetti dinner should not be worn.

Avoid any colors that are similar to the background you are shooting on.

A cute bright t-shirt and jeans is perfect!

You want to stand out but you don’t want the outfit to distract casting from your child.

When starting out I didn’t know any better and I’d take her to castings in her sundays best.

While big pouch dresses still takeover her closet, I always have a few t-shirt and jean options for self-tapes and castings!

Don’t worry about splurging on expensive options.

Walmart and Target have the best inexpensive lines that are bright and just right for every budget.

Ready to get started?

Not so quick!

Before we dive deeper on the technology side of self tapes let’s go over the basics laws of self tape.

1. Your should always film horizontally

2. There should be no background noise

3. Only the person(s)requested should be on tape

4. Other than the slate and unless specified otherwise the person being taped should look slightly off camera, and not directly at the camera.

•this is especially true for acting videos

5.. Unless specified it is typically taboo to use any props

6.. Good lighting is key

7.. You should always include a slate unless the casting director does not request one.

8.A good reader(person reading lines off camera) is just as important as the person auditioning

9.You should always submit ASAP! Casting directors view as they receive tapes, it is never in your benefit to wait until last minute.

10.Read carefully and follow all of the instructions!!!!

How do I shoot you shoot a self tape audition?

To shoot a self-tape, use a tight frame that goes from your chest to just over the top of your head. (This is called a medium close-up.)

I always recommend sitting down on a stool while your reader is also sitting on a stool at the same eye level. Remember the reader should be SLIGHTLY to the side of the camera.

The camera should also be centered and at eye level.

What is a slate and where do you put it?

If you are asked to slate, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Every casting director wants something slightly different. Some want full-body shots, others tight close-ups or profile shots. If the instructions don’t specify, Film ONLY the slate vertically and the rest horizontally. For the slate you typically want to pan the camera out, and do a full body shot.

• Shoot the slate separately from the scenes.

• Slate directly into the camera.

• State your name, age, role, and agency (and anything else requested by casting).

• Place at the end of your tapes.

With little kids I think it’s really important for the person reading to do the slate as if they were interviewing them. Instead of having the child memorize what they should say, ask them their age, location, etc. They show so much more personality when they are engaged opposed to just reciting back what you told them to say.

What makes a good reader?

While casting is focused on the requested talent, a bad reader can totally be a distraction and make casting skills ahead.

They don’t expect or need James Earl Jones lol, however a boring or monotone voice is not enjoyable for anyone.

The readers voice should not be as loud as the person auditioning but casting should still be able to hear the reader so the scene comes off as real and believable.

Should you wait for a deadline to submit?

While sometimes casting doesn’t send instructions until last minute, you should send in your tape as soon as possible.

Definitely take time and make sure you are sending in your best tape possible, but don’t purposely wait until last minute to send in your tape!

Casting typically goes through tapes as they receive them and can make a selection even before the deadline!

Your best bet is to always submit as soon as you feel comfortable with the material.

Come to the light!

When it comes to self tape auditions your first focus needs to be can you be seen Yes, you can get more intricate with your set up to make it look more cinematic, but it’s going to be viewed for about 2 mins and then they will move on. A poorly lit self-tape is a sure way to have your tape skipped and overlooked! Of course at the end of the day your talent will ultimately be what books you, a quality tape will help get you noticed!

When you’re struggling to submit a self-tape on time, the last thing you want to do is struggle with finding just the right light in your self-tape setup.

Natural Light ( naturally free)

There is no denying natural light is beautiful, but it’s not always an option.
You are limited to shooting during certain hours of the days.
Depending on where your natural light source is, a room simply may not allow for natural light taping. Here are some tips when looking to strictly natural light for your tape.

  • Always avoid any light behind you. Stand directly facing the window.
  • Remove any curtains/blinds that may cast weird shadows on your face
  • Leave 2-3 feet of space between the back wall and you

Ring light ( our favorite budget friendly option)

The Ring adds a glow to the front of of your face and a sparkle to your eye.
We love how it gives an almost airbrushed appearance by evening out any blemishes.

To even up your ring light game we suggest adding two soft box lights to each side of the ring light to take away the harsh circle on the eyes and take away any shadows.

Adding a back light (Secret weapon)
Want to fool a casting director into thinking you know exactly what you are doing?! Lol

Do yourself a favor and add a back light
It creates even more depth in your video, which puts more focus on the person auditioning.
It helps get rid of any shadows that are on the back wall.The back light should be low to the ground and shining up on the wall. You don’t need to go out and buy any expensive lights. A table lamp without a shade will give you the same results!

The back light can be directly behind you or to the side, shining on the wall behind you.

There is no right way, but there will be a right way for you! It may change from day to day, but don’t be afraid to play with the intensity and placement until you find a set-up that works best for you!

How to rename your videos on an iPhone or Android?

One of castings biggest frustration is the amount of videos that are not properly labeled. Without proper labeling you can completely bomb your chances at booking a job because a casting director can’t locate you or locate the tape later. Check out short tutorial on how to rename your files!

Check out our video tutorial!