How to Self-Tape

As part of Spotlight Open House week, Spotlight’s Head of Rooms and Studios Joe Bates, and Audio Visual Specialist Nicholas Peel, held a handy ‘How to Record Your Audition at Home’ session. If you’ve been asked to put yourself on tape for an audition, don’t panic! With the help of Joe and Nick’s handy how-to guide, it’ll turn out just right.

Getting started

First up, you’ll need:

  • A video camera
  • A computer with an internet connection
  • A light source

Choosing a video camera

Nothing fancy needed, but choose a recognisable brand, such as Canon, Sony, Apple etc. You could also use a DSLR if you have one.

The format needs to be MP4 ideally, though AVCHD is also okay. Aim to spend around £150-£250 on a Canon Legria HF R506, if you’re looking to invest in this equipment. If you’re an actor who puts themselves on tape a lot this would be worth it.

If you’re in a hurry and don’t often need to self-tape, you can also film yourself on a phone.

Filming on a phone

Sit close to the phone to get the best sound. Be sure to film in landscape, not portrait! You can send the clip to the casting director via the WeTransfer app on iPhone and on Android with the Vimeo app.

Lighting

To light yourself properly, use natural light if you can. You can also use soft practical lights in your house. If you need an artificial light, we would recommend a CN 160 LED light.

Know your angles

Soft lighting is the best choice for a taped audition, and you should choose from a large source which casts soft, diffused shadows. Hard light is from a small light source and would cast a sharp shadow.

Setting up the room

Ensure that background noise is kept to a minimum and that the camera is at eye-level. The light source should be in front of you and not in shot. Don’t sit with a window behind you, and try to find a plain background to film against.

Before you start filming

Learn your lines and rehearse. Read any instructions that you may have been sent, thoroughly. Get a friend to read in the other lines if necessary.

Props and costume

Make sure your clothing is appropriate for the character - though It’s not necessary to rent a costume. Only use props that are essential to the performance. Don't worry too much about the action in the scene - they want to see your performance.

Filming yourself

  • Your eye line should be close to the camera as they want to see both sides of your face.
  • If you’re using a reader, make sure they aren’t too loud.
  • Don’t go too far from the camera (unless you have en external microphone).
  • Frame in a mid-close shot unless requested otherwise (chest to top of head).
  • Sit or stand depending on what feels comfortable/appropriate for the scene.
  • Don’t over think it!
  • Don’t do too many takes - If you can’t get it in 3 takes, take some time out, then try again.

Converting the video file

Quicktime is useful for converting the file to a universal standard. Just import the file and export it as MP4 using Apple TV settings. On the other hand, if you wish to edit the clip before exporting it, useMPEG Streamclip (free to download). You’ll just need to select ‘in’ and ‘out’ points (‘I’ and ‘O’ on a keyboard) and then export it as MP4 using Apple TV settings.

Sending it to the casting director

Label the clips with your name first, then add the project title and scene.

Don’t send too many takes, unless requested. If you send more than one take, make sure they're sufficiently different. You can send it via www.wetransfer.com or a downloadable Vimeo private link.

More advice self-tape advice from the CDG can also be found here.

There you have it!