Most people unfamiliar with the video production process don’t even know what slating is, and for those in that category, it’s the action of slapping that clapperboard device down at the beginning of takes, but why do they do that?
It’s done to designate and mark particular scenes and/or takes that were recorded during production, but mainly slating helps make the synchronizing of picture and sound manageable and easier later on in post-production. That is, when slating is done correctly.
Because take it from us as longtime NY / NJ video production pros, there is a bit of an art to it, and it’s easier to mess up and, in the process, render a whole lot of work useless than you may think. So, read on for some tips to avoid that.
Get into proper starting slating position.
Proper starting slating position requires you to have the slate in the frame with the clapper raised before the camera actually begins recording anything. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised.
So, no matter what other roles you’re serving in the production, if you’ll be slating then you need to pay attention to what will actually be in frame while the shot is being set up. Again, it may not sound that daunting, but trust us, that can become a bit of a challenge with close-ups.
In cases like those, you may need to ask the camera operator to help you find the right spot, and it’s not just about distance and framing but focus as well. You need to ensure that the slate won’t just be in the frame but also clearly in focus.
However you do it, the point is that proper starting position is key when it comes to slating. So, you need to make sure you’re in the right spot, the slate’s positioned correctly in the frame, and that everything’s in focus well before anyone hits that record button.
Make sure everything’s big and visible.
Yes, the actual clapping of the clapperboard is very important to the slating process. There’s no doubt about that, but that doesn’t mean that the visual of the clapperboard isn’t important as well, because it is. In fact, it’s extremely important.
So, you need to make sure the clapperboard appears fairly large in the shot. Trust us, people in post won’t appreciate your holding the slate way back in the frame. That’ll just make things that much harder for them to their jobs later on.
And you should try to have the clapperboard take up about the same amount of space in the frame in every shot, which will require you to shift distances from the camera depending on the focal length of the lens being used.
Generally, you should hold the slate one more foot from the lens for every additional 10mm in focal length and, from there, you shouldn’t underestimate the size of the writing on the slate either. Remember, someone will likely have to read the text from a thumbnail size image.
Make sure you’re loud and clear before the clap!
Now let’s get to the sounds, but before jumping right to the clapping, there are some things you need to remember about what you should say before you clap down, or more importantly, how you should go about saying it.
It’s not just about saying the shot and take number loudly either. Yes, you want to make sure everyone can hear you, but remember, it’s not just about the crew hearing you on set. There’s also that whole post-production phase to consider.
That’s why you need to make sure there’s a microphone clearly recording your words, too, which may require getting the boom or mic operator to shift position so that your voice gets picked up.
It also helps to use full words in place of letters, meaning if you’re on shot 2A, then you’re probably better off saying something like “two apple” when slating. It’ll make things easier to decipher later on in post.
Now, while it may seem tempting to just slap that clapper down once you’re in position and ready to go, it’s usually best to resist that temptation. Moving too abruptly tends to lead to moving clapperboards, and that can make things very difficult.
So, before doing anything, plant your feet firm and get both hands on the clapperboard. Make sure it’s as sturdy and steady as possible before you even try to push the clapper down, and that’s the other thing; you don’t want to just let the clapper drop.
You want to apply some force, but not too much, as you don’t want it to bounce. It’s a delicate balance, but once the clapper hits the slate it should remain in contact with it until it’s taken out of frame.
There are times when you may need to go extra soft as well, such as if the clapperboard’s close to an actor’s ear, for instance, and in cases like those, you should say, “Soft sticks,” to let the editors know that they’re not listening for a loud, heavy click.
And if something goes wrong, whether you accidentally slate out of frame or there’s an issue with the sound recording the first time, then you should say, “Second sticks,” on the next attempt. Trust us, we’ve been through tons of post-production process in our time in video production in NY and NJ, and little cues like this go a long way in post.
Somebody needs to know how to slate on your video production.
Lastly, you should leave the slate in frame for about a second after clapping, but the bottom line is, while slating isn’t as simple as it may seem, it’s also often something that falls into the hands of people lower down on the production crew hierarchy, or people with little to no video production experience at all.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you at least have a basic understanding of the slating process. That way, if it falls into your lap or into the lap of someone lacking experience, you can help to ensure it’s done correctly.
About Us: KVibe Productions, a New York/New Jersey full-service film & video production company, can handle every aspect of the production process. Whether it’s a commercial, corporate video, or a feature film, etc., at KVibe, we always create to inspire.