Why use a slate?

A slate (AKA a clapboard, clapper, sticks, sound marker, and probably a dozen other names) is the tool that most people think of the most when you mention film production. But what is it for?

A clapboard is a tool that has two uses. The first use is to provide scene information. There are spots on the front to mark the day, location, scene, take and several other bits of information. In postproduction, the editor can group them according to these elements and keep their workflow organized.

The second use is to assist in syncing sound. On professional sets, the sound is recorded separately, and is matched up later. When the person in charge of the slate claps it, there is a peak that shows up on the audio track. The editor will be able to line up this peak with the closed clapboard so sync sound more effectively.

Do you need to clap it when you’re not recording independent sound? No, but it’s fun and you’re probably going to do it anyway.

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Questions to ask when hiring a videographer

So, you’ve done it. You finally took the plunge, and called a videographer, and want to create a video. But what things should you ask them to ensure you are getting a great videographer that will help you out in the best way possible?

  1. What have you created before? This is a chance for them to talk about their previous work. They may tell you about fun jobs that involved extravagant productions, and jobs that have been enjoyable. Hopefully, they will tell you about something that will be close to your vision for the project. I would caution you against a videographer that speaks badly about a past client; that is just bad business.
  2. What do you charge? Some videographers have a flat hourly fee. Some have a package price. Some can be flexible. All are good. You just want to have someone that is credible, and knows the value of their work.
  3. What is your vision of the project? After discussing your video needs, your videographer will start coming up with ideas to create your project in a way to make it enjoyable and effective. Have them tell you some of these creative ideas, and see how well that lines up with your vision.
  4. How long will this take? Once you have an idea, find a good timetable for completion. Remember that more ambitious ideas take a longer time to complete. Few videos can be created in less than a week. Ensure that you are talking with your videographer well in advance of when you need your video project completed.

Now, you’re prepared with the knowledge of what a good videographer does when beginning a video project. Remember to have fun with your creative project!

Are you looking for a videographer with all these skills? I can help.

Film Tip #3

Get the right colored tape.

Here’s a fun story. So, I was going to the local film supply store the day before a shoot. I had a few items to pick up, but among them was black gaffer’s tape.

I go in the store, in a rush as usual, and grab some tape. Later that night on set I realize I accidentally grabbed this:

Stupid Dark Blue Tape.

When I should have got this:

Good All-Purpose Awesome black gaffer's tape.

 

When you’re working with a completely black background, things like that stand out. And because I have always needed black tape, and never dark blue, I am still stuck with the same roll. I guess the best lesson is don’t be in a hurry when buying color-specific tape.

How to get extras

So, you’re making a movie, and you need a crowd of people in a scene. Unless you know a good flashmob troupe, you should follow these guidelines to make sure you are able to get enough actors for your scene.

  • First, make sure you start asking people early enough. Six weeks is a good place to start. You want to have enough time for people to check their schedules, get time off work, and clear their calendar of any other obligations.
  • Second, ask everyone! Post on Craigslist, ask everyone in your email contacts, call up friends that owe you favors. Best of all, talk to some local acting agencies or acting troupes that are in the area and ask if they would like to attend. If possible, put it up on the news, or an ad in the paper.
  • Next, make sure you have a good bribe. Sure, you may want to stand around for a few hours on a Saturday, but not everyone shares your enthusiasm. If you offer something extra for showing up, it sweetens the deal. Having some food is a must. (Craft services tables are awesome) Offer everyone some gas money, and you might have to turn people away. If you’re making someone drive to a remote location, gas money shows how caring you are of everyone’s time.
  • Make sure you tell everyone what the details are. This should be simple: Date, Time, Location, Address, Directions, Costume, Film Title, Available Amenities, and What Weather to expect. Make sure you include this with all correspondence. And speaking of correspondence…
  • Contact often! Make sure that the people that have committed to helping you don’t forget and bail at the last minute. Especially if there’s a change in any of the important details. Once a week should work.

And then comes filming day, where you’ll be able to work with tons of extras, make plenty of contacts, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Just make sure of one last thing:

Everyone showed up for a reason. Make sure you do not disappoint by being disorganized. 

But that’s a whole other post….

If Your Friends Don’t Dance…

This is something that has bugged me for some time.

You have a movie that has two sides, fighting for whatever reason. = Good.

Both sides come to some mutual resolution and learn to not hate each other. = Good.

Right before the closing credits, all the characters have a dance party instead of an epilogue, or any closing comments. = THE WORST THING EVER.

Seriously, when you have a movie, take the time to write five lines of dialogue at the end. Even if it’s narration, or a Stand By Me style epilogue. But for everything that you hold dear, don’t make your characters just start dancing with each other because you are too lazy to finish the movie.

Notable examples: Shrek, Gnomeo and Juliet, Despicable Me, Tropic Thunder. I’m sure there’s more, but I try not to watch bad movies.