Self Tape Auditions are becoming more and more prevalent. In order to submit as many options as possible, casting agents and directors rely on an actor’s ability to produce high quality audition tapes at home. Self taping at a professional level from home has it’s challenges. That’s why we have put together three budget aware options for actors who need to submit auditions from home.
The three key elements, other than the humans, that will affect your self tape audition are lighting, sound, and of course video. Don’t forget, if you invest intelligently in self tape gear, you will also be able to use it for making your own short films or web content as well.
Lighting is really important when you’re self taping. If the casting director can’t see your face, you’ll never get the job; regardless of how good your acting is! Check out this video for a quick run through on three point lighting.
If you don’t have any spare cash to spend on lighting, it is possible to use the sun (natural lighting) and household lamps. The greatest challenge that you will have using this option is white balance. When you combine sunlight with lamplight the light temperatures will vary. That means some parts of the video may look abnormally yellow. Try all natural lighting first, and if that doesn’t work, try all lamp light. You might find using all unnatural lighting is easier.
Tip: swap out ‘Warm Light’ Globes for ‘White light’ globes in household lamps for a purer light source.
Mid Level Budget
If you have a little bit of money to spend, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your self taping technique. The first thing you should try is a reflector. If you use natural light as your key light and reflect that same light as your fill, your self tapes will look heaps better. If natural light isn’t an option get yourself some basic LED film lights. Try and get some that have a dimmer so that you can find that perfect balance.
If you are putting down self tape auditions every week, you need a professional lighting set up. You should get a lighting kit that is super easy to set up, and last all day. Professionals will often use natural light as their key light and use natural light temperature lamps as their fill and hair light. If your studio has big windows, try putting shutter blinds on the windows so that you can control the amount of light getting in. Alternatively you should try using three film lights with light boxes to evenly distribute the light to give even skin tone.
Sound is the most undervalued element in most actors self tape auditions. It’s strange that actors spend lots of money making sure they look good, but no money on improving how they sound.
The most important part of producing high quality sound on a low budget is a quiet room. If your house has a loud echo or you have noisy neighbours, try recording your self tape auditions at a friends house. The built in microphones in cameras are okay for cute puppy videos, but they aren’t great for self tape auditions. They will work in a pinch but if you spend money on one thing, make it audio equipment. If you shoot your self tape auditions on an iPhone try one of these.
Mid Level Budget
There are loads of budget friendly microphones that suit most cameras. Even if you are shooting on an iPhone, most microphones that are built for handycams or DSLR’s are compatible. I highly recommend the Rode Videomic shotgun microphone. It doesn’t require any phantom power so you can just plug it in and go for it. I bought a film audio bundle rather than buying individual items, which saved me about $100.
In order to achieve the same quality audio as professional casting directors you don’t need to spend too much money. Most casting agents that I audition for use some form of remote microphone so that the actors voice is crisp and clear. Depending on your location and budget try using the Rode Videomic Pro with an extension cable or the Rode Link.
You are well lit and you sound great, now you have to make sure that your camera is going to be able to capture all of that beauty and more. Regardless of which option you go for, always use a tripod and film against a simple backdrop.
Obviously the lowest budget option is using a friends camera. Alternatively using your own smartphone will be the lowest budget option possible. But that will come with complications. In particular the amount of memory that you have available on your phone at any given time. If you don’t have a smartphone, your best option is to get a cheap handycam. The quality is okay and they use SD cards so it’s easy to upload the footage to your computer. Having a digital zoom often comes in handy too. If your budget is tight, you can pick up a super cheap second hand camera here.
If you are prepared to spend a little bit of money on your self tapes, you can get insanely high quality video. There are now digital cameras that are capable of shooting television, if not cinema quality video. The best options in this space are the Canon Rebel, Sony Handycam, or at a stretch a Panasonic g7. Kit lenses will absolutely be good enough to shoot self tapes on. More importantly, with these cameras, you will be able to shoot a web series in your down time. I personally use the g7 and I have been very happy with it.
Most professional casting agents use a really high quality camera which is easy to use and will shoot all day long without breaking down. If you are interested in creating the highest quality self tape auditions I would recommend getting yourself either a Panasonic GH4, a Canon 5D, Sony 4k Handycam or a Sony NEX VG-900. These options will give you the capability to shoot professional self tape auditions at home, and to make professional level film and television content.
That’s our comprehensive self tape audition equipment guide. If you have any recommendations please leave them below! Thanks and good luck! For more on filming a good self test.
For editing your self tapes the easiest option is iMovie. This comes free with all mac computers. If you want to take your editing to the next level I recommend using Adobe Premiere Pro. Final Cut Pro is also a great program for editing.
Featured image of this page sourced from the actors company LA.