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How to… self-tape

Nita Mistry. Photo: Steven Harrison Brown Nita Mistry. Photo: Steven Harrison Brown
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1. Planning makes perfect

Try to use a good-quality camera. I use a digital single-lens reflex camera when self-taping actors, but smartphones and tablets are just as good. The most important thing is the quality of the picture and sound. Check the product reviews. Choose a quiet location. Cameras pick up background noise. Make sure the background you film against is clear so the focus is on you and the viewer doesn’t get distracted by the pictures on your wall. During the day I try to use natural light by opening all the blinds. If it’s not bright enough I use soft boxes – a great substitute for daylight. If you don’t have the budget for lighting, placing a lamp nearby can work reasonably well.

2. Get in the frame for success

Once you have your camera, location and lighting sorted, framing is key. The bottom of the frame should be at the centre of your chest and the top of the frame at the top of your head. When adjusting the frame, make sure the camera stays in focus. Your eye line should be just off camera. I still get people asking if it’s okay to look straight into the camera. My advice: not unless you are specifically asked to film this way. Your reader should be sat next to the camera, in line with your eye line. Test this on a playback before filming the scene. Always film the scene right to the end as one take. It looks far more professional and saves time editing.

3. Slate your case

When editing, use a slate at the beginning with your name and the character you are reading for, including the title of the production, as well as a slate at the end with your agent’s details on. There are various ways to upload the self-tape but the three methods I highly recommend are WeTransfer, Vimeo and Dropbox.

Actor Nita Mistry was talking to John Byrne

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