More than ever before, it is imperative for actors to quickly and efficiently complete a high quality self tape. But not everyone has easy access to a comprehensive taping studio. Even if you do, it’s always good to be able to shoot your own work in a pinch for a quick turnaround, or for those times when you don’t have extra cash on hand for taping fees. But how to go about taping high-quality work, especially when you don’t have spare rooms lying around for that purpose? Below are some tips for quickly transforming your space into a workable self tape studio.
- Find the right space. Where you choose to tape can make a huge difference. When you’re trying to find the right wall in your home, there are several factors to consider. Is there enough space for your camera to capture a full body shot? (If so, what else might be included in that shot?) Large blank walls are best, in an area that can be cleared of furnishings and wall hangings. If you have the ability to paint a useful wall a nice gray or blue that compliments your skin tone in a self tape, that would be ideal. Otherwise, invest in a good backdrop, and make sure to steam it and keep it clean and wrinkle-free.
- Get some good lights. I cannot overemphasize the importance of good lighting. It truly transforms the quality of any self tape. Basic photography lighting equipment can be found online for affordable prices, and is definitely worth the investment. Write it off on your taxes and prepare to dazzle!
- Camera and tripod. While phone cameras may work for many small self tapes, it’s not a bad idea to get a good camera. It doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles; it just needs to be able to focus well and take a good, easily transferable audition video. Research before you buy, because this is a cornerstone of your actor office equipment. And for God’s sake, get a decent tripod. For far too long, I foolishly made do, MacGyvering tripods by taping my phone to lamps, stacking a small library’s worth of books, or using binder clips to get the exact right angle. Invest in a tripod. Get an attachment that can clip in your cellphone in a pinch.
- Editing software. Anyone who has struggled through the painstaking editing process on a mobile phone can attest to the fact that you will want access to a laptop or desktop that has editing software.
- Consider the sound quality. This is a tough one for those, like me, who live in thin-walled, poorly insulated apartments that love nothing more than to bounce each and every sound off their drywall surfaces. But since sound quality can make a huge difference in how your self tape turns out overall, it’s worth finding some creative solutions. Rugs and padded wall hangings can go a long way toward absorbing sound. A good microphone attachment for your camera might be a good purchase. If you often audition for voiceover work, consider padding a closet space with foam or other absorbent materials. It may take some trial and error, but it will absolutely help.
Staying organized is key, especially for those of us who don’t have the space for a permanent self tape area. Keep all your materials clean, protected and together, so that setup and takedown is a minimal hassle. If you can’t afford everything right away, prioritize the things that make your final product look more professional. When you can, start thinking ahead — if you know you’re moving, keep an eye out for a good self tape wall. Take note of carpet vs. no carpet. Identify what direction the windows face and how it might affect light in your space. The process will be one of constant revision and upgrades, so don’t get discouraged. You’ll soon find what works best for you.