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Camera Slating Tips from the Editors
There are a lot of tips and guides for camera slating, but what really matters when the footage gets to the post production team? The editors here in our Orlando production offices explain what you should be doing to make sure that post has what they need to get to work.
The Most Important Slating Tip
Every editor can agree on this point – make sure the slate is already in frame when the camera starts rolling, that way the slate will show as the thumbnail during editing. It saves a lot of valuable time.
Writing on the slate
The writing should be large and legible – bonus points for all caps and/or label makers!
Not all letters are equal – don’t use l, i, o, z, or s – they can look like other letters and numbers.
Calling out takes
Another note on alphabet – when calling slate, use the military phonetic alphabet. Your own random phonetic alphabet may be confusing to others, using a standardized alphabet ensures it was understood the first time around. So instead of calling Aardvark-One, use Alpha-One (Delta, Charlie, etc.)
If you insist on using your own phonetic alphabet, stick to one syllable words.
Handling the slate
Watch your hands! Dry erase markers are a blessing and a curse. Make sure nothing has been wiped off before throwing up the slate.
If the slate has a color reference clapper, do not cover the color guide! It will fade the color, and as time goes on it will be harder and harder for post to grade color.
Make sure to throw up a chip chart if there is any change in the way color is interpreted on film. This could be a set-up change or lighting adjustment. Also make sure you show the chart when there is a roll change.
Positioning in front of camera
Slate should be large in frame. One foot for 10mm of focal length is the general rule for most cameras. The easiest way to do this is just move a decimal point one spot to the left and call the results feet. For example, on a 28mm lens you would need to be 2.8 feet from the camera.
On a tight shot, if there is no insert slate available, the scene and take info are all that is really needed.
Worst case scenario, if you are slating on a hectic set, or maybe for a camera that doesn’t allow the focal length guideline, and you aren’t sure were to stand – just stand on the talent’s mark.
Be aware of lighting on set
If shooting in a dark area – make sure you light the slate so that it’s clearly visible in post.
In any lighting scenario, angle the top of the slate very slightly forward to avoid glare.
Soft sticks (a quiet tap) is a given if you are close to talent. Conversely, also be aware of how far away microphones are. If the mics are far away and you aren’t right in front of talent, know that you need to be louder for post to easily pick you out on the waveform.
Keep slate still while closing clapper – if it moves it can be hard to see on which frame it closes.
Don’t close clapper at the same time that marker is called so that audio does not overlap.
A final word on slating for the post department
Our dedicated post team have been giving us polite tips on how to slate for efficient editing for over a decade, and we are blessed to be able to have these open lines of communication. We look at these tips as a way of showing post production editors the same courtesy that we would talent on set. If we do soft sticks to help an actor stay in character and not hurt their ear drums – why wouldn’t we try to make sure that the editors can stay in a creative mindset instead of trying to analyze scribble on a slate that is too far away to begin with?