BWW Blog: The Art of Self-Taping
I will be the first to admit, I do not know everything about self-taping. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it, however, like it or not it's about to become a BIG part of the theatre and musical theatre world in the coming months/years/decades/forever/etc. Not only is it a necessity right now, as in person singing and auditions are not really safe or practical (plus, who is even putting on live shows right now? Not many places that I am aware of.) But also, I have a sneaking suspicion that casting directors and companies are going to realize that casting from video tapes, at least initially, is totally doable and may become the norm. This will be great for actors who are not local to audition locations, so I guess that means it's time for me to buckle down and get really, really good at self-taping.
This is all on my mind mostly due to some self-taping I did recently. My university (Anderson University, in Anderson, Indiana) recently announced our 2020-2021 season! Our first show of the year is going to be Hello Dolly!, and so our director sent us cuts and sides, one of our very kind accompanists recorded us some tracks, and we were ready to go for a self-tape audition. So of course, I procrastinated picking out any material or learning anything for....a while (don't tell my director or stage manager shhhh). Once I finally made it around to learning my material, it was time to film.
Filming for self-taping is tricky, because chances are, you might be like me and only have a shaky tripod you bought off of Amazon.com for $8 and some monitors that you can play your music through. Luckily, though, my good friend Melissa gave me her old ring light, and so I was able to use that for my audition! That might be my first recommendation, acquire/invest in a ring light if you can. It makes ALL the difference. Being well lit makes you look really nice, makes your eyes pop, the whole nine yards. So invest in a ring light if possible. If you can't, I might recommend a cheap tripod and compiling all of the lamps in your house to give yourself some nice lighting.
Second, accept that you are not going to get your final product in one take. If you're anything like me, the more you do a side or a cut, the more you discover and learn as you go. This is true even if you have rehearsed the piece before turning on the camera (which you should definitely do if you have the time). So, with that in mind, accept that this might take a few hours, even for just a few small things, and get excited about the learning process you're about to embark on. I wish I could say I go into every taping session with that mentality, but the reality is sometimes I just want to be done - but it helps to try to have some fun and view it all as exploration.
Finally, just some general tips and tricks! It helps to have a blank wall behind you. In my videos, I use a giant dark blue sheet. A white or light gray color also works pretty well, and I'm told that black is probably not the color you want to use as a background. Also, if you're filming on an iPhone, you can make your video quality go WAAAAY up by setting your camera to film at 4K at 60fps (don't ask me what that means I do not know), but this really enhances your video quality (watch how to change your settings below!). It does make the video take up a lot more space on your phone, so you'll run out of space faster, but even just having a little better video quality can make your submission stand out! If you have an Android, there may be a similar kind of feature, but I honestly do not know for certain. Finally, try to dress with a solid color top that compliments your skin tone, as that looks nice on camera but isn't distracting. For me this is blues, pinks, certain reds - everyone's skin tone goes well with certain colors. You want the people viewing your video to be enamored with you, not your wildly patterned shirt.
A lot of this I learned in a class I took this last year, which was an Acting for the Camera class. Some of these things I have learned from a professional on Tik Tok (namely, Annalee Wright, @annaleewright on Instagram and TikTok! - give her a follow if you can). The resources are out there to learn, you just have to be on the lookout! So set up that tripod, and start filming.
To prove that this whole process isn't totally glamorous, though, I put together a little video featuring only a few of a VAST amount of bloopers and takes that did not go as I wanted them so, go check that out if you need a laugh.
Oh, one last thing. One of my bloopers involves my phone ringing during a take. I recommend (again, this is iPhone specific, sorry Android users!) putting your phone on airplane mode or do not disturb and then opening your camera from the lock screen instead of unlocking your phone, this should ensure that calls do not interrupt filming.
Now with that, happy self-taping!