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Student Blog: Tips for Self-Tape Auditions (Set-Up)

For a more professional (and castable) audition

Student Blog: Tips for Self-Tape Auditions (Set-Up)

In the age of coronavirus, self-tape auditions are becoming the norm. It's safer for directors to narrow the audition pool before exposing a large group of people to each other. Your talent can be overshadowed by a bad video, so I want to share some tips with you on how to improve your self-tape and let the casting directors focus solely on your talent. The main components of good quality video are lighting, sound, and camera angle and framing. I'll describe what to do and what to avoid for each in the rest of the article.

The lighting of your video can make or break it almost immediately. A poorly lit video means the director can't see your face well enough to gauge your acting, and they likely won't give you a callback as a result. It's incredibly important to make sure your lighting is bright enough to light your entire face and body. On the other hand, you don't want the lighting to be so bright that it washes you out. If you use a very bright or harsh light, you may be able to put wax paper over it in place of a gel to diffuse the light and make it softer. Natural light is generally a good source, but you don't want any shadows from the sash bars, grilles, or window rail. I like to stand in front of a blank wall across from a large window or set up a white bulb desk lamp in addition to the artificial lighting in a room. Try to avoid yellow bulbs, which can make your shot look dingy and create a strange tint.

Sound quality is arguably the most important part of your self-tape, particularly for musicals. If you're too loud or quiet, the room has an echo, or there is extra noise, the casting director will have a difficult time discerning whether or not you have the talent they're looking for, and in the end, they will most likely refrain from offering you a callback or a role. When submitting a self-tape, your job is to display your talents as clearly as possible to make the director's job easier. Take a test video of you singing or speaking at performance level. You can listen back to it and adjust your own volume as needed. If a room has an echo, try to cover bare, flat surfaces with blankets and other sound-absorbing objects. Carpeted rooms will echo less than hard, smooth floors, but you can cover hard floors with rugs. In the end, if the room still has an echo, you should probably choose another location. Before you film, try to remove extra noise. Buzzing electronics, pets, and people talking in another room all distract from your performance. You have full control over how you appear on a pre-recorded video, so the director wants to hear you, and only you, at your best.

At in-person auditions, you don't get to decide where the director sits, but with self-tapes, you can choose the most professional (and flattering) angle every time. In almost every case, you want to be facing the camera directly. The director wants to see your whole face, not just your good side. They also shouldn't have to feel like they're looking up or down at you. Set your camera around eye level to yourself without tilting it. A tilt can create an unwanted illusion that changes your body shape in the frame. In many cases, the audition notice will be clear about how much of your body should be visible in the tape. Follow any directions in the casting call first. If there are no frame directions, you can either contact the director or follow these basic guidelines:

  • Singing: Top of hips to 6-12in from the top of the head
  • Monologue: Top of hips to 6-12in from the top of the head
  • Slate: Full body or same as monologue
  • Dancing: Whole body visible the entire routine with one foot extra on every side

And so concludes my basic tips on self-tape audition setup. As always, I am an amateur, and my word is not law, so if in doubt, consult the nearest professional. I wish you the best of luck with your auditions, in-person and self-tape alike, and hopefully, we can all enjoy theatre together again soon.

Stay safe, happy, healthy, and hydrated,

Jana Denning



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Student Blog: Tips for Self-Tape Auditions (Set-Up)Student Blog: Tips for Self-Tape Auditions (Set-Up)
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If you're struggling to get a self-tape audition you can watch without bemoaning the video or sound quality, I am here to help. Self-tapes can be a pain, but they're also an opportunity to get your audition exactly how you want it. I have compiled the tips I find the most helpful for setting up your self-tape into this article, just for you.