A talent agency owner wrote to me asking why our Self-Tape video auditions are so good when those her actors shoot themselves, even with expensive cameras, are so bad. She asked “What camera do you use?” The answer surprised her, and it might surprise you!
Hi (Agency Owner),
Thanks for your inquiry, I’m happy to respond.
I teach a class on Self Taping Auditions here in NYC and have been professionally recording video auditions for more than five years.
(Just FYI, ActorIntro offers the highest quality taping at the guaranteed lowest price in NYC. Up to one hour, with perfect audio and lighting, for $59, 30-minute session is $39. Dozens of your actors have used us.)
We have tons of useful free info on our website regarding self-tape auditions and how to do them. For starters there’s this quick video:
There is also a free Self-Tape Tutorial video, with even more info, if you subscribe to our site (no cost) here.
The videos make the case that you shouldn’t do a self-tape yourself, but let a pro do it for you, as that is always the better choice.
But, for actors who can’t get to a professional service provider, there are ways to make the best of it. First of all, it’s not so much about the camera. You said your actors invested in fairly expensive cameras without better results, and you wondered what camera we use.
While we use an expensive professional video camera, the camera is, by far, NOT the most important part of the equation. The formula for great audition videos breaks down, from most important to least important, like this:
It is very similar to headshot photography in this regard: If you had the same camera as a professional headshot photographer, do you think you’d come anywhere close to shooting a headshot of the same quality?
In the class I teach, I stress that the single most important thing you can do to improve your video is to improve your audio. This is actually an old maxim in the world of filmmaking and has always been true. The easiest way to spot a student film isn’t the acting, directing, video or set design. It’s the sound. Invariably.
These days, film and tv acting is all about being as quiet as you can. People on your TV are often whispering. They are fully audible in the final product, but the intimate, appealing quality in their voices is produced by barely being audible on the set. All the most successful actors we record auditions for use this technique, and it obviously works. But to be able to record them that way, you simply have to have a great audio set-up, which starts with having the actor miked properly. (Our microphones are, understandably, among the most expensive equipment in the room.)
So, as a DIY project, a self-taper should invest a few bucks in a wired microphone that the actor can wear on their shirt. They should do simple three point lighting. (You can google that term for an explanation. It’s not pediatric brain surgery.) Their reader should be up to the task, but not too up to it. The reader should elicit the best performance from the actor, without drawing too much attention, and be able to give useful feedback.
The requirements for uploading the finished video are all over the map, still, as a result of what the various casting agencies are demanding of their actors. It’s as if twenty different people were coming up with a way to make an omelet, insisting that their way was how “it must be done”, sometimes even saying that “unless it’s done this way”, the audition won’t be seen. Given the variability of how auditions are expected to be delivered today, this threatening tone is, in a word, ludicrous.
From file type to file size to naming conventions, there is no normal, yet. I’m hopeful that someday soon we can look back and share a good laugh over all the ridiculously complicated and onerous “requirements” that casting agencies have foisted upon actors over the past couple of years.
To compress the video and get it ready to be sent on its way we use Final Cut Pro, an Apple product, but there are others, and some are free.
You should have QuickTime Player 7 on your computer.
You should have a Dropbox account.
The bottom line, for actors, is: You shouldn’t let the technical side of DIY self tape derail what should be getting 100% of your attention: your performance in the audition. For some people that’s easier to do than for others.
To sum up, this is just an “executive summary” of what self-tape auditions are about. I’d be happy to discuss further. And I hope you find this information helpful. Thanks again for asking!
Brad Holbrook/Owner-Operator, ActorIntro LLC