Actor’s Guide to: SELF TAPING (…the right way)

In the entertainment industry of TODAY, its become quickly obvious that actors are no longer just going to the ever so typical “in-person casting session”. Especially, when it comes to film and television projects. Casting directors are expanding their reach to find just the perfect talents for each individual project by allowing for video taped submissions per. role, or what we call “actor’s on-tapes”.

The downside for actors in regard to this change is that the pot has become even more full. A co-star role for “Bob Smith” on an episode of “XYZ” series sitcom casting in Atlanta, Georgia may, in the past, have only seen 35 seasoned actors who would have auditioned in-person. Today, thanks to on-tapes, the role will see those same 35 at the director’s  initial  casting session, plus upwards of 100 who may electronically submit.

With so many submissions to view, the casting directors have no time to waste, and MUST find a way to  funnel  through and get only the best for top consideration by studio executives. This makes it essential,  absolutely  TOP PRIORITY that the actor make his/her taping  extremely  quality. Agents on the  receiving  line of the tapings will not send through poor quality product to the casting directors. If less than perfect does happens to slip through, be assured that there the taping will find its death bed. Actors can be certain that the casting department will, like a strainer, let drip through any tapings that would not represent well.

If you are a serious film actor and you really want your tapings to be recognized, you need to get serious about your set-up. Just like your headshots/comps cards/ portfolio/ acting training, this is going to be an investment. However, it is not something that needs to be a major expense.  Take a look at some of the suggestions below:

Video Camera

Any trusty, small in size camera should work well for what we are trying to do. Some think that they need to run out and drop $500 – $1000 on an HD device. Instead, think about something like the Flip Ultra HD Camcorder. You can find these gems for as low as $150.

The FLIP is a fantastic tool which not only takes very quality HD video, but is packed with a powerful microphone providing sound quality that is on spot for audition taping requirements. The device also allows for instant playback so you can review your audition seconds after you finish the take. Uploading, as well, could not have been made more simple. The actor simply clicks a button and out comes a USB connector to plug-in to your computer.


It is crucial that your video is not shaky. Never have the camera held by hand, as that is an instant stamp of “AMATEUR”. Pick up an inexpensive tripod for around $20-$30.

Blue or Green Sheet or Paint

Professional castings for film/TV or commercial are typically done on a blue or green background. You can create this same great backdrop at your home or in your office in the blink of an eye. The best way to do so is to either run out to a discount store such as ROSS, or Home Goods, and pick up a single flat bed sheet (size depends on how big your wall is, but remember it doesn’t need to cover a huge space since your taping frame won’t be too expansive), or run to somewhere like Home Depot and pick up a can of  blue or bright green paint (enough to cover a single wall — you’ll probably need a double coat). Either way, this should cost more than $20.

AVS Video Converter

AVS Video Converter is an  exceptional  program for every film actor to have on their computer. With a couple clicks you can edit color, cut and slice your video, run mutliple videos together, and also convert one file type to another.

When taping a  sizable  role, you are going to probably have to accomplish something like: the slate, scene one, scene two, scene, three, and then a full body scan. To make this look most professional, you will want to stop the camera in between each portion. AVS will allow you to load in all of those pieces and thread them together to make one seamless video.

AVS is also excellent when file sizes are too big. Often agents/casting directors can only accept videos that are 10mb and under and either in .mov or .wmv formats. Say for example your camera spits out a video that is 16mb and in .avi format. Easy to fix!  Go to AVS, load in your .avi video, make sure “to WMV” is selected at the top, and make a customized profile (this must be done so that the program knows to condense the video size).
The profile settings known to work the best in this case are as follows:

Frame Size: 352X28
Frame Rate: 25fps
Audio Codec: WMA
Channel: Stereo
Sample Size: 16bit
Sample Size: 44100 HZ
Bitrate: 96kbps


Obviously, the actor cannot be ON CAMERA and taping BEHIND THE CAMERA at the same time. Very important is to find a person, preferably another actor, that will agree to run the camera for your taping. The reason another actor is  preferred  is because they will be able to convey emotion/feeling when feeding you the other characters lines and giving cues. Just like a shaky camera or an  inappropriate  backdrop, the reader can kill your tape. The actor needs someone to play off on the other end. Casting needs to hear that organic connection.

Taping Instructions

Now that you have everything you need for your taping space, it’s time to try it all out. You want to make positive that you are creating your tape just the way the casting director would like to see it. If not already provided, ask your agent to send you a list of specific taping instructions specific to that individual casting director. Make sure to note these wants in a booklet and keep them for the next project that comes around.
If you are totally in the dark and needing to get your taping done ASAP, the following is a good, safe idea of what is usually needed:

*** Frame should be top of head to right below shoulders ***

1.) Slate (name, agency, role)

2.)  Act role. Do not look into the camera. You will want to direct your focus off to the side, either looking at the reader or directing your eyes in other places, naturally, as the character would do.

*** When you are finished with the role DO NOT look back into the camera. HOLD your place and wait for the camera to be stopped ***

3.) Full length body pan up and down. Back the camera tripod up, start a new take, and give your name and height. The person running the camera should then run a scan of your, unless the camera is far back enough where it is captured in one shot.

The Diamond Agency is the top modeling agency in Orlando, as well as the top talent agency in Tampa. The agency has booked film actors on hundreds of film and television projects through-out the United States. All methods noted above are used in office and have been  successful  in booking top talent.

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