How to Slate for Film

Hey, Everyone! Today I’m going to teach you all how to slate when making a film. Slating is a really important aspect when it comes to filmmaking, and often is forgotten about. Essentially, the purpose of slating is to save time when it comes to post production. However, I’m going to be covering several things in this blog post, from why, to how, as well as some nifty tips I’ve picked up during my time making films. Oh yeah – there’s a video accompanying this post which I’ve made too!

Check it out:

Why do we slate?

One of the main reasons why we slate is so you can sync your visuals and audio perfectly. Clapping the board down creates a ‘peak’ waveform on the audio device you use to record, which is what you sync to the visual image of the clapper arm when it hits the body of the board. Nice and easy!

Secondly, the clapper board displays all the key information needed from your editor when it comes to post, from finding the next shot for a scene, to the accompanying dialogue.

What a slate looks like.


How do we Slate?

Firstly, you need to write on the slate! Here’s how:

Scene: Here you would write the scene you are on, which could be 3A, 7D etc… The number stands for the scene you are on and the letter stands for the specific shot you are filming. As long as it matches your shot list then you are good to go.

Take: The number of times you film that specific shot from the scene.

Roll: The SD Card in the camera which the visuals are being written on. You tend to have Roll A & Roll B.

Date: The day that you are filming.

Sound: Here you would write ‘Sync’ or ‘MOS’. ‘Sync’ is used if you are recording audio with your visuals, and ‘MOS’ is used if you aren’t. ‘MOS’ stands for ‘Motor Only                Sync’.

Production Company: The name of your company making the film. In our case, ours was, of course, Shutter Socks.

Director: The person directing your film.

Cinematographer: (Or cameraman) The person operating the camera.

And that’s it!

What do I say when I slate?

Now, if you are recording audio, then it goes as follows:

(Let’s say for the sake of an example you are on scene 6, shot e. Once your actors and crew are in position and they let you know they are ready, you say:

Scene 6E, Take One! Then slam the arm down onto the board.

Your director would then call action.

If you aren’t recording audio, then you simply hold your hand in the clapper board and say nothing. Your cinematographer would most likely then tell you to move away.

Put your hand in the slate if you aren't recording audio.

Soft Sticks

Now if you’ve got a particularly important scene which requires a big performance from your actors, then the last thing they want is to have a slate slammed down in-front of their face. So, to counter this, all you need to do is call ‘Soft Sticks’ before using the slate, and then when it comes to clapping the arm, just do it softer. By altering to your editor that you’re calling soft sticks, they can be extra careful when looking for the peak in the audio. Even though you’re clapping quieter, it still should make a nice solid waveform to find.

Second Sticks

If you accidentally slate off camera, which, trust me, can happen, then simply call second sticks, raise the slate back into shot then clap again. You do not need to repeat the slate.

Pro Tips

Okay, so we’re almost done! Here are some useful tips I’ve picked up when slating in previous films.

  • Talk to your cinematographer between every take. Make sure you both know what shot you are on!
  • Make use of the back of the slate. I like to tape the shot list to the back of the slate so I know what shot is coming next, then can quickly write it down, just to save as much time as possible.
  • Typical industry practice is to say a word instead of a letter when slating, so you could say ‘Elephants’ or ‘Eggs’ based on the example I gave earlier, however, everyone is different and as a crew, we preferred to use a letter, but it’s up to you. Also, never use the letters I or O when slating. On first glance an I can look like a number 1 and an O a zero, so just skip those letters.
  • If you don’t have a slate, then use your hands to mimic the slate and clap! It still works well!

Use your hands to clap if you don't have a slate!










And that’s everything! Hope you enjoy this little blog post!

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