Just think for a moment, if you get a call from a major casting agent asking you to submit a self-tape by tonight, and it’s for a huge mega-budget movie, how do you shoot it?
Do you make a self tape using your phone??
Think about it again. It’s a huge mega-budget movie. You would want to submit the best possible self-tape for your career-changing part.
Such situations occur in an actor’s life almost every few days. So, you need to have the right equipment at your home.
Here we have compiled the list of self-tape equipment for actors. This list will allow you to understand what you need and how to choose the right equipment for you.
Must-Have Actor Self Tape Set-Up
I have kept lighting first because almost everyone has a quality camera in the form of a smartphone.
For a self-tape clear and sharper video is important. Otherwise, the agent won’t be able to see your expression or the little movement that you do as an actor.
Not just that, with good lighting you also set up the mood of the scene.
You can achieve all these only with the help of proper professional lighting.
The best lighting for self-tape auditions includes:
Ring lights are great for shooting monologues and close-ups.
For an actor, eyes are important to convey emotions, and a ring light will help you light up your eyes.
Also, these lights are dimmable which allows you to control the intensity of the light.
I also request you to get the light with a stand so that you can manage them on your own. Also, light stands allow you to adjust the angle of the lights more efficiently.
If you are looking for the best ring light for self-tapes, I suggest going with Neewer Ring Light Kit.
Learn More About The Ring Light For Self Tapes
3-Point Lighting System
The 3-point light will allow you to take wider shots as you will be able to light a wider space compared to a ring light.
The setup is perfect for taking mid-close and master shots. It is great if you want to shoot a scene that needs you to move a little.
And if you are looking for 3-point lighting, I suggest going with Fovitec 3-Light Fluorescent Studio Lighting Kit.
There is plenty of other lighting but for self-tapes, these two options are more than enough.
Learn More About The Lighting For The Self Tape
Another essential piece of equipment you need for self-tape is the camera. Nowadays, phone cameras are powerful enough to give you HD quality videos.
To make sure you buy the right camera for self tapes, keep the following things in mind:
- Make sure the camera shoots video at 1080 resolution or more than that.
- Make sure the camera has a microphone jack because you are not just shooting video but you want to record clear dialogues as well.
- Make sure the camera has enough space to record HD videos. Most phones nowadays have 128 GB storage which is more than enough. And if you go for the DSLR, make sure the SD card is large enough.
- Make sure the camera has a stability feature that allows you to shoot smooth videos even while you are moving.
- DSLR VS Mirrorless: Both have their advantages but I suggest going for the mirrorless camera if you plan to use a camera specifically for filming acting auditions and demo reels. The reason is they are light, compact, and work well with professional lighting. However, they are expensive. If you want something on the budget, DSLR is the best.
But I suggest using iPhone 13 and above. These cameras react well to professional lighting and have loads of professional settings for you to use.
iPhone is also by filmmakers which makes it suitable even for self-tapes.
However, if you want to use a DSLR camera to shoot a professional-looking self-tape go for something like a Canon 80D DSLR Camera. But if you are focusing more on the quality than the money, go for the Sony a7 III mirrorless camera.
Learn More About The Camera For Self Tape
When you are shooting self-tape you want to make sure the camera and lighting are stable. If there is even a slight jerk on either of them, it will show on your video.
So make sure you buy a stand for both lights and a camera. Most of the lighting kits do come with a stand and if not make sure you buy one for each type of light.
Also, it is advised to get a camera tripod too so that you get stable footage. One of the best cameras stands for self tape is MACTREM 80″ Camera Tripod.
However, there are plenty of other options if you want to choose otherwise. Whatever you choose, make sure it has a 360 ball head and good ergonomics so that you can adjust the position of your camera.
And in case you want to shoot a scene where the camera is moving a little, use a gimbal.
I recommend you to buy DJI OM 5 Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer if you have a phone as a camera and get DJI Ronin-SC if you own a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
If you spend thousands of dollars on a quality camera but if you don’t have a quality microphone, your self tape won’t be as good as you want.
Even if your scene has the best dialogues in the world, if they are not recorded properly they won’t have much effect on the casting agent.
So I believe as much as a camera is important, a quality microphone is important too.
For self-tape, you want an omnidirectional microphone that can be either on the camera or on a broomstick or even on the actor’s body. Let’s see two types of microphones that you can use for self tapes.
Shoe mount Microphone
If you plan to mount the microphone on the camera, you can buy Movo VXR10-PRO External Video Microphone which is a budget microphone. And if you don’t want to compromise on the audio, just get Sennheiser Professional MKE 400.
These mics run on batteries and work with both DSLRs and phones.
The issue with the above too microphone is as you move them away from the actor, the quality of audio goes down.
Having a mic on the actor is much more effective because even if the camera is moving away, the sound quality remains the same.
There are two types of Clip-on or lapel Microphones wired and wireless. I recommend getting wireless microphones such as Pixel UHF Wireless Lavalier Microphone System. It is compact, easy to hide, and comes with a charging case. Also compared to another wireless mic, the quality of the audio is good. However, they are expensive.
If you are on a budget, get a wired lapel like Lav Mic for the camera and phone. Another option is Rode SmartLav+. The quality of both microphones is the same.
Another essential part of self-tape equipment for actors is the backdrop. When you are shooting auditions at home, you need to have clear background.
If you have plain white or blue walls at your home you don’t have to buy a backdrop. Just set up your lighting there and you are good to go.
However, clear the wall. You don’t want pictures or anything else hanging on the wall. It has to be a plan a clear wall.
Also, if the wall is dirty avoid using it because it can distract viewers from your audition tape. Either you paint it or buy a backdrop to cover it.
In case there is no such wall or area at your home, just buy a pop-out backdrop.
Some of the best self-tape backdrops for actors are muslin backdrops. Avoid using synthetic backdrops because they tend to crease when folded.
My personal recommendation is YAYOYA Black White Backdrop. It is a 5X6.5 ft backdrop which is more than enough for shooting self tapes. And if you want a self-tape backdrop with a stand this is one of the best options. Otherwise, you will have to buy the backdrop and backdrop stand separately.
Learn More About The Backdrop For Self Tapes
6. Editing Setup
The list of self-tape equipment for actors is not complete without an editing setup.
Yes, you can always shoot your tape and send it to a professional editor but when you have no time or money there is no option but to edit by yourself.
You don’t need some expensive or technical editing setup. Just invest in a computer with a basic graphic card and easy-to-use software.
Even your phone is capable of editing a simple 3-5 minute audition tape. You just need an efficient app to do so.
Let’s discuss both the cases:
Edit Using PC
If you are more comfortable with a PC, I recommend you buy a desktop rather than going for an expensive laptop. PC must have the following configuration for editing:
- Microprocessor: Intel 5th gen and above, or AMD Ryzen 3 and above.
- RAM: 8 GB and above
- Hard Disk: 256 GB (SSD preferred)
- Monitor: minimum 21 inches.
This is the basic requirement to run any editing software.
And for editing software, I won’t recommend pro software like Final Cut or Premiere Pro. I suggest using Wondershare Filmora. It is easy to use and you can quickly edit your tapes. Many popular Youtube channels use it to edit their videos.
Edit Using Phone
If you plan to use your phone to edit videos make sure your phone has the following requirements.
- Ram: 6GB and above
- Internal Storage: 128 GB and above
- Display: 5.5 inches and above.
I suggest using getting iPhone 12 and above if you plan to use your phone to edit audition tapes.
As far as the apps are concerned, there are plenty of them to choose from. I suggest going for the free versions because they are more than enough.
For Os users, you can use iMovie which is free on the app store and another great option is the Splice video editor.
For android users, I suggest using Kinemaster Or Filmora Go. Both are easy to use and have ample features to edit a self-tape.
Whatever editing setup you use for making self-tape make sure you practice and improve your skill as an editor. There are plenty of video tutorials out there, brush up your skills whenever you get time.
Whenever you shoot a self-tape alone, you need someone to read the part of the other character in the scene.
If you have a roommate or friend, you can ask him or her but there will be times when you won’t have the reader at your exposure.
In such a case, I suggest using reader software.
A reader software reads you the part of the other character when you are shooting your scene.
One of the most recommended software is Slatable. Many professional actors use this software to record their auditions at home.
If you want to know more about it, I have a dedicated post about self-taping without a reader. There are I have talked about Slatable in detail. Please go through it.
Recommended Self Tape Audition Kit
I have listed all the essential self-tape equipment for actors in detail. You buy them separately but if you buy the self-tape audition kit, you will get almost all the equipment in one package except the camera, microphone, and editing software.
So let’s see what the best audition kits that you can buy for taping your audition at home are:
1. NEEWER Background Support System
Get it On Amazon- Click Here
Most of the self-tape audition kits that you find are the background support system. This system includes different lights, light stands, holders, reflectors, backdrops, backdrop stands, and softboxes.
The Neewer system is the perfect audition kit you need while shooting self-tape at home.
It includes 2-point lighting which is perfect for an audition. And with the help of softboxes and reflectors, you will be able to manage the light like a pro.
Also, the stand included in the package has a maximum height of 7 feet and can hold fluorescent as well as led bulbs.
For the backdrop, you get three 6ft x 9ft polyester backdrops colors black, white and green. To support the backdrop the package has an 8.5ft x 10ft aluminum alloy frame and six backdrop clamps.
The whole system can be packed and organized into carrying bags so you can carry it to different locations.
2. EMART Backdrop Support System
Get It On Amazon- Click Here
If you want an alternative to Neweer kit, you can go for the Emart backdrop system.
Just like the Neweer, it has all the required equipment in one package.
The package includes 5 in 1 reflector, 4 clamps, 6 clips, three backdrops (green, black, and white), two umbrella lighting kits, two soft lighting kits, and one backdrop support system.
The only difference you will find is the muslin backdrop. The Neweer has a polyester backdrop.
This is system is perfectly suitable for shooting, monologues, close-ups, and headshots.
3. LINCO Lincostore Photo Studio Lighting Kit
Get It On Amazon- Click Here
Another option that you can go for is the LINCO Lincostore Lighting Kit.
With the system, you get a 3-point lighting system, a full-fledged backdrop in three colors, reflectors, and carry bags to manage them.
It is also similar to Neweer and Emart but It has the auto pop-up softbox with diffuse. This helps you get softer light compared to other lighting systems.
This kit is also suitable for closeups, mid-close, monologues, and headshots.
I know buying all the equipment is a costlier affair but you have to think it as an investment. Also owning your own self-tape equipment, you will save a lot of money because you won’t have to rent them from the studio again and again.
I recommend you to do this investment as an actor. If you alone are not able to buy the whole kit, ask your fellow actor friends to pitch in. It will help everyone.