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Though self-tapes have become more and more common tool for auditions, right now self-tapes have become the go-to method for casting directors to find the talent they are looking for, and for actors and singers to share their talents with the world. Playbill has put together few ideas to help you create the best self-tape audition. Watch the video above to learn the best practices for creating the best self-tape audition and book the role of your dreams, or use it to enter Playbill’s Search for a Star contest.
We’re accepting entries through July 28, 2021. Need help finding accompaniment? Download a special pack of backing tracks from our friends at Music Theatre International with songs from the most loved titles in their catalog, including Newsies, Ragtime, Next to Normal, Bring It On, Legally Blonde The Musical, and many more.
These tools that will take your self-tape to the next level:
Using your smartphone to record is 100 percent OK, but do not prop it up against a stack of books. A tripod that puts the camera on top, and allows for landscape mode rather than portrait, is what you’re after. Again, landscape (also known as horizoontal). Try to avoid tripods that have a pivot platform that would allow you to adjust the angle of the camera. That might be preferable for pros, but for self-tapes they make the picture shaky.
Example: Manfrotto 190 Pro B Tripod Legs, Black 21-57″ (Bogen 3001B) at KEH Camera
Tripods don’t come equipped to hold smartphones, so you’ll need to get this attachment—unless you have a digital recording device with tripod connectors.
Example: JOBY JB01323 GripTight Mount XL for Smartphones
You’re the star—so use a solid neutral color as a background to make sure you pop. Note: Never position yourself right against the backdrop. Keep three feet away to prevent the creation of shadows.
Kate Solid Color Backdrops (10% Off Sitewide with Code KATESAS10)
Fox Rolled Solid Gray Vinyl Photography Backdrop (15% Off Sitewide with Code FOX15)
After a few months in quarantine, you may want to upgrade your wardrobe. Remember: If you feel good, you look great! Boost your confidence with a little online retail therapy, or subscribe to a personal shopper service and let them do the legwork.
Bonus: StitchFix also offers new users a $25 referral fee for every friend who signs up, so check in with your fellow actors and see if they might be interested in upgrading too!
Natural light is the best for your self-tape, especially during the golden hour just before sunset. However, if you can’t get the angle right, there are plenty of ways to make you look radiant. Check out lamps from Lighting New York and browse for a table light that you can easily move around as you perfect your self-tape.
About ring lights: They are fine for non-audition videos or photos where you can re-touch your eyes, but ring lights are typically too bright for self-tapes. Plus, the ring of light that it creates in your pupil makes you look emotionless—not helpful.
If you’re looking for a more technical option, try a Softbox light and put it 45 degrees on either side of you and a little above you (at the top of your head, rather than directly on your face). This positioning gives you a natural look versus something that’s over-produced. Watch the video above for helpfu positioning tips.
Example: MountDog Photography Continuous Softbox Lighting Kit
A shotgun mic is best for capturing sound, and picks up well from a distance. If you’re singing, you want it to be a good two feet away so that if you’re belting, the sound doesn’t distort at high volumes. Remember: Not every microphone plugs directly into your device, so be sure to get the cord, too! You can simply prop it on your tripod.
Example: Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone with AmazonBasics XLR Male to Female Microphone Cable
Don’t overthink it: iMovie is perfectly fine, and can also be used on smartphones. Remember that the point of a self-tape is that you’re presenting your most genuine self possible—this is the equivalent of walking into an audition room. Don’t turn it into a music video or a short film.
Examples: iMovie, Nero, Movavi
Just as in real auditions, you shouldn’t need to look at the music or script during a performance, but it’s helpful to keep it nearby in an organized fashion. Looking for the perfect audition song? Be sure to check out the Playbill Store’s collection of vocal selection books.