Slating comes from the film industry. We’ve all seen clips of that guy on the movie set snapping down the clapperboard before the scene starts. He’s slating. The name comes from the “slate” that shows information like the name of the production, the scene number, and the take. This slate of information gets recorded on the film right before the take. Slating serves as a tag to identify each piece of footage so the editor can compile the best take for each scene into the correct sequence for the film. (And since you’re now becoming your own audio engineer, you might be interested to know that the clapping sound is there to help the editor synchronize the audio to the video, which are recorded separately).
Say Your Name, Say Your Name
Slating serves the same purpose in auditions, whether you’re on camera or behind the microphone. You basically say your name so decision makers can easily identify your video or audio recording.
If you’re auditioning on camera, you’ll typically say your name, the role you’re reading for, sometimes your height, who you’re represented by, and the city you live in.
It might go something like this:
“Hi, I’m Joanna Smith, reading for the role of Laura. I’m five-foot six, I’m represented by ABC Talent, and I live in Los Angeles.”
If you’re behind the microphone, your slate will typically be much more succinct. You’ll skip the “Hi, I’m…” (really, do skip it) and just say your name. If you’re reading for a character, you’ll say your name and the role. For commercials that only have an announcer, you don’t need to say the role. You’ll generally say your role (even if it’s the announcer) any time the script has multiple characters. Always say your name and the role when you’re auditioning for animation and video games.
“Joanna Smith, reading for the role of Laura.”
In some cases, the casting director will request that you also say the name of your VO agency.
“Joanna Smith, with VO agency, reading for the role of Laura.”
Going Once, Going Twice!
If you’re recording more than one take (read why you really should here), you’re probably wondering if you should say, “take 1”, “take 2”, and so on before each take. You can do this, but you don’t have to. If you want to do this, simply pause after you slate, then say “take 1”. For other takes, pause after the audition, then simply say “take 2” and so on. No need to say your name again.
Personally, I rarely do it, as 90% of commercial breakdowns these days say they want nothing more than a slate. Some don’t even want a slate! Casting directors have gotten very particular about what they do and don’t want in VO auditions, and they will often mention not wanting any extra “noises.” Saying extraneous things like “take 1” can fall into this noise category.
Rolling . . .
Slating in actual recording sessions is usually done by the audio engineer. They won’t say your name (at this point, everyone knows who you are) but they will say a new take number every time they record a new performance from you. They’ll usually say the take number and then “rolling,” which is just like saying “action” on movie sets—it means the recording has started.
If you’re recording on your own with the client on the line, it’s a good idea for you to slate your take before each of your performances. It helps everyone keep track of where they are and what they like. For example, they might like the beginning of take 2 and the end of take 3, and request you only send them those takes.
You will also typically label the files with the take numbers, so you may not have to record the actual slate (or you may be able to delete it if you did). Always ask the client their preference before you start recording. If you’re not going to slate verbally, make sure you use markers in your recording program before you record each take so you can keep track of where you’re at, visually. If the clients like take 4, you should be looking at the same take as they are. You wouldn’t want to send them the wrong take!
Be You! (On a Good Day)
It’s often best to record your slate after you’ve recorded your audition, whether it’s on camera or behind the microphone. By then, the work is done, you’re relaxed, and you’ve gotten to know your character. Put that positive energy into your slate!
Record it with a smile. Whether you’re doing it on camera or behind the microphone, a smile is contagious. Everybody wants to share in someone else’s positive energy. Besides, the microphone never lies and your smile will come through; it will draw people in and make them want to listen to you. So, record the slate at the end—but don’t forget to then copy/paste your slate and put it at the beginning of your audition. You can leave about one second after the slate, and then have your audition start, with the takes back-to-back. Leave about one second between each take.
Play by the Rules
The most important thing about slating is to follow the instructions on the breakdown. So many emails are sent from casting offices complaining about actors who aren’t following their (somewhat) simple instructions. Yes, it’s a pain, because every audition will have different instructions—but hey, if it means someone will actually listen, it’s worth it.
Sometimes they’ll ask for height, city, agent, role, etc. In voice-overs they’ll often say they don’t want a slate. Just follow the breakdown’s instructions (including how they want the file labeled) and you’ll be golden.
On some occasions, there will be no instructions at all. When in doubt, always say your name! And in the event the breakdown mentions they don’t want a slate, then don’t record one.
That pretty much covers the topic of slating for VO auditions. If you want to learn more about recording voiceovers, read my 2nd e-book called Recording & Editing Voiceovers.
And now that you know how to record a good slate, find out how to record auditions that have multiple characters in the script. If you’re looking for ways to vary auditions, also check out these 5 tips.