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Proper Slate Technique


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#1 blain murphey

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 03:01 PM

Hello everyone,

Can someone help me out with the proper slate technique for film and Digital. I was slating the other day and i got yelled at by the dp that i wasn't slating right. Can anyone help. Also how do you use a smart slate. When you set the timecode do you just set the time code the same on the slate?

Thanks
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#2 Ry Kawanaka

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 04:19 PM

hold the slate still for a second after you clap. then take it away.

place the slate in the right positions for different lenses. (ie 5ft away for 50mm, 2ft for 20mm, 100ft for 100mm, etc.)

don't clap too harsh when the slate is close to the actor's face.

write the correct number clearly.

am i forgetting anything?

i wouldn't worry about the smart slate. just let the sound dept take care of it.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 04:19 PM

What did the DP say you were doing wrong?

Regarding timecode, the slate should be synced or "jammed" with the sound recorder. If shooting digitally, the sound guy/gal will attach a "Clock-It" box to the camera which keeps the camera's "free running" timecode in sync with his own separate recorder. It's his/her responsibility to sync up the smart slate as well, but always your responsibility as well to make sure of it.
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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 08:34 PM

in addition to Rys advice, if you are close to an actors face and slating, call 'soft sticks' instead of slate or mark.

Also make sure to clearly say the scene and take number, then if theres multiple cams call A mark or B mark, etc. If the sound dpt has a mic on their stand, they might punch in and audio slate the take, so all you'd have to say is A mark.

Make sure you don't move the slate itself when marking. its a common first time mistake to pull the slate as your marking, as was said before hold it for a second after mark. Its best to hold the slate with four fingers and push the clapper down with your thumb, that way its likely the slate will stay mid-frame and steady when you slate.

If your doing tail slates, then clearly announce after 'tail slate' and hold the sticks upside-down as they enter frame. Hold for a second then turn it right side up and mark it.

Its also good to check with scripty periodically to make sure you both have the same shot, take and roll number. errors there won't be picked up until post, and you may never hear back on it.
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#5 Ryan Patrick OHara

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 11:41 PM

If you hear the words "Second sticks" yelled out, they are calling you back for a re-slate.

Also, if the take is MOS (without sound) you can either firmly hold the slate by the top keeping the sticks closed against each other, or open the sticks and hold the slate from the top, sandwiching your hand between the sticks.

Either way, (holding them firm together, or keeping your hand between them) the visual holding of the slate reconfirms the MOS status which should also be marked on the slate.

Edited by Ryan Patrick OHara, 10 September 2008 - 11:44 PM.

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#6 Patrick Neary

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 11:18 AM

Hi-

I might add to the list:

Get the %@#* out of the shot! And don't take the scenic route out of the frame after slating. :)
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 01:52 PM

I'll add something too. Don't put the slate into frame until right before you're going to hit the sticks. It's very annoying for the operator when he/she is trying to make last minute adjustments and the 2nd keeps sticking the slate in before camera is ready to go.
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#8 Tim Terner

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 02:05 PM

Always crosses my mind if the camera is say set at a T1.3, do you always slate on the point of focus ?
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#9 Alex Worster

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 02:17 PM

Usually as a 1st I'll put focus on the slate if I know the slate will be way out of focus then quickly roll it back to my 1st mark. That's why it's a good idea for the 2nd be in the general ball park of 2.5ft for a 25mm 5ft for a 50mm for 35 and double the focal length in feet for 16mm that way I will always know about where to focus for the slate. It's always nice for the post people to have a readable slate. When I'm 2nding I usually try to be follow the rule if possible unless the situation dictates otherwise or the 1st asks me to slate from a specific point.
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#10 Scott Dolan

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:13 AM

Here's a trick.
If you're on a long lense and there is a filter in the matte-box, you stand at the correct distance (e.g: 25' for 250mm lens) and then find your reflection in the filter so you can see your face. Then pull the slate up to where your eyes are and there you have the perfect spot for the slate.
Operators hate having to reframe for the slate. Keep an eye on rehearsals so you know where the shot starts and where to stick the slate without making the Focus Puller say "camera left a bit.... up a bit" etc. It's very frustrating when you have a Loader who cant put the slate in the right place.
Sometimes if its a very critical pre-frame for both Operator and focus, it's easier to just do a tail slate.
It is the Focus Puller's responsibility to have in-focus slates.

If you are using a timecode slate make sure the brightness of the numbers is set correctly. If you are using a fast stock like 500T you may need to grab a strip of .3 or .6 ND gel from the Lighting Dep. to knock it back.

Also, where you can you should always bring the slate into frame from the bottom, and take it out from the top.
This helps the Editors when scrolling through rushes at high speed. Sticks should always be open when you first bring the slate into frame.

Slating is an art form. A skill acquired with experience.


Hope this helps :)
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#11 Gregor Grieshaber

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 11:38 AM

a lot of nice tips around here. not much more to say. but always check your escape route and the place to go after slating. make sure you are not blocking a light and that you are not in a reflection of glass or something else. also make sure you don´t place in the eyeline of an actor and don´t watch the action, you could catch glimpses. and watch the boom operator during rehersals. maybe he has to go just where you wanted to hide...
for very difficult long lens stuff i used to have a casio mini monitor i held with my lower hand behind the slate. you will always be perfectly in frame with that. i would also recommand for long lens stuff to slate over a mark from the 1st ac so its easier for him to put the slate in focus. just take the one that is closest or a little further from your estimated slat position.

enjoy :D
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#12 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 10:14 PM

I was 1sting on a job this summer in South Carolina and brought on a super-uber green friend of mine to help with paperwork and slate for a day. Rattle off your scene and take, mark the damn thing, and get out of there as fast as you can...don't make a freakin public performance out of it...I still remember the operator yelling, "Clap it, you f*cker!" in exasperation. Thankfully, everyone had a sense of humor and it was an easy day...
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#13 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 11:12 PM

I was 1sting on a job this summer in South Carolina and brought on a super-uber green friend of mine to help with paperwork and slate for a day. Rattle off your scene and take, mark the damn thing, and get out of there as fast as you can...don't make a freakin public performance out of it...I still remember the operator yelling, "Clap it, you f*cker!" in exasperation. Thankfully, everyone had a sense of humor and it was an easy day...


Had I been drinking something, I would be out a computer. :lol:
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#14 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 03:31 AM

"Clap it, you f*cker!"


I really love that, I may have to use it when working with a 2nd who really gets me, he he
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#15 Johnathan Holmes

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 03:48 PM

We were shooting a dream scene in a school hallway, and SFX had pumped in dry ice to cover the floor. Unfortunately the only way out after slating was through a patch of freshly pumped dry ice. My eager footsteps sure stirred that cloud up! So be careful not to run out too quickly after slating. Nothing is more embarrassing (and hilarious!) than tripping over a sandbag in shot after slating and knocking over a light.

Also, as a general rule, I tend to tilt the slate slightly downwards as custom faceplates can be very reflective, and if the Op/AC says "tilt", that's what that means. Be aware of how much light is on the slate. Sometimes you can tilt it left or right a bit to catch some light, and sometimes when outdoors you may need to shadow it with your body to waste some light. Always have a flashlight handy just in case.

Finally, be aware of where the boom op's mic is and turn your head to verbally slate into the mic in your appropriate "indoor" or "outdoor" voice, and then look right back at the 1st for visual cues to adjust the position of the slate. Directions given by the 1st ("left, "right") are always camera left or camera right.

Also, when tail slating I've learned not to turn and walk away while verbally slating after marking, as is pretty instinctive. Stay there and call it out with your head turned to the mic.

Oh, and if you're slating letters, please, for the love of God, stick to the standard phonetic alphabet and don't throw in your own dirty words. "21-Boobies, Take one" gets really old fast and is unbelievably unprofessional and distracting.

"Sixty-Nine, Take(s) Two", however, does not get old. Ever. The key to pulling that one off is in a very subtle and soft "s" after "Take". They don't know if they heard it, but they think they did.

Edited by Johnathan Holmes, 01 January 2009 - 03:50 PM.

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#16 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 07:27 PM

It's really pretty amazing how something as simple as clapping a slate can go so HORRIBLY WRONG when you're 1) exhausted, 2) new, 3) nervous, or 4) all of the above. I still find slating to be nerve-wracking and it occasionally makes me self-conscious, especially the time when I had bronchitis and could barely talk above a whisper.

Then, sometimes they want you to call it and sometimes the sound guys will end up slating for themselves, so it can get pretty confusing. Or there will be a large and vicious dog in the frame which you have to cross in order to clear.

People make a really, really big deal out of the simplest, most basic tasks on a film set. And they do this to justify their career choices and make themselves feel better. So don't feel bad...it's an important task but it's not like you have to write a 200-page dissertation on the literature of Tolstoy as it relates to the Cold War. As my friend Alexa says, "We're making movies...not saving babies from burning buildings!" Amen to that.
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#17 Patrick Neary

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 08:50 PM

As my friend Alexa says, "We're making movies...not saving babies from burning buildings!" Amen to that.


In that vein, I shot a season or so of a goofy kid's series out of Santa Barbara, and our sound guy would sometimes slate the shots himself, and found all sorts of creative and interesting ways, including throwing the slate into the air, spinning, and then catching it one-handed as the sticks slapped together. It was very impressive and a technique we all tried, but could never pull off as well. It was a very casual set, I kind of miss it.
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#18 Keith Bronsdon

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 09:15 PM

Be sure to hold the thing steady when banging the sticks--it's easy to wobble the slate once the stick goes down. They need to see the frame where the sticks close--if it's moving it could be blurred. It's hard to keep it perfectly still, but don't dip it 6"!! Also, don't rush the whole process to save film--be efficient, but get it right by speaking slow enough to be properly heard and seen. The cost of a second of film is less than totally screwing up a take and needing second sticks or (**gasp**) third sticks. You look more professional if you're under control and get it right even if it takes a hair longer. Slate fast, but not TOO fast.

Lastly, for you 1sts, operators, dps, whomever, please don't humiliate a second assistant who needs to work on his slating skills!! This post started with someone who didn't know what they were doing wrong--obviously they got yelled at, but didn't know why. What did yelling at them accomplish? If you want to solve a problem with your crew, present a solution instead of inflating your ego. I think it's best to have the 1st quietly tell their second how to do it better (or correctly). Humiliating them only makes you look like an ass to the rest of the crew (and them!!).
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#19 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 09:44 PM

...I still find slating to be nerve-wracking and it occasionally makes me self-conscious, especially the time when I had bronchitis and could barely talk above a whisper.

Then, sometimes they want you to call it and sometimes the sound guys will end up slating for themselves, so it can get pretty confusing. Or there will be a large and vicious dog in the frame which you have to cross in order to clear.


I just hate slating when I don't have a 2nd or PA to do it for me. Because then I'm juggling the slate and a dry erase while at the same time getting my marks and catching the camera when the DP forgets to lock the tilt before walking away! Tends to only get that stressful towards the end of the day. The biggest challenge is to just stay on top of it and write down the correct info for each setup and take while not delaying the Director's and actors' rhythm.

On one occasion a director just shouted "No more slates!", even though I really wasn't causing any type of delay...I think he was just a documentary director making his first narrative and got tired of seeing slates for each take, ha ha. I asked "Are you sure?" "Yes" And the DP just shrugged as I said under my breath "Fine with me, your editor won't like it though." I just did verbal slates the rest of the day.
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#20 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 12:12 AM

I just skimmed down the post, but just wanted to ad..

Sometime with animals, kids and the occasional very intense scenes ask about getting a head id of the slate and doing tail sticks... and for god's sake don't use your outside voice if you don't have to... tell the boom guy your gonna do soft sticks. Nothing worse than getting the evil eye and blamed for an actor that just can't cry or the squeamish dog running off the perfect mark that took ten minutes for the wrangle to set it.

Digital P2 type shoots will acquire a single file for each take, so head id's don't really go over well in that regard because it's recorded to a file its self and not with the actual take, unless you id and keep the camera rolling. Also, it's nice to see the slate in the thumbnail of the files. The way that is done is having the slate in frame and focused before camera is rolled. Sometimes sound guys are looking at the monitor waiting for the slate before they will roll because the audio is on the camera's file.

Last one is ask the operator if your gonna be safe ducking into a suspect corner, infact don't even try it... just get clear of frame quickly unless you got nowhere to go... but ask nothing worse than to see the AC hunched over in the shot.

...GOOD WOOD!!!
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