8 Tricks That'll Make Using a Film Slate a Whole Lot Easier

Slating is pretty straightforward, but there are definitely ways to make it easier and more productive.

Whether you're a 2nd AC working on a big budget production or a one-man-band filming in your backyard, using a slate makes navigating and syncing your footage/audio in post much easier. Maybe some of you veterans have found little tricks and workarounds that make the process even better and more efficient, but for those who don't have a lot of experience, Caleb Pike shares 8 helpful slating tips in this video:

Here are Pike's 8 tips for slating:

  • Use gaffers tape instead of markers: Markers are easy to lose, ink smudges/stains. An alternative is to write all pertinent information on gaffers tape, stick it to the back of your slate, and use as needed.
  • Don’t clutter the slate (keep it simple): You may not need to fill out all of the boxes on a slate. Use only what you need to keep things simple.
  • Figure out a system and stick with it: Your system might take some time to develop as you figure out what works for you, but once you have one, stick to it to avoid confusion later.
  • Use the slate to find focus: This is especially helpful if your actors are busy or if you don't have stand-ins.
  • Have the slate in the frame before recording: Making sure the slate is in the frame before you hit record makes finding the clips you need in post so much easier, because each thumbnail will have the slate in it.
  • Remember you can slate at the end of a shot if you can’t slate at the beginning: If you mess up and forget to slate at the beginning of a shot, no worries—just do it at the end.
  • Don’t slate to loudly: You don't need to bust any eardrums. All you need is for it to be loud enough to hear and see when you look at the levels in post. A nice, gentle clap will do.
  • Use slate orientation as a marker: If you don't want to write any additional information onto your slate, you can use its orientation as a shorthand indicator or marker for something you determine with your editor.

What are some other helpful slating tricks? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment

13 Comments

i don't know anyone use tape for scene and take number... what if the tape is not sticky anymore and drops... and i don't know anyone use just a finger to drop the stick... so i don't think this post is very helpful...

November 8, 2016 at 10:05PM

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I've used tape for scene and take numbers for almost 10 years. Real camera tape doesn't loose it's "stickyness" for a long time. I make new numbers before every shoot and it's never failed me yet. However, I've lost count of how many markers I have lost over the years.

November 9, 2016 at 4:48AM

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maybe start remember to put the marker in your pocket every time will help build muscle memory and save tape and money and time :)

November 10, 2016 at 6:23PM

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Huh the post came back haha

December 18, 2016 at 6:26AM, Edited December 18, 6:27AM

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Matthew Emmanuel
Camera Operator
561

Good video. I add a tape over roll that says card and identify them with letters, a, b, c, etc. to coincide with letters marked on the SD cards, c-fast cards. etc.
Also, it's common practice to hold the slate upside down when marking the end of a scene.
Taping a gray card to the slate is a great idea.

November 9, 2016 at 2:12AM, Edited November 9, 2:13AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
1518

Look extra professional and use a label maker for the constant information too!

November 11, 2016 at 12:33AM

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Matthew Emmanuel
Camera Operator
561

I write on camera tape for all information except Shot and Take number. For those I use erasable marker; it's just faster for me than messing about with individual tape numbers. I put a strip of Velcro tape on the marker and the slate, and always stick the former to the latter after using it. Markers do wander, though; have a few spares.

Two tips that I wish were used more often (like, every time): 1) Slate every take, even MOS. It makes it much easier to find a particular clip. 2) If you're slating an MOS take, put your fingers across or between the arms of the clapper, to indicate visually that there is no audio this take. That way your Editor doesn't go nuts looking for an audio file that doesn't exist.

November 11, 2016 at 10:47AM, Edited November 11, 10:47AM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
771

For a tail slate, I've normally placed the slate upside down so that the Editor clearly knows that the slate is a tail because it's backwards from a normal slating situation. In close-up situations, I say "soft sticks" so that the slate doesn't irritate the talent. However, when in an extreme wide shot, I would say that is the one time a person would really slate it hard. In those times I usually say, "Thundersticks." I think what is more important is how you say what is on the slate than the information on the slate itself. The grey card is a wonderful idea!

November 11, 2016 at 10:53AM

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The tape may work on small productions, but on big shows, takes too long and you will look unprofessional. Invest in a PTouch, preferably one of the models that takes 1" tapes. It's what pro ACs use, so the only writing will be the scene and take.

November 11, 2016 at 11:22AM

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Steve Stussey
Loader/2nd AC
98

The slate may bite your hand, watch out for that.

December 19, 2016 at 3:20AM

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N. Peter
Community / Filmmaker Website leader
186

P-Touch is a must if you're going to be an AC. Scene and take are not taped, but written on the slate. What's the point of having a slate if you can't write on it? Expo makes a dry erase cleaner that works really well and isn't acetate based so doesn't harm the slates. Also, practice your handwriting. If you can't read the slate, then what's the point? Fill the space with the text, make it big and legible. Messy slates just look bad.

July 12, 2017 at 8:04AM

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Steve Stussey
Loader/2nd AC
98

I wouldn't use most of these tips on a pro shoot. Invest in a P-Touch, keeps the regular info like Production Title, Director, DP neat. I've never in all my years of AC'ing ever seen anyone use numbered tape. And I haven't figured out why people use gaff tape and write on it. Yes, it keeps the slate clean, but the whole point of the slate material is to write on it. The point of the info on the slate is for the editor to read it, which means it needs to be big enough to read whether you're up close or far away. The tags in the video are small. You can also put velcro on your slate and make tags for things like shutter, filters, fps & MOS.
If you clean your slate after you use it, it stays clean. Unless you're doing soft sticks, 45º is the usual height to clap. As far as when to slate, it should be 'sound speeds, slate in, camera speeds, mark, set, action'. Because if you clap the slate before audio, you've missed the point of the slate.

June 30, 2019 at 1:49PM

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Steve Stussey
Loader/2nd AC
98

I like to make a few little pull tabs by ripping off a small piece of tape and folding over part of it onto itself. Then use them to cover up some of the text at the bottom. Like if it’s an INT MOS NIGHT shot, I’ll cover EXT, SYNC, and DAY with white tape tabs. Keeps the clutter down and you don’t have to worry about the marker smearing when you hold it. Since they are tabs, you can re-use them through the day. If the next shot is EXT, just pull the tab off and cover up INT.

September 21, 2019 at 1:35PM

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Tristan
171