My son is an actor, and these days, auditions are submitted via self-tape and callbacks are via Zoom (or similar.) Of the MANY items we have tried, these are the ones we now use for all of the self-tapes we record and callbacks my son attends…
Tripod and Accessories
I put my iPhone on this tripod and have this mount screwed into the top. It has a place for this Rode microphone. The microphone is plug-n-play with the iPhone and makes sure that more of my son’s voice (instead of my reader voice) gets picked up. I have this foam filter to go on the end. So that’s the tripod setup.
I have tried all sorts of crazy backgrounds for self-tapes, but this blue and gray collapsible backdrop is my fav. I typically use blue, but I have had casting directors specifically request gray before. Easy peasy. Just flip it around. It’s collapsible, but I just leave it up. You can use a pole mount, but I just have two nails in the wall holding it up. I like the collapsible as opposed to the flowing backdrops because the fabric is tight (wrinkle-free.)
For self-tape lighting, I like this ring light. It comes with a tripod, and it’s good and tall so I can have the light high up. It also adjusts temperature (color) to compliment you skin tone and intensity. This collapsible little ring light, tripod combo travels with us – because everyone knows you get auditions when you’re out of town. It’s true!
Last Minute Audition Trick
Here’s a trick for last minute auditions: if you don’t have time to 100% memorize the script, print it out (extra large font) and tape it to a music stand so you can sneak peaks. I like this stand because it goes up really high so you can tape your sides at eye line level just behind your camera (iPhone.)
Once we’re done recording, I put everything in iMovie (it comes free with your iPhone!), edit together if one file is requested (delete the transitions), then download at 720 size back to my phone so the file is not huge. I like to record in hi res, but I know casting directors don’t like to receive those huge files.
Side note, if we are requested to send a full body shot with the slate, we do the slate in close frame (unless specially requested to also shoot that in full body.) Then cut. Then flip my phone vertical (gasp!) and back up to film full body (I hold the phone rather than adjusting my tripod for this bit.) Then I put the close up and full body together as one file in iMovie. On the full body portion, tape that clip, then use your fingers to adjust it so the frame matches up with the previous landscape/horizontal piece. You will have black on each sides, but it looks more professional than weird zooming out and camera movement, in my experience. In the end, what is sent to casting is all horizontal because you edited that full body piece in iMovie.
Tablet Mount for Callbacks
When you get that callback, swap out the iPhone mount for this iPad mount so you can do your Zoom (Hey Joe, whatever…) callback handsfree! Use that same backdrop and ring light.
BTW, if you need a tablet for such use, we purchased a refurbished iPad (without cellular – we just use WiFi on it) from Amazon and have been super happy with it! I do prefer an Otterbox case to protect it. It’s a bit pricier than some other brands, but our iPad has been THROUGH IT, and not a scratch on it, so the Otterbox case is definitely worth the investment.
If you also are a voiceover actor, check out this post for my home voiceover studio setup.
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