African american man recording video acting audition. Voice Over

The Biggest Do’s and Don’ts For Self Taping Auditions

In our second part of our Self Taping for On Camera Auditions mini-series, we get the best do’s and don’ts from several voice actors, and one stage actress, who have had experience with recording self tapes for on camera auditions.

Read our first piece to learn How to Nail a Self-Tape in an On-Camera Audition.

Our experienced trio have some dependable do’s and don’t that they want you to consider before you hit record for that first on camera self tape:

Do’s:

  1. Make sure your lighting is good: You could be giving the best performance of your life, but If we can’t see your face we’re missing it. Lighting is an art in itself, but a couple of lamps should do the trick! – Luca Papp
  2. Check your sound: One of the biggest pet peeves I’ve heard from creative directors is either not being able to hear you because the volume is too low, or the sound is tinny and hard to understand, or dog barks and sirens are constantly in the background. – Luca Papp
  3. Stand in front of a solid backdrop: Whether that’s a plain wall, or a pop up backdrop or even a sheet hung behind you. Nothing is more distracting than seeing clutter in the background. – Luca Papp
  4. Set post it notes to set up your eyeline: This is one of my biggest secrets to success. Every person you’re speaking to in the scene needs a post it that you will place somewhere in front of you, so every time you speak to them or they speak to you, you’ll know where to look. You won’t believe what a difference it makes in the believability of the scene. – Luca Papp
  5. Get a reader whenever possible: Having them in the room to give you the lines of your scene partners is always best, but a FaceTime or a phone call also works. – Luca Papp
  6. Do some practice runs in your self tape space, playing with different lighting and watch back to see what is complimentary, and what can be adjusted, before an self tape audition is due. – Amber Musser
  1. Do look for workshops and mentors to further your understanding of on camera performance, just the same as you would for voice over. It’s all about developing as a performer and finding your strengths.- Amber Musser
  2. You absolutely have to film horizontally. You want to have great picture quality, sound, and lighting, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. The most recent smartphone models are equipped with fantastic cameras and pretty good mics. 

I use an iPhone 13 to film and have gotten great results. I like to be in natural light and use my ring lights just to up the quality a bit. I think the picture quality comes out much better when there’s a good amount of natural light directly in front of you and to only use equipment lighting to kick it up a notch. – Mia Scarpa

Here’s what Mia’s setup looks like:

  • Blue popup backdrop
  • Tripod with two ring lights
  • Simple bluetooth speaker with good sound quality
  • Music stand for either my laptop and speaker (for when I need to sing for an audition) or for my sides
  • Well lit area and a plain wall, curtain, or backdrop behind you

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t read the first line from the script: If you can memorize your lines that is ideal, but if it’s a long scene or you don’t have the time, it’s totally fine to have a good understanding of the lines and intent and then hold your sides so you can refer to them when needed. 

    However, at the very least you should deliver the first line completely memorized, because you want your first impression to be full view of your face and your eyes, not hidden behind a paper. – Luca Papp
  1. Don’t just set the camera and forget it: Framing can be distracting if not done right. Generally mid-torso to just above your head works great. – Luca Papp
  2. Don’t edit within the scene: It’s so easy in voice over auditions to take the beginning of Take 1 and the end of Take 2 and edit it together, but on camera, each scene should be one continuous take. Do, however, edit out the beginning and end of turning the camera on and off, the recording should start with you already in character. – Luca Papp
  1. Don’t overthink it too much. Set your lights, chose your wardrobe, go over the scene a few times, and get rolling! – Amber Musser
  1. Don’t get too hug up on technicalities, good performance always shines through. – Amber Musser 

Funny Stories of Self Tapes

There will be mistakes. There will be stories from gaffes of your early self tapes. You need to be able to laugh it off and build off of it, not letting the negative moments define the energy you bring into your on camera self tapes.

Luckily, our experts have their own laughable moments to remind you that even the pros have slip ups:

Mia Scarpa

“I was once standing too close to my backdrop while I was taping, and I knocked into it sending it toppling over me onto the rest of my equipment. Everything came crashing down, including me. Somehow in the process this caused my phone to activate the emergency feature and call 911. I was buried under my backdrop, but I could hear the 911 dispatcher saying, “Ma’am, are you ok? What is your emergency?” And I was just laying on the ground trying to get out from underneath everything and shouting, “I’m ok! Sorry! I’m ok!” It was truly a disaster. Since it happened, that story has been a big hit at parties. Self taping can be stressful at times, so you have to laugh.”

Amber Musser

“If you have pets, like I do, self taping is always interesting. When my fur family realized they get

treats (to keep them busy) each time I start taping, they began to get so excited when I set up

the lights and pulled out the backdrop! It’s hard to tell who enjoys on camera auditioning more

these days, me or my pets.” 

Have you ever done a self tape for an on-camera audition before? Let us know in the comments section what your tips are and what the experience has been like!

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