I recently got to go into the studio with Dante Swain and Marc Fajardo at Jive Duck Studios. We talked about self taping and how to make your auditions stand out. This is part 1 of 4. The transcript is below. Be sure to check back next week for part 2! Enjoy.
Melissa: Hi, thanks for stopping by. You're here because you wanna know how to do a self-tape audition. And we're in luck, we're in the studio today at Jive Duck Studios in Burbank, California. This is Dante Swain to my left, and behind the camera, we have Marc Fajardo, everybody wave at Marc. All right, thank you so much for joining us. In this series you are going to learn how to have a great self-tape audition, whether you're in the studio with someone like Dante or you're working at home.
Melissa: All right, Dante why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, about how Jive Duck Studios came to be, and what services you offer.
Dante: Well, I started off as an actor in the state of Florida before moving here to Los Angeles. When I got here, my agents back in Florida needed me to go on tapes for various projects back in the Southeast. So I had to learn very quickly how to make quality audition tapes in a moment's notice. Long story short, we formed Jive Duck Studios.
Dante: So we initially formed to help actors like myself not worry about their audition tapes and focus solely on their performance. Then our plan sort of evolved into editing demo reels, shooting demo reels, graphics, websites, headshots.
Melissa: Okay, it is time to talk self-taping. Now, there are three essential elements that all casting directors seem to be able to agree on. First of all, you need to have good lighting. Then you need to have good sound and you need to read with a reader. So first we'll talk about how Jive Duck Addresses these demands in the studio and then we'll talk about how you can handle them at home.
Melissa: Okay, Dante first let's talk about lighting. What setup do you use in the studio?
Dante: Well, lighting is very important when doing self-tapes. If the casting can't see you properly, how will you ever be cast in anything? So the goal primarily is to have nice soft even lighting, you don't want anything that's too harsh or anything that's too dim. Here at the studio, we find that softboxes are incredibly effective when creating soft even and flattering lighting. Primarily we use one key light or main light, one backlight or overhead light, and a few softboxes just to fill up the room.
Melissa: Okay, so let's talk about setting a studio up at home. Where would be a good place to look for lighting equipment?
Dante: Great question. We actually get all of our equipment or at least most of our equip at B&H store, you can check them out online.
Melissa: You know, I never thought of that. I look on Amazon from time to time just to see what's on there but I never know.
Dante: Amazon, they're great too. Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, wherever you can get a great deal get the great deal. But we love shopping at B&H because they have awesome customer service and it tends to be sort of the industry standard there.
Melissa: Nice, so you if you don't know anything they can probably help you answer questions.
Dante: Absolutely, any question you have they are really good about helping you out and steering you down the right path.
Melissa: Very nice. All right. Well, I've got another one for you.
Melissa: Let's say someone has zero dollars to spend to set up a studio at home. What are some ways that they can make sure they're well-lit with what they already have available?
Dante: All right. Well, in that scenario I would say natural lighting is always best. So if you can find a room in your house that has a sort of big window in front of you, that's great do that. However, if the lighting is too intense maybe consider getting a sheet from your bed and placing it in front of the window to help diffuse some of that intensity from hitting your face and being too harsh.
Melissa: So, especially when the sun is shining directly in the window and you can really feel the heat from the sun, right?
Dante: Absolutely, diffuse the heck out of that. Now, if you don't have access to windows or you're shooting your audition at night, try to find a desk lamp or floor lamp and put it to good use. And keep in mind that lights with lampshades connected to them, they produce softer more even light. But if your window is to the side of your face and is producing uneven lighting just to one side, consider grabbing your sun reflector out of the car and placing it to the opposite side of your face in order to balance some of the light in from the window, and ultimately fill in some of those shadows. Now, if you don't have a sun reflector in your car, consider purchasing a white poster board, or even grabbing some aluminum foil out of your kitchen and that should do the trick just as well.
Melissa: All right. Well, it doesn't do any good to be seen if you can't be heard. So let's talk about sound next. Dante, what kind of mic do you use in the studio?
Dante: Well, currently we're using the Sennheiser boom mic. It's a shotgun microphone, meaning it is directional and we aim it right at the actor for nice clean audio. Also, regarding sound have four sound panels in the studio that help absorb any sort of bounce from loud noises you may have in your scene. For instance, if the actor is screaming or talking really loudly, you don't want the sound to echo or bounce around. So we place these up to absorb some of that shock. However, you could just pick up egg crates off of Amazon or eBay, Craigslist, B&H, and they also help do the trick as well.
Melissa: And you're not talking about egg cartons, right? That's something different?
Dante: It's something entirely different.
Melissa: Okay, so if someone were taping at home without a mic, what would be some ways they could get clear sound?
Dante: Well, if you're shooting your audition tape on your smartphone, maybe consider finding a quiet room in your house to film that audition in and be really aware of any sort of sounds that the camera might pick up. Such as any noise from outside such as cars or people talking, or ceiling fans even.
Melissa: You mentioned ceiling fans, I have to tell you I had an air conditioning experience once. I went to a friend's house, tried to just knock out a little one-liner self-tape and the air conditioning was running, we knew it. But we did a take, tested it, played it back on the camera and it wasn't showing up on the camera so we left the air conditioning on. Sure enough, by the time I get home I've got this air conditioning buzzing in the back of my video. But I was able to fix it, I went into my iMovie and then clicked on I suppose it was noise-reduction or something. I got lucky and figured it out, but I wouldn't suggest it. It's easier just to turn those things off to begin with.
Dante: Absolutely, or if you're having a hard time with any of that or sound outside or whatever, consider shooting your auditions either late at night or first thing in the morning if people are the problem because people are quieter at these times because they're asleep. So you get really nice clear, clean audio at these times. So really take that into consideration because it can be quite distracting for casting watching your videos.
Melissa: Thank you so much for joining us here at Jive Duck Studios. This completes part one of How to Make a Self-Tape Audition. We've given you some simple solutions for lighting and sound for your audition videos. If you found that information helpful, please click the like button below. And if you have questions and comments, those are always welcome as well.
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