How to make the perfect self tape
The self tape is, in many cases, the first time a casting director or director will see you act, so you need to make a good impression – and there are a few things one can do to earn a fighting chance of getting that call back.
So first, let's look at what camera to use – thankfully, we live in the future and almost everyone has a pocket video camera. Not only that, they are actually good!
If you've just renewed your phone contract, chances are you have a camera capable of shooting 4K. It's probably best not to use that for a self tape. It takes a long time to send/receive. Stick to 720p (you can change this in settings).
Invest in a tripod – something cheap is fine. Check out Gorillapod who do small tripods that are easily manoeuvrable. You can twist their little legs around most surfaces or just use it flat on your desk.
Once set up, stick to simple framing. You're not directing a scene, you're showing what your face looks like and showing off the strength of your performance. Oh and speaking of framing – landscape only, please.
The onboard sound from the camera in most cases is fine – that said, if you already have a decent microphone – or want to go the extra mile – then do so. It's possible to lose the subtlety of a performance due to sub par sound from an internal microphone. There's no need to go and kit yourself out with a studio of expensive equipment though. In most cases, so long as you aren't in a room with lots of reverb, your phone's mic is probably fine.
BACKGROUND AND LIGHTING
If you can set up your camera facing a generic, clutter-free wall – white, grey or blue in colour - and set up one good light or some natural light as well, you're most of the way there. Avoid backlighting, it looks unprofessional and means your features won't be illuminated. If your camera has a white balance option, use it – other than that, you're pretty much set.
Learn them! Do not read them off the page – run lines with a friend. If you don't have anyone to learn with, you can record yourself reading the other character and read using that. You'll want to make your performance flow, feel natural and if you're glancing off screen every two seconds to check your lines it will take the viewer out of it.