When self-taping, BACKGROUND / BACKDROPS are the easiest technical aspect to figure out, but also the simplest thing to mess up.
As you saw from my previous post, in our office, we like to use a bright blue backdrop for our auditions. It’s a fairly standard color for Casting – pretty much everyone, no matter their skin color/tone looks good in front of it when lit properly. However, you likely don’t have a wall that color in your home, so…
HOW TO MIMIC A PROFESSIONAL-LOOKING BACKDROP FOR YOUR SELF-TAPES:
1. You could buy a kraft paper roll (color of your choosing*) at any office supply store. Word of warning: it’s a major pain in the butt to put up/take down without wrinkling or tearing it. If you use paper, you’ll want to tape it in a place where you don’t have to keep putting it up/taking it down.
2. You could use a plain-colored bed sheet or black out curtains. Hot tip: wrinkly bed sheets don’t look like backdrops. They look like wrinkly bed sheets. Bust out that iron if you decide to use a non-traditional cloth backdrop.
3. You could go whole-hog and paint one of your walls a usable, matte color. But ya know, that’s a real commitment…
4. Or you could go the economical route and use whatever plain-colored wall you already have. People often think their white or cream walls are just too light, but they will work far better than some of the pitfalls listed below.
5. There are now a number of pop-up backdrops online. They’re light-weight, nylon and true-colored. Search “photography pop up backdrop” and the world is your oyster.
*I say “color of your choosing” because people often opt for a shade of gray that works well and is a more “livable” color. For example:
We see all kinds of background choices from self-tapes.
Often times, people even go so far as to self-tape outside (good light, I’m guessing?) or stage their scene as if we were just putting their audition directly into the film. All of that is unnecessary (and often distracting.)
As I mentioned before, your self-tape is a regular AUDITION and should look akin to anything that is taped in a casting office.
SELF-TAPE BACKGROUNDS/BACKDROPS TO AVOID:
1. A DARK BACKROP. You don’t have an empty wall at your disposal, but you DO have some midnight blue curtains you could stand in front of!
Here is what happens when you try to film in front of a dark background without proper lighting:
Either the entire frame will be too dark for casting to see you properly (TOP IMAGE,) or the reverse will happen and you’ll literally glow, because a dark backdrop soaks up too much light, (BOTTOM IMAGE.)
2. A GREEN/ORANGE/RED/PURPLE WALL. No matter how often you white balance, it’s far too easy to end up looking slightly green/orange/red/purple.
3. A CLUTTERED BACKGROUND. We often see tapes where actors are standing in front of a bookshelf/piece of art or sitting at their kitchen table with a magnet-covered fridge/bar/cook book selection behind them. Clear out whatever is directly behind you so that we can focus on YOU, not what you’re currently reading/eating/drinking.
4. ANYTHING WHERE A MAJOR LIGHT-SOURCE IS BEHIND YOU. Filming in front of curtains during day-light hours will create this effect. You know how you shouldn’t take a photograph with the sun behind you because you’ll end up too dark? Same rule goes for video. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to more lighting tips very soon!)
Again, a blank white or cream-colored wall will likely serve your self-taping needs well.
Here are a few examples:
Next up in this self-tape series… LIGHTING!