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Why Do We Slate?

Slating is very important. Although it may seem somewhat archaic with today’s technology, there’s a reason why we still do it and we will continue to do so for years to come. The 2nd AC will always do the slating for the camera they’re a part of. If you’re interested in seeing what else a 2nd AC does (because it’s a lot more than just using a slate) check out our previous article! On the other hand, if you’re looking for a 2nd AC in your area check out our Crew List. Now let’s get started!

Why We Slate

The two basic why we slate are:

  1. Provide information about the take to the editors
  2. Provide the guidelines for the editors to sync audio with the video

A production will do dozens of shots in a single day, each shot will have multiple takes (generally). This will become very overwhelming very quickly if there wasn’t a way to track everything. This is where the slate comes in! Every take will be slated in some form or the other. Whether is a head slate, tail slate, or an ID, the information will be there for the editors somewhere. While slating, you’ll work very closely with the script supervisor to make sure all the information given to the editors are the same. Some general information that is on every slate are:

  1. Production name
  2. Camera roll number
  3. Shot 
  4. Take
  5. Director’s name
  6. Cinematographer’s name
Some slates will have more information such as date, episode number, filter lens, exterior/interior, and sync/MOS. Every production is different. Often when a show is very VFX heavy there will be as much information on the slate as possible to help make the editors lives easier.
Syncing audio with the shot footage has progressed since filmmaking started. Before, clapping the slate was the only way to sync audio. The editor will line up the moment the two sticks at the top of the slate meet with the spike in the audio recording and that would properly sync the sound. Nowadays almost every production will use timecode. The sound mixer on set will sync the slate, the camera, and their equipment all with the same timecode. This makes things far more accurate and efficient in the editing room. However, keep in mind that even when using timecode it’s a good idea to clap the sticks as a back up. In some cases the timecode will call out of sync and that can cause problems later on if you don’t have that visual cue.

Useful Resources

This is from our previous article but it does come in handy whenever slating is the focus of a conversation!

2nd AC slating cheat sheet. Perfect for learning how to slate.
The perfect cheat sheet!

If you want to learn more from these guys, check them out!

Toughest Shot

If you have any questions feel free to ask me in the comments. What I want to ask you though is; what was the toughest shot you’ve ever had to slate and how did you do it? Share your story!

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