Posts Tagged ‘tape’

Please use tape on the set for actors marks!

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009


We have a lot of people out there who are shooting a short format project (commercial, short film, wrap-arounds, interstitials, etc.) and decide to go to the set without a firm storyboard because they supposedly have it all mapped out in their head. Cool. But even if you think  you have it all mapped out, PLEASE use tape on the floor for the actors’ marks. I just came off of a short film project where everything on the set was perfect: amazing locations, superlative actors, very strong script, good production value all around. But the crew forgot one little thing… to mark the actors’ places on the floor with tape. Of course, that seems like a trivial issue, but it is kind of like saying the O-rings on the solid rocket booster of the space shuttle are just little rubber things that don’t need to be thoroughly tested or inspected. Does the Challenger ring any bells?

If it weren’t for the magic of post production and lots and lots of coffee, this short film would have been the film version of the Challenger accident.

Now, why is it so important to mark the actors’ spots with tape?

Let’s say you’re at the end of the shooting day and the script supervisor points out that some critical lines weren’t covered and  you have to go back to an earlier set up to pick up the lines again.

As smart and self-assured as everyone is on the set, there is always a discussion about where the actor was actually standing and exactly what was in the background. Also, and most importantly, which way was the actor looking in relation to the camera? In the case of the short film I was working on, they argued on the set for a while about where the actress was looking and then committed to shooting it… the wrong way!!  On all the crucial pick up shots, the actress was looking the wrong way in relation to the camera. In other words, it looked like she had “crossed the line” of screen direction and appeared to be speaking to the back of the other character’s head. Crap.  So after hours and hours of elaborate compositing and flopping backgrounds, i was able to make it look somewhat passable. This was a totally unnecessary problem.

So in the future here are a couple steps to take to avoid driving your post team absolutely insane:

1) Mark each actor’s spot with tape.

2) Write an identifiying number on the tape that has a corresponding number in a log book. Then write all the scene numbers and takes that were shot at that mark.

2) Mark the camera locations and do the same logging system.


3) Avoid the first two steps and shoot everything the camera sees with a still camera.

In short, save an editor. Use actor marks.

AAKK! My master tape snapped! How to deal with very old videotapes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Here’s an important tip about playing back very old videotapes, be they BetaSP, BetaMax, 3/4″ U-Matic, digibeta, BetaSX, DVCAM, etc.

For whatever reason, some people don’t rewind their master tapes after working with them. Perhaps they are worried about additional tape wear. Or maybe they just got distracted or… are just plain lazy. If you are worried about tape wear, then at least fast-forward the videotape to the very end so that it is spooled tightly on the take-up reel in side the cassette shell.

If a tape has slack and is set on a shelf for 5-10 years,  the loose part of the tape will harden and become brittle in the air. Then then next time it is played, the tape will snap in two upon insert into the video deck. People often come to us with this problem.

The leaders on the tape at the head and tail are made of a sturdier plastic that can stand up to air, gravity, and the distress of time. But the actual oxide-covered videotape is much more sensitive and can deteriorate rapidly in the wrong conditions.

So if you do come upon an old tape, NEVER pop it right into the machine. Instead, first hand-wind the tape all the way to the end, even if it takes you forever and you have to sit down to watch the big game with the cassette in your hand.  (Just don’t eat Doritos until you’re done because salt and grease from your hands isn’t the best for the tape either.)  Once the tape is rewound, pop it in the deck and DON’T HIT PLAY. Instead, shuttle the tape all the way to the end using fast-forward and then rewind it to the very top. Now eject the tape and reinsert it so it gets a fresh spooling in the system.

Now, you’re all set to play the tape for duplication, digitizing or plain old entertainment.