Wesley’s Weekly HOW TO: Clapperboard

Clapperboards, one of the first things people expect to see when they see a film production happening, they can be invaluable for the serious filmmaker. Not only do they help you sync your sound to your film source if you’re using an external recorder, but they can be so important in helping you keep your project organized.

I got a piece of wood that I obtained at the hardware store for about 3 dollars, I am using only about a 5th of the stick for both of the 10 inch segments I cut up for the “clapper” segments.

To measure out the second segment, I balanced the first segment on top of the stick and drew out the length, and cut it again, so that I had two equal length segments.

Now you have the “clapper” segment basically ready. Next, I took one of the segments, and balanced it on a piece of plywood.

I found this plywood in a scrap wood pile, but you can get pieces at your local hardware store, or even epoxy a white board to the bottom of the clapper, it really depends on what your preference is.

I smeared some wood filler on the plywood to smooth it out a bit, and hit it with a bit of sand paper, this isn’t necessary, but I find it helpful in making a nice erasable surface.

Next, I took one segment of the clapper, and balanced it on top of the plywood section, and nailed it together.

I got this tiny brass hinge at the hardware store when I picked up the wood, and it’s what i’m going to use to attach the top part of the clapper.

Just put the top part of the clapper onto the bottom part, and put the hinge on, and then put the screws in.

I then painted it black with some acrylic paint, you could also use spray paint if you wanted to.

Next, I used a straight edge, and painted on black, dim grey, dark grey, white, red, blue, yellow, green, white, grey, light grey, and a very light grey. These aren’t calibrated colors, and you might get slighty different shades of these colors at your hardware store, but they idea is to just give yourself a general guide when you’re color correcting your footage. Because you can always reference back to your clapboard to see how accurate the camera is capturing the colors, and allows you to easily adjust it by giving you a strip of pure colors to reference back to.

For the information that you’re supposed to write on the slate, typically it goes…

PROD.: Production, the name of the project you are working on.

ROLL: Designates which roll of film (or tape) is being used.

SCENE: Designates which scene in the script you’re on. 

TAKE: Designates which “take” of the scene you’re on. You can easily have a notebook that tells your which take’s you liked the best, so you can process them first, helping you keep it organized.

DIR.: This is where you put the Director’s name.

CAMERA: You can write what camera you’re filming on, once again helping you keep it organized, and allows you to compensate for different cameras specifications and formats.

DAY, NIGHT, INT. EXT.: Tells you if the scene is a Day or Night scene, or an Interior or Exterior shot, allowing you to adjust the colors and contrast, etc. to make it look more like what the scene is supposed to be. Like for instance if you’re filming day-for-night, you can remember to correct the scene in your editing program. You can just put a check over them, or next to them, for what it’s supposed to be.

FILTER: Lets you write what filters you had one your camera, like if you filmed the same scene with and without a Neutral Density Filter, this allows you to keep it in order, so you can easily tell the difference, and even compensate for any filters you had on your camera.

MOS: No one is 100% sure what it’s supposed to stand for (Most people think “Motor Only Sync”), but everyone agrees on what it’s supposed to mean, in that you did not film the scene with sound. You can use this for scenes that are supposed to be silent, or for music videos where you’re obviously not going to be using the sound you recorded during the scene, but that you’re going to be overlaying pre-recorded music afterwards. 

SYNC: It means you recorded sound during the scene that needs to be synced up to it afterwards. This is where the “clapper” part of the clapboard comes into play, when you are recording external sound, you smack the clapper section together, and it allows you to sync up your external sound up to the “CLAP!” noise it makes when you smack them together. 

These are some of the more common labels, but others I have seen that you can also add can be used, such as…

DOP.: Director of Photography, this is where you put your Cinematographers name.

FPS.: Frames Per Second, this allows you to designate the frame rate you’re filming at, so not only can you accurately slow down (or speed up) the speed of your sound to match it, but you can designate if you’re going to have to do some post-production deinterlacing by writing “60i”. 

FORMAT: You can designate the format the video source came from, whether its telecined color 16mm, or a MiniDV, or a Hi-8, or whatever, you can put something here.  

RES.: Resolution, this can be helpful if you’re using multiple digital video sources, so you can know 480, 720, 1080, etc. So you know how to adjust it, if for instance you’re going to be filming primarily in 1080, but you need to incorporate some SD footage from a secondary source, this allows you to keep your video formats organized, and know when you’ve got to up-res a lower resolution source file to fit into a primarily HD project, or whatever. 

So there you go, there is a clapper, and some labels you can put on them to help streamline your process. Also, if you’re using a black background, pick up some chalk at your local supermarket, if you’re using a tiny white board, you’d obviously want to get some dry erase markers rather than chalk.

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