Pro Tip: HOW TO SLATE - Official Video Discussion!


Tomm Jacobsen (well known for 5SecondFilms, as well as camera assistant on VGHS!) breaks down exactly what goes on a slate, and how to call out and use the slate correctly, and what a slate (or clapper) is actually used for!

Have any other questions? Let us know! Here is a quick cheat sheet:

What gear should you buy? For the cheapskates of RJ

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So THAT’S what they’re called! Thanks! How much does a slate usually cost, anyway? I’d love to have one for my next short.


Great video! But I already know how to slate, I understand others may not.

What I want to know is how to use the advanced slates, with the numbers on them. I don’t know how to use them, I don’t know why I need to use them. I just have the idea that the time code syncs up with a camera, but how do you sync it up, how do you make sure the slate resets to the time code you need it to be for the next take.

Future suggestions! Maybe make an advanced video?


You’re referring to a smart slate, which has an internal clock (hence the numbers). The sound department is typically responsible for calibrating the smart slate, which has a cable jack that can connect with sound recorders and cameras, locking them all to the same (arbitrary) clock time. This can save a lot of time in post production if all devices are running synchronized internal clocks.

You don’t “reset” the time code between takes; it runs on a 24-hour clock constantly during the shoot date! A more likely scenario is a dead battery on a camera or sound recorder may necessitate “re-jamming” to ensure that device is still on the same clock time. Slate batteries dying would of course necessitate a universal re-jam (re-sync), but this is typically avoidable by making sure you have enough battery at the start of the shoot day.


To be honest, I’ve never really been familiar with what a slate does, haha. Great video, I got some useful information from it. :smiley:


This was informative and fun, and obvious in hindsight. I’d never really thought about what the function of the slate clap was!


Brilliant, thanks to this i can now tell people just what a slate is and how to use it in a somewhat cohesive way instead of me rambling on about it for ten minutes and no one being any wiser.


Cool stuff, very informative on smart slates and recording at top of this page (kudos) … Though,I do like the part of “how not to” in video; and without a slate, Freddie slaps his forehead for slate in tired fashion/lorl. I was laughing so hard-hahahahahahahaha… :smile:


Useful intro. For a humorous take people may want to check out The Subtleties of the Slate…


I have a question about slates. So under the scene section you have the scene number followed by the shot letter. For example, if this is scene 4, it’s the fifth shot, and it’s take 3, then you would see 4E 3. What happens if you run out of letters for the shots? Because I was on set once and everyone had different methods to continue after Z. Some said you move on to adding a second letter, like AA. Others said you move on to the lowercase letters, so after Z would be a. Is there a standard that we should follow?


Great video, Great cheat sheet, great concise and articulate instruction… But watching this like a hound watching a foxhole, I noticed some differences from the instruction part of the video to the execution/model/demo of what was being explained… I heard many “a mark” being called out, and an “ab mark”… But I could not understand what the purpose was to classify a verbal “mark” nor when to KNOW the time to call “mark” was necessary (what is our cue to know when to call out “mark”?) That would have really been helpful as I expected to see all items of instruction in the demo (whether " important or not"). I’m not trying to criticize, but I do live by the standard that Perfect practice makes perfect execution; and with my desire to be excellent at film making, this little detail would be awesome to have answered of anyone would be so kind… And thank u to the individual who explained what the digits/clock on one of the “advanced” slates meant and how they worked. Thank u!!!


Hi, Talha, I’m totally new here, but wanted to know what you meant by “the shot letter”. I Tried watching the demo video of “How to slate” and couldn’t quite follow what you meant by that. I only reason I wanted clarification was so that I could properly understand their reply as I know I would also be asking your same question =)


Under the scene section on a slate, you’ll typically see a number. That number corresponds to which scene is getting filmed. Each scene gets filmed numerous times through a variety of different angles. or shots. Usually you designate each separate shot as its own letter. So you start with scene 1A, A being the first angle you have. Every time you move to a new angle, you increment the character count. So next would be B, then C, then D etc. :slight_smile:


So it’s really rare one scene in a script will go through the entire alphabet (how many shots do you need for one scene?!), but when they do, you can start doubling letters. So say you are shooting Scene 3 in a script and you go past 3Z. Some productions restart with 3AA, 3AB 3AC… others just do 3AA, scene 3AA, 3BB, 3CC.


Yes, this is accurate! A good rule of thumb is that any time you move your camera or change your lens or framing, it’s a new “shot” in the same scene.

Here’s an example of a shot list I just did yesterday:


3 - Wide establishing of room
3A - Medium 2 shot of girls sitting at a computer
3B - Close Up of GIRL #1
3C - Close Up of GIRL #2
Insert - computer screen

As long as I am in scene 3, I will stay on the number three and change the letters when the shots change. Once the scene changes (new location or new time) I will then start over with the number 4.

4 - WIDE of the street
4A- medium tracking shot of Girl #2 walking down the sidewalk.
4B - Tracking Close Up of girl’s face.

The shotlist usually informs what goes on the slate!


Ahh ok, that makes sense. How are action scenes slated then? Because I think that would be one of those cases where you can run out of letters. Do you even slate? I know from BTS of your guys’ stuff that it’s all run and gun and Freddie edits the shoot in his head while currently filming. Or because it’s MOS all the time pretty much, you don’t need to keep track of syncing?


I’m kinda curious how intercutting works. Is there a special way that’s handled with scene numbering?


The slating system is for documenting what’s produced on-set (raw material) so everything can be accounted for during post-production, thus, it’s entirely a “technical-side” logging system, not a creative-side influence on editing. If a dialogue scene can be shot from two setups (angles) only, you’ll only use two letters, regardless of how many cuts are used in the final edit. Also, scenes will seldom be shot in full chronological order - priority is typically given to efficiency for lighting, camera, and other crew departments.

If you meant for scenes that intercut between multiple locations, all the parts could be shot under the same scene number (with letters at the second location continuing wherever they left off at the first location), or a sub-divider letter could be used. If this is your question, I’d love to get other feedback on it; I’m not necessarily the master of all slating technicalities!


That totally answers it for me–thank you, Kevin! Your first paragraph is primarily what I curious about, but the second paragraph is good to know too!