Clapperboards serve two main purposes.

  1. The slate section provides valuable information about the specific scene.
  2. The clapper stick creates a visual and audible cue which makes syncing up the video and audio easier for the editor.

Who uses a clapper?

Usually the 2nd AC (assistant camera) who is also known as the “clapper/loader.”

On smaller shoots a camera assistant or runner may be in charge of it.

Tips for using a clapper on set

  • Once you have clapped, move quickly out of the shot. Ensure it’s far enough that your shadow is not visible on screen.
  • End board-If you are shooting in a tight spot and can not get the clapper in at the beginning, do an ‘End board’. Once the director has called ‘cut’ simply turn the clapperboard upside down and have the camera operator capture the information.
  • Ensure you speak loud and clear.
  • Keep the slate a consistent size in the frame. As a rule, hold the board ‘X’ft from the lens for every 10mm of focal length. This ‘X’ value will change with sensor size. On a super35 use 1ft for every 10mm, so position the slate 5ft for a 50mm, 8.5ft for a 85mm etc. A Micro 4/3 would roughly be doubled, so it would be 2ft for every 10mm of focal length. If it is a small shoot and you can, ask the Camera Op if they can clearly see the numbers and that the board is in focus.
  • Not recording audio? Place your hand between the clapper stick and do not clap. This indicates no sound will be recorded.
  • Carry a spare dry-wipe marker pen.

Watch our How to clapperboard video (added January 29th 2018)

What happens in post-production?

When recording separate audio the clapper is used by the editor to line up the spike in audio with the exact frame in the video to perfectly sync image and sound.

It also allows the editor to organise and maintain the footage. It shows where in the script the footage is located and they can easily refer back to set notes which improves editorial workflow.


GripUp Why Use a Clapper

Clapper Features

Production Specific, this includes:

  • Name of the film
  • Director
  • Cinematographer
  • Producer
  • Date

Shot Specific, this includes:

  • Roll
  • Scene
  • Take
  • MOS, Day,Night,Int,Ext

Find classic clapperboards, clappers for iPad, and many more filmmaking accessories here.

Function

Clapper Element Purpose Tip
Production Name or title of the movie Ask the producer or DP what name they want (you don’t want to change it later on)
Roll The roll you’re shooting on. Traditionally this was a roll of film, in digital production its more likely a memory card.
Scene The scene number/shot For a new scene write the number (i.e 15). When you change the shot (i.e. camera position change) add a letter after the scene number (i.e. 15A).
Take The current take of the shot Takes are linked to shots not scenes. So when there is a new shot you start with Take 1.
Director Name of the Director Spell it correctly!
Camera Name of cinematographer Spell it correctly!
Date Day, month, and year of shoot Keep the format consistant
Day Circle for dayime shoot Look up at the sky or check your watch
Night Circle for night-time shoot Look up at the sky or check your watch
Int. Circle for Interior shoot Check you’re inside
Ext. Circle for Exterior shoot Check you’re outside
MOS Circle for Motor only sync/Mit out sound The 2nd AC would put their hand between the clapper stick and not clap to indicate no sound will be recording for that shot.
Filter Indicate filter type. Write the filter type if you are using one.


GripUp Why use a clapperboard Ikan

Timecoding and Smart Slates

Some Smart Slates have a digital screen that shows a timecode. The clapperboard is synced to the audio recorder via a cable or a timecode generator and then is powered by batteries. When the clapper is shut it holds the display for around 4 frames which the camera will capture.

You can now even get clapper/slates that connect to iPads and Tablets making them functioning app based timecoding devices.

Tips

  • When on multi-cam shoots it helps to assign cameras as A,B,C and label the rolls according. So the third camera using its 4th memory card(roll) would be C4.
  • If you are using multiple cameras the clap sound can be used to sync up each camera for that shot.
  • If the director wants to keep the camera rolling to capture a one-liner multiple times you can write ‘series’ after the take number.
  • Add a letter after each shot in a scene. So the slating would read, Scene 15,15A,15B,15C etc.
  • Be vigilant. If the information on the slate is incorrect, it will cause confusion and problems in post-production.

So do I need to use a clapperboard?

It is best practice to use one on every shoot, but it is up to you.

If you’re shooting with on-camera mics you may feel less of a need for one.

When using an external editor or recording separate audio, it is highly advisable.

Clappers provide valuable information for editing, archiving and organising footage as well as the vital job of helping to sync video and audio up in post production.

If you are ever in charge of one, make sure you fill in the details correctly, spell people’s name right and be vigilant when updating the info.

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