How to Label a Slate

I was just recently on a set where the AC didn’t understand how to label a slate properly. So I thought a little refresher course may be necessary to help indie filmmakers understand the importances of how to label a slate properly.

There are two main purposes for using a slate.

  1. You use the slate to identify the shot you are filming. This will include the information regarding the scene, take, roll and other critical production information.
  2. The other reason you use a slate is for syncing sound when a separate recorder is used. The video is used to visually see the frame that the slate claps, and then audibly with the sound recording you can hear the clap of the slate and also see the spike in the waveform. Then inside your editing software, you just match the video and sound up at those two points to sync the sound.

Reading and Labeling The Slate

Production Information

PROD – This is used to display the title of the film or production.
DIR – For displaying the name of the film’s Director
CAM – For displaying the name of the cinematographer. Sometimes this can be used to label which camera is being used for that shot.
DATE – This for displaying the filming date
FPS – For displaying the frames per second.

There is a lot of information on the slate to help the editor identify the shot.clean-slate

ROLL – The roll identifies which card or reel of film you are on. This is normally advanced each time a new card or reel is loaded into the camera.

SCENE – The scene identifies the current scene you are filming. Always make sure the scene matches the shooting script scene.  If you ever have a question, make sure you clarify it with the script supervisor before it’s time to slate.

Scene Numbering – This is the most complicated label to stay consistent and avoid confusing the editor. A scene will usually have more than one angle or shot. So, to identify a new shot, the slate should be labeled with the scene number and a letter for each shot.

For example, you are filming scene 54 and you plan on shooting multiple angles of the scene. Here is how you would want label each shot:

Master shot – 54
Two shot – 54A
Close Up #1 – 54B
Close Up #2 – 54C

Scene Numbers for a Re-Shoot – Occasionally you may have to re-shoot a scene. This can happen days or even weeks and months later and since you are technically filming the same scene as before. How should you label it?

The easiest way to label the scene to make sure there is no overlapping, is to put an R in front the scene number. For example, on the re-shoot day you are filming Scene 54, you can’t remember which letter you had ended on during the original shoot. Simply label the Scene as R54-A to make sure the editor knows this is a re-shoot day.

The slate letter should start at A and should continue through the alphabet for each new shot. You should always skip the letters “I” and “O” because the letter “I” may look like a one and the letter “O” can look like a zero on the slate and could cause confusion later for the editor.

When calling the slate during the shot you should say a word that corresponds to the letter of the shot. For example scene 54A would be called as “54 – Alpha

TAKE – The take is which take you are on in that scene/shot. The number is advanced for each take. This helps the editor quickly locate a specific take that the director liked.

Pick Up Takes – Occasionally you may need to only pick up a small part of a take for various reasons. This should be labeled with p/u. For example, you just cut on Scene 54J Take 5 and the director wants to pick up only the last line from one of the actors. Since it is the same shot, but only part of it, you should label the take as Scene 54J Take 6p/u (p/u is used to indicate this take is a pick-up of part of the scene).

Depending on the slate being used, it may also contain the following labels:

DAY – You circle this for a daytime shot.
NITE – You circle this for a nighttime shot.
INT – You circle this for an interior shot.
EXT – You circle this for an exterior shot.
MOS – You circle this for a “MOS” shot. MOS stands for “motor only sync” or “motor only shot” – MOS is used to indicate there is no sound being recorded for the take. When slating the AC will place his hand between the clapper “sticks” to allow the editor to know that there is no sound for this take. A popular myth of the origins of MOS is that in the 1920’s a German Director would yell (in broken English) “mit out sound”, instead of, “without sound.” Not sure if this is true or not?
SYNC – You circle this to indicate that the slate is being used to sync sound to the camera.

So as you can tell the slate includes a lot of important information. Make sure you check out some of our additional tips on How to Slate to learn the proper slating techniques.


Categories: Production