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  • Derick Pope

Why Use a Clapboard in Film and Video?


  1. Keep track of scenes and takes when shooting several different shots.

  2. Sync the external audio with the film.

  3. Help the post-production team sort through files quickly.

  4. Match files with the specific camera used when using multiple cameras.

  5. Know exactly which card the specific group of shots is located on.

We have all seen these in just about every behind-the-scenes video of any high-end video or film production. It is called a clapboard. There are several different names for a clapboard: clapper, clacker, slate, slateboard, slapperboard, sync slate, time slate, sticks, board, smart slate, dumb slate and sound marker. All of these different names mostly derive from the many different uses of the clapboard. Here, I will list out the 5 Main Reasons to Use a Clapboard in Film and Video.


1. Keep track of scenes and takes when shooting several different shots.

Most films have several different acts and scenes, and large video productions will have several different scenes as well. The different takes are the amount of times taken to get a specific scene perfect. In pre-production, many of the scenes are already planned out in a storyboard and conceptualized for post-production. This is because creators want to be efficient and also assure that their projects come out perfectly and no scenes are forgotten. Being able to pre-plan these shots and track them, not only allows for a smoother workflow, but also allows for more creative execution.


2. Sync the external audio with the film.

There are digital and non-digital clapboards today. Both still help with tracking and also syncing video and audio. In film, audio will often be recorded separately from the camera itself through a boom or recorder. The clapping sound and reading of the scene details helps the editor sync the audio with the appropriate clips. The digital clapboards are very useful because they allow you to actually track the specific timecode of scenes to pair right along with the recorder.


3. Help the post-production team sort through files quickly.

This is very helpful when you have hours worth of footage and need to save time. You can get finished products to clients quicker and collaborate on films much more effectively. For example, I just finished up a 15 Question FAQ video shoot for an agency partner today. I shot the raw footage and sent the files to the agency to edit. They wanted each question to have a different clip and only wanted the good takes. I was able to sort through 66 video files in less than 15 minutes because of using the clapperboard along with tracking which take was the best. The more information you can track and organize, the smoother your workflow will be. Titling your acts and production will help sort files better as well as the dates and times. Titling the filters specifically will help so you are aware when ND or polarizers were used to attain certain looks. This will be very essential to the workflow of the editor and color corrector.


4. Match files with the specific camera used when using multiple cameras.

Many higher-budget shoots will utilize multiple cameras. The clapperboard helps to distinguish which files are from which camera. You can easily tell an editor when to use Camera A or B because the files are already sorted. These cameras may or may not be the same exact camera or resolution. You rarely want the viewer to be able to tell a difference between cameras used, so syncing these different cameras is critical. Having the files sorted will help make matching much easier.


5. Know exactly which card the specific group of shots is located on.

Many higher-end cameras take multiple storage cards and shoots often require interchanging of cards for space. Labeling your clapperboard with which card is being used will be a big help. You obviously cannot see the file thumbnail until actually viewing the files; however, if you utilize a different card for each scene or act, this labeling will help in sorting the files easily.


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