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What Is a Video Slate?

by Matt McKayUpdated September 22, 2017

Professional filmmakers use video slates to make sense of what would otherwise be audio/visual mayhem. Video and film directors often shoot scenes out of sequence and record audio separately from the visual portions of a production. When the shooting is completed, scenes, audio and visual components are pieced together during editing with help from the video slate.

Common Terms

Video slates are also called production slates, film slates, scene slates and various other monikers and permutations. Slates are often combined with a "clapper," with names to reflect this addition, such as "film clapper," "video clapper" "movie clapper." The name used depends on the manufacturer's description or director's personal preference, but all slates serve exactly the same purpose.

Basic Video Slate

A basic slate consists of a rigid material in the form of a rectangle approximately 9 inches by 12 inches. Printing on the slate designates areas with important information about the scene and production. Production name, scene number, camera, date, video tape or film roll number and other information is added with chalk or wipe-off marker, and a brief camera shot of the slate is taken before action begins. When the video or film is ready to edit, the editor refers to the information recorded on the slate for ease of sorting footage.

Clapper Video Slate

The function of a clapper on a video slate is to sync audio with video during editing. When audio is recorded on a specialized recording device while the video is recorded with the camera, more control over the quality of both mediums in post-production is possible. In addition to the information written on the slate, the clapper is brought down on the slate to create an audible "clap" sound for the audio recorder, and a visual of the back-lighting disappearing as the clapper closes for the video camera. When both the audio and video are slowed down during post-production, the editor can match the exact moment of both the "clap" and the closure of the clapper to sync both parts together.

Digital Video Slate

Digital video slates and clappers include SMPTE time code displays for use with more sophisticated audio and video recorders that support the format. Developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers from which the abbreviation derives, SMPTE time codes for hours, minutes, seconds and video frames appear on a digital readout integrated into the slate. The editor then matches the audio and video time code with the one displayed on the slate.

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