Self-tapes are the new normal for commercial auditions, and I’m here for it! I mean, we kinda HAVE to be here for it, right?! While I do miss being in the room, interacting with casting, and receiving/implementing live feedback, I’ve been lucky enough to book multiple SAG National commercials from the convenience of my home studio and have come to enjoy the process. I’ve always been an avid researcher, and I’m constantly tweaking and improving my setup. I’m happy to share a few items that have made my commercial audition self-tape life easier! (These are not affiliate links. I own and use all of these on a daily basis.)
First things first, I shoot my auditions on my iPhone 11 and use natural light whenever possible. I have a dedicated room for my studio, with an attached walk-in closet that I’ve converted to my voiceover booth, but the items below can easily be used in any space. As you’ll notice, everything in my studio is very mobile and easy to configure to whatever setup may be requested.
Setup for a Zoom booking using the elements below.
Laptop Stand – Gone are the days of stacking boxes on boxes on books and more boxes. This laptop stand allows for quick height adjustment for scenes sitting or standing. Does the CD need a quick height adjustment during a callback? No problem. This thing is super sturdy and one of my fav Amazon purchases.
Backdrop – I love the simple and classic look of a solid gray backdrop. This Neewer backdrop is quick to setup and large in size. I use natural light whenever possible for self-tapes, and I simply move this popup backdrop in front of a window (hung on the backdrop stand listed next). I can comfortably get a full waist up shot with this background. If a larger frame is requested, I nix the backdrop completely.
Backdrop Stand – I’ve tried a couple of backdrop stands, and I like the EMART stand the best. It’s sturdy and easy to assemble and disassemble. The carrying case is cheaply made (bleh), but the stand itself is worth it.
Flexible Tripod – I tape my self-tapes with my iPhone 11, and this flexible tripod allows for taping from ANYWHERE. I set it up on my laptop stand in my studio, and I always bring it with me while traveling or on location. I once fastened it to an eye exam chair for a callback while I was on another shoot (booked it!), and I’ve also hung it from my parents’ kitchen chandelier (didn’t book it but got a laugh out of it!).
Lightweight Desk – Really, Katie? You’re giving desk recommendations? Yes! Yes, I am. Everything in my studio is easily movable to allow for any configuration I need -- desk included! This desk is super lightweight and easy to move around. This desk doubles as my working desk and is the perfect height for scenes that take place at a table or a…er, desk. I also have one of these in my VO booth.
Full-length Mirror – Gone are the days of taping the perfect slate and then watching playback to see that your hair went berserk! A perfectly placed mirror reduces retakes due to makeup or hair malfunctions. But question for you…why are mirrors so dang expensive?! Over-the-door mirrors seem to be the most cost effective way to go. Walmart and Target have over-the-door mirrors that run about $20. I found a cute distressed gray one at At Home for about $25, similar to the one below.
Audio Panels – If your space is echo-y (like mine!), you can deaden the sound by adding sound absorption materials to the walls and floor. This can be as simple as blankets, towels, and rugs. I use these in combination with foam acoustic panels. My favorite acoustic panels inside my VO closet booth are by Auralex, but they’re a bit pricey. I settled on 2” generic acoustic panels for my on-camera space. There are plenty to choose from on Amazon. I purchased the ones below, but note they come vacuum packed and need time to expand. I suggest ordering multiple 12-packs instead of the 24-pack, because the 24-pack seemed to be too compressed and some never fully expanded.