Know you need to be able to shoot your own self tape, but worried you don’t have the right kind of wall or backdrop to look professional? Watch this video to learn how to make an affordable self-tape backdrop like a pro.
Hello, and welcome back to the channel. Or if this is your very first time here, hi, my name is Kat Elizabeth, and I’m an actor, video creator, and small business owner living in Vancouver. Now, if you have been wanting to set up some sort of affordable DIY backdrop for self-taping, this is the video for you.
By the end of this video, you’ll know exactly what gear you need to be able to create a self tape backdrop for yourself that doesn’t require a big blank wall, and it won’t even break the bank. Now, I use this exact same self-tape backdrop setup for my own self-tape auditions that are submitted to very big productions. So this is absolutely professional acting approved, and your agent will love it.
The first question I wanted to just answer, because I think a lot of people wonder if it’s even worth it, is, why shoot self tapes at home? Because obviously you can go to a self-tape studio, get an acting coach to help you when they’ve got the setup. And that is a fantastic option. And if you’re really needing some coaching to go along with filming the self tape, then absolutely go do that. But keep in mind that it does cost a lot of money. And if the production you’re auditioning for is only seeing you for a role that maybe has a line or two, or maybe isn’t even a speaking role, then why would you want to spend $60 to $100 to go to a studio and shoot that if you could just set your own studio up at a moment’s notice, have a friend come over, and record it yourself for free?
I personally sometimes go to a studio if I need that extra support, but the rest of the time, I’m confident enough to do it myself now. And trust me that once you’ve got the right gear and you’ve got a little bit of practice under your belt, you’ll feel exactly the same way.
Question number two is: Do I need a wall or a backdrop stand? And honestly, it’s completely up to you. If you’re lucky enough that your home has a big blank wall, then that is fantastic. It’s the perfect base for a backdrop, and you won’t have to buy the actual stand. However, you are going to need to attach something to that wall unless it’s already blue or grey. And if you’re not able to do that because you’re renting, then you still may want to invest in a backdrop stand so that you don’t have to touch the wall.
And then, if you’ve got no wall at all, that is totally fine, because with a standalone backdrop stand, how many times am I going to say “stand” in this video, you are not going to need to actually have it against a wall. It’s like having two little individual stands with a bar across, and you put the fabric or the paper on that of your choice.
These backdrop stands are really affordable and they’re also very flexible, so you’ll find that you can adjust the height and the width of them to whatever is going to fit your space best. The main thing to keep in mind is that, if you’re very tall, you’re going to have to make sure you check the maximum height because often they are six feet, but you can get taller ones as well. So just make sure you do your research and order the right size before just grabbing the first one that you see.
Question of the day: Last time you had a self tape to record, did you do it yourself, did you go to a friend’s house, or did you go into the studio? I’d love to know, so let me know in the comments below.
The next question is: What color should my backdrop be? Now, people do submit self tapes all of the time with a white or off-white backdrop because they’ve just used their wall. And look, that’s fine, but I do know of certain production companies that won’t actually show some self tapes to their executives at the very end of the process if they don’t look professional enough. They do need to be quite uniform and look like that was shot in a professional studio, which is why I personally believe that you need to get set up with either a blue or grey backdrop.
Blue is a little bit more traditional and it’s really common in the casting room, but I personally think gray looks just as professional, but is also a little bit more flattering on any skin tone, so it makes you look a little bit nicer in front of it. It means that you can actually wear blue, because we often, we love wearing blue, but if it’s a blue background, you can’t. And also, it’s not quite as bright, so it doesn’t blow out the screen as much. So grey is my preference, but blue is fantastic as well.
So what are you actually going to need to set up this backdrop? It’s pretty simple. There are three essential ingredients. So one thing you’re going to need is what I’ve already mentioned, you’re going to need a backdrop stand, which does not cost that much. I’ve seen plenty of them around the $30 to $40 mark on Amazon. I will have links below so that you can go check those out for yourself.
You’re also going to need a backdrop sheet. And one trick that I have is that, the classic backdrop sheets, and they often call them photography muslins, I find that a lot of them are very low quality, if you do buy them from eBay or Amazon, they can be quite see through and really crinkly. So you’ll try and iron them, a lot of the time they keep the crinkles anyway, and that can look really unprofessional behind you. So what I did instead was I had a look and found a jersey sheet.
So you know that T-shirt material that’s heavy and a little bit stretchy? So I found a grey marle that’s really nice quality. And because it’s got the stretch, it means that I can actually pull the crinkles out without having to stress about ironing it every time. So again, I’ll include a link to that so you can find that. Also, the alternative would be to go to a fabric store, find the fabric that you like that isn’t too crinkly, and just get it cut to fit whatever size space that you have.
And then ingredient number three is the photography backdrop clamps. So they’re the giant clips that you’ll need to actually attach the sheet over the backdrop stand. You’ll need a few of these, because I tend to put them across the top and down the sides, but I’ll show you that in a second.
If you’re using a wall and you’re happy to attach something to the wall, I have seen people use a sheet, you don’t want it to be too heavy, and they use thumb tacks and attach it straight to the wall. That’s if you own the place or your landlord’s happy for you to fill in the holes afterwards. But be really careful with that because this is a little bit permanent. I think the easiest thing to do, if you can, is just to actually get the backdrop so that you don’t have to touch your house.
The building of it is so easy. You basically just set up each side of the stand to a low enough height that you can reach it, because then you’re going to have to put the middle pole in, and then you can actually raise it to the full height that you’ll need. I find that even though it’s really simple, it can be a tiny bit fiddly, so you’re going to want to allow about 10 minutes to set it up and 10 minutes to pack it down. So always work that in if you are organizing for someone to come over and help you with the self tape.
If the sheet’s too big, which mine is, it’s actually a good thing, because if you can throw it over and have it doubled over, it means absolutely no light comes through. It’s completely blacked out. So I just double mine over and then I clip all the sides, and I kind of stretch them as I go just to pull out any of those crinkles. And if there’s any left over, you can kind of hide them once you’ve got the lights shining on the backdrop. But this will only work if you have three-point lighting. If you’ve just got the light shooting on you, then you might see some shadows from the crinkles behind.
So here’s a quick peek of my own self-tape backdrop.
So the cool thing about this is it’s actually quite adjustable. So it comes with four bars in the middle. I’ve only put two up. So right now it’s around two meters wide, but you can make it twice as wide as that. I don’t think it goes much taller than this, but that tends to be fine for what I need. These are the photography backdrop clips. And so you can just see under here, that’s the frame. If you pull it nice and tightly, you tend to get most of the crinkles out. Obviously, with the soft boxes going, that’s going to even out the light. Right now the down light is on, which is why you can see those.
And that’s it. That’s how you’re going to be able to set up your own self-tape backdrop with a very limited budget and limited space. Now, if you want all of the details on the different gear that I use, not just for the backdrops, but for self taping in general, I do have a free download for you guys below, so you can get a PDF with heaps of pages that has links to everything that I use, as well as some extra tips on setting up your lighting properly and things like that. So feel free to check that out.
And if you liked this video, please give it a thumbs up. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out on any others. Share this video with your actor friends. I’m sure they’ll thank you for it. And if you found this really helpful, just type “self tape pro” in the comments below and let me know.
All right. Well, thank you as always for watching. Can’t wait to see you guys next time. Bye.
Kat is an actor and personal branding coach as well as the host of The Personal Branding Project Podcast and her self-titled YouTube channel. She started her career off by playing Marilyn at Warner Bros Movie World, went on to perform in the original Australian casts of Jersey Boys & Hairspray and eventually found herself writing/producing her own work before becoming a self-employed copywriter and marketing strategist. She now offers 1:1 Coaching and Online Courses for entrepreneurs, freelancers + multi-passionate creatives.