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Editors Guide For How To Read A Film Slate

Editor’s Tip: How To Read A Film Slate

Many of you are probably already comfortable with how to read a film slate, but sometimes it might still be a bit confusing. Either way, it’s always helpful to have a refresher, since each production will label their scenes and takes slightly different.

In this short tutorial, we’ll do a run-through of the basics and then dive into a couple specific examples that you may find useful. We’ve also included a full transcription of the video with screenshots below!

So, let’s start with the basics…

As you may already know, film slates provide quite a bit of useful information about each shot like:

  1. The camera roll
  2. The scene number
  3. The take
  4. And some production info, like the name of the movie, the production company, the director, the DP and the shoot date

You’ll also see a handful of other pieces of information that some directors choose to include on the slate and others do not, such as:

  1. The frame rate
  2. The time code
  3. And shot specific information like whether it’s an interior, exterior, day shot or night shot

Now let’s have a look at 3 different types of slates from our example footage and review the labeling system.

Example 1

In this first example, we have a shot from Camera roll A14, scene 10B and take 1.

One simple example of how to read a film slate

So what’s this tell us?

Well, it tells us that this is the 14th roll or batch of footage shot with the A camera and that it’s the first take of scene 10B. We’ll use this information to organize the shots in our bins a bit later in preparation for the editing process. Let’s take a look at a couple more examples.

Example 2

In this second example, we have a shot that was filmed from the B camera on the set.

Learning how to read a film slate with multiple camera angles

You can tell that by the camera roll. This is the 5th batch of footage shot with the B camera and contains the 6th take of scene 10D. Many productions will use multiple cameras to capture the action from more than one angle as it’s happening.

This is really useful when you want to maintain really accurate continuity across various actions in the scene. When you’re cutting together 2 angles that were shot at the same time but by different cameras, you know they’re are identical and will sync up perfectly, since they’re recordings of the same exact moment.

Example 3

Ok, so in this last example, we have something a little confusing. The scene and take make sense, but the camera roll designation on the slate is weird.

How to read a film slate with dual cameras for one slate

It says that this is the slate for both camera roll A25 an B11. What we have here is a slate that’s serving dual purpose as the slate for both an A and B camera.

So likely what happened here was that the A and B cameras were positioned fairly close together and were capturing similar enough angles of the action that it made sense to have them both record the shot information from the same physical slate.

You can see that if we load up the B camera roll listed on this slate, camera roll B11, it’s obviously another angle capturing the same moment.

How to read a film slate capturing the same moment at different angles

If the cameras were in drastically different locations instead, there would have needed to be two different slates, one for each of them.

Slating the shots this way speeds things up sometimes and probably saved the director and crew some time on set, which is really important on an expensive production. Unfortunately for us editors, it can sometimes create a little confusion.

Do you have any workflows for reading slates and quickly organizing your footage that you’d like to share? Leave a comment for us below!


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