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Consumables for film makers
Consumables for film makers

How to use a clapperboard 🎬 - A simple guide with pro tips 🎥

In the profession of film production, the clapperboard is an iconic tool, instantly recognisable and fundamental to the filmmaking process. Often seen in the hands of the camera assistant, this simple device plays a critical role in ensuring that the post-production phase runs smoothly. In this brief guide we will explain what clapperboards are, the significance of the information they carry, their typical use on set, and will conclude with some additional tips to help prepare you to use one. This is a beginners guide covering the basics, there is much more to slating.


What is a Clapperboard?

A clapperboard, also known as a slate, is a device used in filmmaking and video production to assist in the synchronising of picture and sound; and to designate and mark particular scenes and takes recorded during a production. The standard clapperboard is constructed out of an acrylic board with hinged sticks attached to the top. The board displays information about the production and the shots, including details like the production title, DOP, scene and take numbers, date, and other relevant information that can assist in post production.


Purpose of the Clapperboard 

Clapperboards are used primarily for two things; synchronisation of audio and visuals and then clip identification for the editor. Firstly let's talk about the use of the clapperboard for synchronisation of sound and video. In professional productions, sound and images are often recorded on separate devices. The editors need a way of easily matching these up in post productions so they are in sync. The sharp "clap" sound made when the stick is struck against the board provides a precise reference point that can be easily identified on both the audio and visual tracks. This helps editors sync the two elements accurately in post-production.

The secondary main purpose of the clapperboard is to provide the information of each shot/clip visually to the editor. This aids them in identifying each take, which scene it belongs to etc. It can also provide other information to them however this changes production, this could include things like what lens is on the camera or what FPS the camera is set to.

The clapperboard is a must on any professional production and will be mandated by it. However if you are on a small student film or a personal project, you should still use one and use it properly and consistently. Otherwise you will be saying to yourself in the edit, “I wish we used the clapperboard that day”. 

Sections on a Clapperboard

There are two key categories of information on a board. The production information and the shot information. The production information identifies what the production is, and who is filming it. This information typically does not change on a shot by shot or day by day basis (unless you have a change of Director or DOP, which could happen; especially on a longer production). Here is a breakdown of the key information you will need on a clapperboard:

  • Production Name/Title: Identifies the film or project name.
  • Director: Names the director of the film, ensuring clarity in productions especially where multiple directors may be involved.
  • DOP: The Director of Photography, or sometimes the Camera Operators name is used in smaller productions or when the shoot does not have a DOP. If working with a DOP who is accredited such as by BSC or ASC, make sure to include that in their name. e.g John Smith BSC
  • Scene: Refers to the script scene number being filmed. Check with your script supervisor if you are unsure.
  • Slate: For each setup you increment the Slate number. So for every new camera angle, lens change etc you increase this number. This is not linked to the scene, and can get very high on a longer shoot, e.g. 1022. Note there is a difference between the UK and USA slating system, see below.
  • Take: Records how many times this particular setup has been attempted.
  • Date: The date you are shooting.
  • Camera: Indicates the camera (A, B, C, etc.) when multiple cameras are used. This can be combined with the Roll number. However it is also common to be bold in the bottom right corner. It is best practice to have this in the corresponding colour, A=Red, B=Blue, C=Yellow, D=Green etc.
  • Roll: Refers to the roll of film or card number being used.
  • Filter: Notes if any camera filters are used.
  • FPS (Frames Per Second): Indicates the recording speed/frame rate.
  • SYNC/MOS: Marks whether the scene is synced with sound i.e. sound and visual both being recorded or using MOS (Mit Out Sound/Motor Only Sync), meaning you are shooting without sound
  • Day/Nite: Shot during the day or the night
  • INT/EXT: Shot internal/inside or external/outside

Lots of other stuff can be noted on the board depending on requirements, however these are the main requirements you will encounter.

USA Slating System

The UK system which we discussed simply increments the Slate number numerically 1..2..3 etc, completely independent of the Scene number. In the USA they do not use a separate Slate number. They incorporate a letter in with the Scene number to represent each setup. So, for the first setup it could be Scene 134. For the next one they add the letter A, next is B, then C etc. 


  • Scene 134 (wide shot) 
  • Scene 134 A (different angle)
  • Scene 134 B (medium shot)
  • Scene 134 C (different angle medium shot)
  • etc. 

Avoid using the letters I or O as they look like the numbers 1 and 0. If you reach the letter Z, for the next one shot you go back to A then add another letter after that. So AA, AB, AC etc.

Typical use Case on Set

During a typical day on set, the second camera assistant is responsible for the clapperboard. You may find as a trainee or a runner you may be asked to step up and assist with the board, especially if it's a busy shoot. 

Before the next take you want to have the board filled out with the correct information including the Slate and Take number. When they are ready to shoot, you want to position yourself with the board ready in frame.

This is typically what you will hear next:

  • “STAND BY” - Letting everyone know they are about to film a Take
  • “QUIET PLEASE” - A reminder for everyone on set to stop talking and working on anything that is not involved with the Take.
  • “ROLL SOUND“ - then from the Sound Recordist you will hear “SPEED” or “ROLLING”. 
  • “ROLL CAMERA”, then you hear “CAMERAS RUNNING” or “SPEED”. They might not prompt the camera to roll separately, as may begin recording at the same time as sound, however they will still announce they are at ‘Speed/Running’.
  • You will then be prompted to “MARK” or “MARK IT” you then place the clapperboard in the frame, ensuring it is visible to the camera. 
  • You then need to announce the Slate number and Take number, followed by the clap action.
  • Once this is done you want to move out of the shot. 
  • After you mark it, as you walk away it's good practice to swipe your finger through the Take number so you know that number has been used.
  • Then “ACTION” will be called to prompt the actors etc to begin the shot


End Board/Tail Slate

You may not always have access to mark a shot at the start due to access to the frame, such as an action sequence that requires you to be away for safety etc. Whatever the reason you can still mark the shot but at the end. They normally announce “END BOARD” when they turnover. Have the board prepared, you will be prompted to mark it. The director will likely announce “CUT”, however Sound and Camera should keep rolling allowing you to mark the shot. Announce the Slate and Take number and it is customary to say “on the end” afterwards. The camera and sound will then stop rolling.

MOS/ Recording without Sound

Not all shots have sound being recorded. However you should still mark the shot so the editors have the Slate/Take number references. In this case there is no need to clap the sticks as there is nothing to synchronise later. Hold the board with your fingers between the sticks or simply have the sticks closed. This will indicate to post production it was a MOS Take.

Soft Sticks

If it’s a tighter shot you will likely find the board is close to an actor or their face. In this situation do not want to snap the sticks together and startle the actor just before they do the take. When you mark the shot, announce the Slate and Take like normal, then finish off by saying “Soft Sticks”. Then clap the sticks but with much less force. It still needs to make a sound, just not too loud!

Additional Tips for Using a Clapperboard

The number one thing with a clapperboard is the same with anything you are learning. If you don’t know or you are unsure. Ask!

  • Use bold and neat writing: Text should be in clear and legible handwriting to ensure the information can be easily read in the editing suite. It is best to write in large capital letters.
  • Consistency: Be consistent with terminology and numbering to avoid confusion in post-production.
  • Visibility: Make sure the clapperboard is fully visible in the camera frame for each take. Check with either the operator in a smaller shoot, or the 1st AC.
  • Make it heard: Say loud enough and Clap sharply and firmly to produce a distinct sound spike, facilitating easier syncing. But not always! Remember Soft Sticks!
  • Look after it: Don’t leave it lying around, don’t drop it, regularly clean the clapperboard when you get a build up of whiteboard marker.

We hope this brief guide has provided a foundation of knowledge to help get you started with clapperboards. Use your colleagues and their experience to ask for advice and feedback. Happy clapping!

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