Nothing is more crushing to a 2nd AC than to have to hear “second sticks!” and go back and clap again. Hopefully this quick tip, after the jump, helps prevent that.
The standard procedure for slating on 35mm film (or equally sized digital sensors) is to stand one foot away for every 10mm of lens. So for a 100mm lens, you would slate from 10 feet away to get the frame full of the slate. Oftentimes, I will add an extra foot or two onto this for longer lenses to make sure it is in and give myself a little bit of leeway. On wide angle lenses, the frame view is larger, and thus, easier to get a slate in no problem.
Many times on longer lenses, however, it is difficult to get the slate into frame because of how tight the shot is. There can be a lot of wasted time having the 1st AC instruct the 2nd to raise or lower a slate to get it into frame before clapping the sticks. This doesn’t make the 2nd AC look good and it frustrates the 1st AC because it’s not his job and overall everyone gets crabby on set about it.
To help prevent this doomsday scenario, the best way to ensure a slate is in frame is to slate on the actor’s mark with the slate at eye-level. Many times, especially on long shots, the subject of the shot is the main actor’s face and if you slate from where he/she will be standing or coming into frame, you can bet the camera operator is already pointing that way and will appreciate not having to re-frame after the slate has left.
This trick also helps out the 1st AC who gets one last chance to get a focus mark off the slate. It works on every type of lens, from long to wide, and is a great point of reference in tight spaces where getting a slate back far enough isn’t always possible. And who knows, if you get good enough at it, maybe you’ll find yourself featured in a commercial.