Filming self-recorded virtual auditions has become a theatrical necessity. Artists have had to adapt digitally to stand out from the crowd. Broadway veteran Arbender Robinson shared pearls of wisdom that you can put into practice to be on the cutting edge with industry expectations and standards. Here are the insights he shared during his 2021 International Thespian Festival virtual workshop. And check out our 2021 College Guide here.)

It’s a Benefit to Self-record your Virtual Auditions

Traditional theater auditions typically take place in person with casting and production staff. But digital auditions offer opportunities that you can use to your advantage:

Timing: You decide when to record your audition so that it suits your needs. If you’re not feeling great and you’re unsure that your voice will sound its best, wait to record until you’re ready.
Location: You decide where to record, and you get to make the space as comfortable as you need to perform your best.
Personal expression: Creating the ideal space can foster a better sense of confidence in your abilities.

Tools for Effective Virtual Auditions

When it comes to filming your own audition, the devil is in the details! These are the five main elements that you need to pay special attention to so that you come across polished, professional, and memorable. They’re listed in order of importance:

Lighting
The casting director must be able to see you! Have one to three lighting sources, and your lighting source(s) should be placed in front of you and slightly above you. Lighting is the production element that people often forget, but it’s the most important technical factor in your recording.

Location
When you’re setting up your virtual auditions space, choose a place without distractions behind you and around you. Don’t set up the camera where people or objects may come in and out of the frame.

A solid background is ideal. One way to achieve this easily is by hanging up a bedsheet behind you (be sure to iron out any wrinkles!) or by purchasing a pop-up backdrop. Also, the space doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, the best spaces are often in the corner of the room with two walls framing you.

Sound
To record high-quality sound for your virtual auditions, you want to steer clear of open windows or a shared wall, where sound can interrupt your recording. Reduce any potential echoes in the room that could distract your performance by filling the space with sound-absorbing items. For example, furniture, rugs, curtains, and other random items will absorb the sound (just remember to keep everything else in the room out of frame of your video).

You can use either built-in microphones or external mics. External mics come in handy but aren’t necessary if you can control the sound and space well. If you prefer to have an external mic, you can purchase an inexpensive one on Amazon. They plug directly into your device and attach to your lapel/collar. (Note: Microphones will intuitively find the human voice and elevate that above background noise. So, if you have musical accompaniment, know that the microphone will slightly favor your voice over the music.)

Perhaps most importantly, you need to run sound tests before doing any official recording. Think of this as sound rehearsal: Record yourself on camera, play it back, and adjust accordingly.

Stabilization
Decide where to place your camera and then make it as stable as possible. A moving camera or moving frame will make the viewer seasick! You can stabilize your camera a few ways: with a tripod, a light stand, a table, or any flat surface. Once you set it up and it’s secure, you don’t want to have to worry about it while you’re performing your virtual audition.

Camera
You may not realize it, but the camera itself is the least important element of your video audition. You can film using your phone, your tablet, your laptop or computer, or any other camera — but if you overlook lighting, location, sound and stabilization, it won’t matter what camera you use.

You still want to tend to certain details with the camera. Always wipe off the lens before filming so that you don’t have any smudges on screen. Be sure to change the quality of your recording to HD, or 5k or 4k if you have the ability. You always want to make sure you’re recording in the highest quality mode possible.

And remember, if you’re filming with your phone or mobile device, place it on “do not disturb” so that nothing interrupts your performance.

Pro Tips for Virtual Auditions

Here are some advanced tips that can benefit the quality of both your video and your performance:

● Wear clothing that’s comfortable, subtle, and flattering. Avoid clothing that’s flashy or that has a busy pattern. You don’t want your clothing to distract the viewer. Consider wearing something that hints at the essence of the character, but don’t wear anything that looks exactly like a costume.
● Be subtle with props. Some auditions will have explicit directions about props, but don’t incorporate anything that you don’t already have. Keep the prop within arm’s length so that you don’t have to bend down or walk off frame to acquire it. If the scene calls for a weapon as a prop, mimic weapon usage; don’t use an actual weapon.
● Know that you don’t have to project. Although you’re used to performing for the back row, both the camera and the microphone pick up sound a lot easier than you would think. Run a few rehearsals until you’re comfortable with not projecting.
● Adjust your eye level and focus for the camera. Don’t look at the screen of the camera while you’re performing. Look slightly above the camera lens and to either side of the lens. Your camera will pick up easily on eye movement.
● Use the slate to convey your personality. The slate is the portion virtual auditions in which you introduce yourself and/or the scene, monologue or song you’re performing. This is the one time in the video you can convey who you are outside of the character. So, be authentic, be comfortable, be yourself, and read the directions for the slate if the audition calls for it!
● Practice, practice, practice. Viewing yourself on camera can be uncomfortable at first, and the camera will pick up on your nerves if you feel the least bit awkward. Rehearse everything from the scene to your slate. Test your microphone, lighting, camera framing and stabilization. Practice makes perfect, and you’ll feel more comfortable and in control of the material if you do.

Self-recorded virtual auditions offer a digital opportunity to show casting directors what you’ve got to offer. With these tips, you’ll be sure to stand out from the crowd and land yourself the part! 

Natalie Clare is a Cincinnati-based writer who composes original content for brands, organizations, and publications. As a storyteller, she writes fiction and nonfiction, and she directs and produces works of film. Visit her at nataliecwrites.com.

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