|A Creative COW Product Review
New York, USA
©Copyright 2007 Jim Harvey and Creativecow.net. All Rights Reserved
In this article, CreativeCOW.net contributing editor Jim Harvey takes a look at the Easy Slate Professional Slating System. Jim likes the way it looks, and thinks that it makes him more attentive to the small details that he used to let slip past. It's a simple idea with a clever implementation.
One of the "sins" that I and most of the shooters that I know are guilty of is forgetting (or more likely, simply ignoring the need) to slate my shots. When I first began shooting back when pterodactyls soared the skies, I slated everything. I felt that it gave me a bit more professionalism in the eyes of my clients. Forget that I was shooting in camera sound and didn't need the "crack" of the slate to sync to. I slated every shot religiously. Back in the office, I could get a quick read on what shot was where by using the slate info. Somewhere down the line, I gradually stopped using the slate. Maybe it was too much work to carry that huge clapper around with me, maybe I just got lazy, but eventually, I left the slate in the corner, abandoned and gathering dust.
Now back in post, I would search through hundreds of clips to find that one scene that I was looking for. I'd scroll through the entire clip hoping to catch the section that was important. Needless to say, this took a considerable amount of time and made for some "colorful" language from time to time, especially when deadlines loomed.
Well, it's good to know that evidently, I'm not the only one who wasn't slating their work. It's even better to know that someone figured out a straightforward and very simple, elegant method to cure the "I Don't Slate" syndrome.
Figure1. The EasySLATE kit
JTV Productions (a full service production company, located in Orem Utah) has introduced EasySLATE which is a neat little package that will have you slating every shot just like you did when you were looking for that "Street Cred" way back when. The kit is simplicity itself. A very nice nylon pouch holds everything and takes up virtually no space in your gear bag. The bag contains two EasySLATE cards, two dry erase markers, a cleaning cloth and several alcohol wipes to clean up after heavy use. And you WILL use this system. While there is no clapper, the slate cards are designed to hold exactly the information you will need when you get back to your edit station.
The cards themselves are laminated plastic with information on both sides. One card is a standard Production Slate with the necessary "Shot/Take, Reel, Scene" etc. info on one side and a back focus chart on the reverse. The other card has an Interview Slate on one side backed with a Notes Slate on the reverse. Both cards are so simple that you'll do the famous "Why didn't I think of that?" head smack.
Figure 2. Both sides of the EasySLATE cards can be used for various tasks*
*Note: there are only 2 cards included in the kit (not 4). The above photo shows the front and back of both cards.
Slating your shots might seem to be a step backwards to some of us. After all, my camera has scene selection, and I'm way to busy to slate things. Wrong! A quick scribble on the EasySLATE will save you more time that you could imagine when you start dumping footage into your NLE. The EasySLATE takes up almost no space at all, you don't have to go searching for a marker (two are provided in the kit) and in the blink of an eye, you can write down the pertinent information for your shot, have your talent or PA hold the EasySLATE up, roll tape and bang! You're done.
I've always said that we videographer's can spend money like it's going out of style on all sorts of crazy things. I love gadgets, I'm hooked on catalogs from the big digital supply houses, and I have a closet full of stuff that I bought because it looked cool, was going to make my life easier, was going to make me a better shooter, would enhance my image, or would make women think I was attractive. Well, that's why all that stuff is still in the closet. The EasySLATE will never find its way into that closet because it does an important job without making me have to drag lots of extra junk along with me on my shoot. The whole kit weighs only 7.5 ozs. (212g) and as I said, will fit right in your camera bag.
Once you get "re-used" to slating your footage, you'll find that your workflow improves and the use of profanity is greatly reduced in the office. Another perk is that you'll never again misspell a client or interviewees name. Having it written down on site will prevent that embarrassment.
Figure 3. Being able to quickly have important notes included on tape will save you time and frustration back at the studio.
Some people may feel that the $59.00 price tag is a bit high for two laminated cards (with 4 different applications) a couple of dry erase markers and a bag, and that they can do just as well with a piece of blank paper and a sharpie. I can't argue with them because in reality, sure, you can write all that info on some loose-leaf paper and have your client hold that in front of them for each shot. Of course, you might not ever hear from them again. Using the EasySLATE kit just adds a little bit more professionalism to your production work and impresses your client while making your editor happy when you get back (and if YOU are the editor, don't you deserve to be happy?)
I give the system a solid 4 cows because I like the way it works, I like the way it looks, and I think that it makes me more attentive to the small details that I used to let slip past. It's a simple idea with a clever implementation.