If you’re an aspiring performer or musician, chances are you’ve seen some schools ask you for a “pre-screen” recording. This is a video recording of your performance that you have to submit before getting invited for an in-person audition. It will be a deciding factor for the faculty, and with the number of applications each program can get, it’s important you get it right.
Read the Instructions
I know this might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget that each school you’re applying to might have different guidelines for pre-screens, so it’s essential to check them before doing anything else.
Pay attention to audio and video file type, media file size, and file upload method — they might not accept CDs or DVDs. Make sure you also read about any recording instructions. You might need to give certain information before you start — like your name and the piece you’re performing. It’s always better to be over-prepared than the opposite.
Create a document or spreadsheet where you keep all this information condensed for easy access.
Get your Equipment
This step might feel daunting if you’re not a techie. There are so many options for equipment that it’s hard to know what’s best. Some people will tell you to rent out professional equipment, some recommend getting a consumer-level recording device.
However, with the fast development of technology, that advice is now a bit outdated. The camera on a modern iPhone has a similar or better quality to a $300 camera from 7 years ago, as well as the option to record stereo audio, which is preferable when recording a pre-screen.
If you have access to better equipment, go for it! Maybe you have a friend who’s a videographer, lucky you. But don’t worry if you don’t, as you’ll be able to show your talents adequately with accessible equipment.
If, down the line, you do decide to invest a bit more in your equipment, might we suggest looking into some good microphones? Audio quality is what’s going to matter the most to you as a performer.
Choose a Recording Space
This will, of course, vary according to what you have available to you. It’s important to choose a place with good acoustics. Opt for a wide space with tall walls, maybe a carpet. If you have access to a rehearsal space, maybe in a local high school or community theatre, or even a church, use it!
Set up and Plan your Shots
Once you’ve found your space choose an angle to film from. Some things to consider include lighting and visual distractions. Make sure you’re not backlit and that your space is as clean as possible. Set up your phone or camera on a surface or a tripod.
Frame your shot, ensuring that you have enough space for your full body or for a waist shot. This will depend on your instrument and on the school, so now’s the time to pull up your document with all the guidelines.
It’s important to have a plan in mind for how the shoot is going to go. Are you going to do a slate or introduction? Which information do you need to give? Do you need to say this information or should you edit that in a title card? Should you stand still in between performances in order for the video transitions to be smoother? These are all things to consider.
One useful thing to consider when you’re planning things out is that a video audition is supposed to recreate an in-person one. So don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you had the audition panel in front of you. Imagine your camera is your audition panel — this means you can look directly at it when introducing yourself and your piece, and then look slightly off to the left or right when performing.
Once you have all of this figured out, it’s time to film.
Do a test shot
This is an important step to ensure everything in your plan works as intended. There’s no point in writing “full body in frame” on your plan if you don’t know where you should stand for that to happen. Maybe a friend could help you make sure everything looks right from behind the camera.
This test shot doesn’t have to have the same intensity as the actual first take. You just need to make sure everything looks good from a technical point of view. So walk in, stand on your spot, introduce yourself and play for one second. If you catch any mistakes, that’s one less take wasted! Now, onto the real thing.
Film your audition
Now comes the exciting part! With all your preparation work, this should be a relatively smooth process, and you’ll have enough energy to give it your all. Your audition should have no cuts, so it’s better to do as many takes as you can manage, so you can select the best one in the end.
Edit and ask for Feedback
After you’ve filmed, edit your audition on a free editing software. There’s no need for a really expensive or complicated program because what you’re going to do is relatively simple. Your auditions should not have multiple cuts or angles, so your job has been mostly done in the pre-production phase.
If you’re performing multiple pieces, a cross-face transition will look good. Beyond that, look into your guidelines, maybe at some examples of other’s auditions, and edit accordingly.
After you’ve finished editing, it’s time to share your work and get some feedback! If you have a mentor, ask them if the video reflects your real-life performances. If you don’t have access to anyone in your field of study, look for someone online who’d be willing to help you, or consider hiring someone for that job! We might be able to help you here at TMAP.
Take in the feedback provided and change your video accordingly, and it should be ready for submission!
Submit your pre-screen or audition
And voilá! You should now have a video that you can submit to the school you’re applying to. Best of luck, and we hope you get in!
Kristine Dizon is a multi-faceted performer, teacher, writer, author, linguist, and entrepreneur. She is Founder & CEO of the Music & Language Learning Center, The Modern Artist Project and co-founder of the Gran Canaria International Clarinet Festival and American Single Reed Summit. She is an artist for Uebel Clarinets and Silverstein Works. Learn more at www.kristinedizon.com.