An iconic figure in film and television, the slate has become both instantly recognizable in its nature, yet mysterious in its function. Below is a breakdown of what the various terms and words that appear on the marker signify:
The Episode Title
It seems obvious, but it's important that both production and post-production are on the same page about which script we're working on.
This helps the camera department keep track of what footage is on the camera roll.
The whole purpose of the slate is to communicate with post-production. Since we don't shoot the episode in scene order, it's helpful to our editors to know which scene we are currently filming.
Shots are essentially the angle at which the scene is being filmed. They are alphabetized so that they are not confused with the scene number. In my personal experience, shots have gone all the way up to the letter P. Believe me, it took a while.
Even if our wonderful cast got it right the first time, it's always safe to have the shot at least twice. You never know if there was a sound or a camera blip.
FPS (Frames Per Second)
Having entered into the 21st century, our markers are digitalized to record the frames captured in the take.
A show like SVU, although referred to as "single camera" format, in fact typically works with two cameras: "Camera A" and "Camera B."
In case anyone wasn't sure what show we're working on...
The director's name always appears on the slate. Here, it is the much-esteemed Alex Chapple.
The director of photography is also the head of the camera department, and as such he also appears on the slate. Since Season 13, it has been Michael Green.
This shot did not feature any sound. As such, we use the term "Motor Only Shot/Sync," which means there is no sound roll to go along with it. It's commonly believed that the term comes from a 1920s German director who would say "mit out sound" (without sound), but it may be one of those urban film myths.
From a kindergarten classroom to the set of SVU, it is helpful to one and all to know what day it is.