Slating Videos In Your NLE

For me, most evenings revolve around eating dinner on the couch and catching up on TV. Since I try to be in bed before 10:00PM I miss pretty much every show that airs at 9:00PM or 10:00PM (I make exceptions for The Walking Dead).

Every now and then while ignoring the commercials you can’t fast forward through, a mistake is made. That mistake… Somehow a slate for a commercial makes it way into the On Demand stream. Each time I first laugh then actually take a look at it because, well, it interests the heck out of me.

BTW, I’ve seen this happen more on TNT than all other stations put together.

What’s a Slate?

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about a clapper slate like the ones used during filming. I’m talking about the detailed text about a video in front of the video on the timeline in an NLE.

This is what most of my slates look like

This is what most of my slates look like

Why do you want to slate videos your timeline?

A slate contains all the high-level important information about a video.

You want to slate each video in your timeline so that you can quickly reference what it is. If you have a couple different versions of a video – let’s say a long version, short version, marketing version, internal version, etc. – you want to be able to quickly tell them apart. Sure, they can be in different sequences or projects but I find it much easier to have everything together in the same timeline. Plus it’s not just about the title of the video. A slate contains all the high-level important information about a video. Mix slates with a solid markers workflow and you’re organization skills will be on fleek.

Is that the proper usage of “on fleek”? I have no idea… I’m not cool/young enough anymore…

A slate should have at a minimum the following information:

  • Name of Project
  • Title of Individual Video (this is very important if there are numerous videos in your timeline)
  • TRT (Total Run Time or the duration of the video. Be accurate to the frame!)
  • Resolution (1920x1080p, 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 864×486, etc.)
  • VO (Voiceover Artist, if applicable)
  • Editor (and all previous editors listed in order)
  • Edit Date (date of last change to the video in the timeline)
  • Special Notes (add notes like the frames per second or if it is closed captioned or in a different language or something)

Slate Workflow

This is how I create a slate:

  1. Make sure the first video in your timeline starts at 01:00:00:00. Not mandatory, but good habit. All other videos in the timeline start exactly on a minute. Ex: 01:08:00:00 or 01:26:00:00
  2. Put an In Point and Out Point around the video – starting on the first frame and ending on the last frame. This gives you the TRT.
  3. Open up Title Tool if you’re in Media Composer or whatever title tool there is in other NLEs. Slates are not fancy and you don’t need to go to After Effects or anything to do crazy animations or effects.
  4. At the top, centered write the name of the project. Ex: Old Mill Brewery Interview
  5. Left-justified on the left side write Video:, TRT:, Resolution:, Editor:, and Edit Date:. Put each one on it’s own line. Add an empty line if you’d like between each (I usually do). Add other lines like VO if needed.
  6. Copy and paste the text element you just created. Right-justify it and move it to the right side of the screen.
  7. On the top line write the name of the video. Ex: Full Interview
  8. On the next line write the TRT you got in step two. Write it out in hours, minutes, seconds and frames. Ex: 00:08:23:18 or 01:03:49;20
  9. On the next line write the resolution. Ex: 1080p
  10. On the next line write the editor(s) who have worked on it in order. Newest editor goes last. It’s up to you whether to use first or last names. Ex: Marshall, Samantha, Josh
  11. Lastly write the date of the last change to the video in the timeline. Ex: 09.23.15
  12. Save the Title.
  13. Move time indicator 10 seconds before the first frame of video. If the video starts at 01:00:00:00 then the time indicator should be at 00:59:50:00. Add the slate into the timeline for 5 seconds. Frame 00:59:55:00 should be black (empty). The frame before this should be the last frame of the slate. Yes, I’m very OCD about this.
  14. Add slate before each video in the timeline like in step 13.

That’s it! When you’re done each video in your timeline should start exactly at a minute and have a 5-second slate with 5-seconds of black before it.

Funny Story About Slates

I have a quick, funny (embarrassing?) story to share about my first slate. When I was a junior in college I had my first post production class. For my first project we were told to slate it with just our last name for 3 seconds, 3 seconds of black then start the video.

Well I had no idea what I was doing. The first few people went and their names were small and centered and in white font.

Then my video was played and BAM! Taking up the entire screen in the biggest font I could fit was SHORT in bright red. Think the opening title to Rocky.

At first everyone laughed. Then my professor started laying into me a bit about why I made my slate that way. I thought I was in trouble. So I started bumbling my words and don’t even think I spit out a complete sentence.

However, to my surprise, he told me he loved it. He loved it because it was memorable and that today editors need to do things that are memorable in order to get noticed.

Your Slates

I’m curious about how you slate your videos. Do you do something different? Did I give you any ideas from this post? Let me know in the comments!

PS: My apologies for not creating a tutorial in over a month! I’m jumping back into that real soon and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

PPS: Remember to sign up to get email updates for when I come out with new posts!

Thanks as always for reading!!

– Josh

Recommended Reading: