How to make a movie clapboard

Written by ty wright
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How to make a movie clapboard
The traditional movie 'clapper.' (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Lights! Action! Camera! Clap! Perhaps the very symbol of film making, a movie clapboard is used by a film crew to mark specific scenes and takes of a production when viewed later on film. The information on the slate is used to identify the scene number in the script, and the number of takes of that scene; the loud clap gives a reference point to synchronise the sound of the scene. Without this information a director or editor, would not know what footage he was looking at. While major productions often use digital clapboards with numeric counters and dry erase markers, the traditional black and white "clapper" is still effective.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Plywood
  • Saw
  • 22-inch-long piece of wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood filler
  • Spatula
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Metal hinge
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Black paint
  • White paint
  • Large paintbrush
  • Fine paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Be sure your piece of wood is 22 inches long. It should be at least 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick.

  2. 2

    Saw the wood in half. You will use these two 11-inch pieces of wood for the "clapper" part of your clapboard. Sand the edges of the wood smooth.

  3. 3

    Use the saw to cut a section of plywood to 11 inches-by-11 inches. The plywood should be 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches thick

  4. 4

    Use the spatula to apply a thin layer of wood filler to one side of the plywood.

  5. 5

    Sand the side of the plywood with the wood filler on it to make it slightly smooth. You will use this side as the "face" of the clapboard.

  6. 6

    Set one of the 11-inch pieces of wood across the vertical edge of the plywood. Nail them together with the hammer.

  7. 7

    Set the remaining 11-inch piece of wood on top of the other one. Fasten the metal hinge to the left edge of both, using a screwdriver.

  8. 8

    Paint all of the pieces of wood black.

  9. 9

    Paint a 1-inch thick, white, diagonal stripe on the bottom piece of "clapper" wood, alternating every inch with the black paint. Do the same on the top piece of "clapper" wood, making sure that the white stripes are at the opposite diagonal angle of the stripes on the bottom "clapper wood.

  10. 10

    Paint the slate template using the white paint. The standard template includes: name of production, roll, scene, take, director, camera and date.

Tips and warnings

  • Have the wood pre-cut at a hardware store so all you have to do is paint assemble the clapboard at home.
  • It might be easier to prep and paint the wood before you assemble the clapboard.
  • You can use a piece of black wooden chalkboard instead of the plywood. Or you can use even use a piece of whiteboard.
  • Look at examples of professional clapboards to decide what items to list on your slate template.
  • The standard size of professional movie clapboards is 11 x 12.

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