The Clapperboard Finally Explained
uncategorized| | By David Clarke
For about as long as we can remember, a trademark in the movies and film industry has been that little black and white thing that is “clapped” before shooting a new scene for a movie or TV show. And while we have seen it for years and years, it is likely that none of us really know what this thing is or what purpose it serves.
This black and white “thing” is called a clapperboard. These clapperboards are used in filmmaking and are used to assist the synchronization of sound and picture, as well as to state when a new scene begins and ends. But as mentioned, the biggest reason for these is making sure audio and video on the project line up with each other.
The clapperboard is known for its distinctive “clap.” This clap is loud enough that it can be distinctly found in the audio track. And on the video track, you can easily see when the clapperboard is closed. This means you can match up the picture of the board being closed to the sound of the board with relative ease. These were first invented in the 1920’s and were a huge help in speeding up the synchronization process. The creator of the original clapperboard was F.W. Thring.
But before getting into the backstory of this piece of film history, let’s go back in time and see what filming was like before these things existed.
In the very early days of film, one person would hold a slate for the camera with the scene information on it while another clapped two sticks together. So this basically took what the clapperboard did but separated it into two distinct jobs, as the board can clap while also have scene information on it too. The type of scene information that is usually included on these boards is the date, production title, director name, photography director name, and things like the take, number, and camera angle as well.
So the clapperboard definitely helps the editor as they now can match up the sound with the picture with ease. There would be no more wasting time with trying to figure out which audio file goes with which visual file. And while clapboards have been around less than 100 years, they have already been updated numerous times.
In the early days, clapboards were a wooden slate with a hinged clapping stick on the top. But the newer modern ones use two clapping sticks that are attached to a translucent acrylic glass plate that can be easily read by the camera without adjustments to lighting. Some even have LED and other electronics added to them to make them even better.
Of all the advancements and creations in film history, the clapperboard is one that often goes unnoticed. But the fact is, this little creation changed the film industry forever. Without this, the editing process of films would take much longer, so there is no doubt that editors absolutely adore this creation.