Hand Signals During Video Production ' Get To Know Them

Published: 10th May 2011
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Video production hand signals are used in all venues of filming. Whether it involves a news broadcast, commercial or blockbuster movie there is a special need for hand signals as a form of non-verbal communication. During the rolling of the tape, there is a need for quietness on the set. Microphones are oversized and extra sensitive, as they have to be to be able to catch the dialog of the actors from a distance. Usually, there is a designated body holding this giant microphone over the actors while maintaining his position out of camera view so that the scene can become realistic and flow naturally. Sometimes there are microphones worn by the actors themselves for sound capture, but this is usually for live broadcasting or reality television. In any event, there needs to be silence around the scripted scene to ensure that the production flows accordingly. It is because of this reason that there is a need for non-verbal communication between actors and those behind the camera when filming is in progress.

As various filming venues have specific hand signals and gestures according to the particular production team or director, there still is a universal language of hand signals that any and everyone in production has been introduced to as a basis for general communication. Below is an outline of these generic hand signals and when they are used in a production setting.


Before actors are actually on the air, there is a stand-by period where preparation for the camera takes place. A floor manager is responsible for communicating to the actors as he typically sits adjacent to the camera in use. Just before going on the air, the floor supervisor raises his arm in the air with an open palm facing the actors to gesture that everyone is standing by until action is called.


Upon going on air, the floor manager takes the same hand used for standing by and then points to the actors to signal them that the camera is rolling for recording. This is where the scripted material is now played out.


Although sometimes verbalized, the hand signal for actors to stop performing involves the floor manager using his hand in a motion as if to cut his own neck. Sometimes the supervisor or director, if on the set, may simply yell out cut because during editing the recording would be stopped just before the verbal connotation

Speak Up/Down:

When it is required for an actor to speak up, during recording the floor manager gestures this by surround the back of his ear with his hand as to signal that he cannot hear them. On the contrary, the supervisor will cover his mouth with that same hand to signal that one needs to lower their tone.

Changing Cameras:

The floor manager will simply point or wave his hand at the camera to be looked into for recording. In a movie, where actors are not to look directly into the camera, this signal may still be used to simply inform the actor that a particular camera is now viewing them.

Good Job:

When things are going well, the floor manager will remind those on camera by forming an o.k. symbol with his thumb circling around to the index finger.

Stretching/Shortening a Scene:

If there is a need to prolong recording the floor manager will outstretch his hands from one another. In contrast, the floor supervisor will bring those hands together to signal that the scene is to be shortened.

Speed Up the Process:

There is a difference between stretching out a scene and speeding up dialog. Stretching out a scene is typically used for live broadcastings. When commercials are set to come in well after a script is to be finished, the persons on camera will be signaled to stretch out the scene and often have freedom to engage in idle talk until cut time.

Speeding up refers to a scene ending prematurely and requires the person on camera to talk faster to get through the required dialog. The gesture of raising the hand in the air, then circling it signals such an act.

Time Remaining:

When scenes are scheduled to finish on time, there are 30 second and 15 second reminders to those on camera to prepare for cut. The manager affixing his hands in the shape of the letter T signals 30 seconds until cut, whereas a slowly forming fist of one hand signals that there are now 15 seconds left until cut.

As many of video production hand signals are implemented with live television, there are still uses for them with recoded scenes, such as movie filming. In any event these generic signals serve the foundation and premise for any and all of those performing in front of the camera for something to refer to when things perhaps too complicated. This universal language of video production hand signals surpass any privately formed signals when communication becomes difficult during production.


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