I was asking on set today about the history of the illustrated slate (clapperboard), as I have not seen it on any show except Doctor Who. It seems that it is a tradition in Wales to celebrate every 100 set-ups, so not specific to Doctor Who. It has spread to other shows outside of Wales because camera teams travel a lot.
Who illustrates the slate? This varies depending on desire, availability and artistic talent. In the case of my episodes, a lot are done by a specific camera assistant. Sometimes the trainees are asked. Sometimes other members of the crew chip in.
What is a set-up? This is not an exact science, but it’s basically every time we move the camera or change the lens to create a new shot. In the UK, slates are counted sequentially – meaning your first shot is slate 1, take 1.
In North America, slates are not counted by number - they are done by scene number, with each set-up taking on a different letter (26C would be the 4th set-up of scene 26), so this tradition of 100th slate is not part of that slate vocabulary. In the olden days, when we shot on film, there was a tradition of having champagne for every 100 rolls of film shot. With no film and no alcohol on set, this is an antiquated and quaint old tradition.
Who choose what is drawn on the slate? The illustrator: it is not necessarily relevant to anything but Doctor Who. They tend to be spoiler-free and generic, because of our NDA’s. Since people do get sacked for on-line posting, the crew is very sensitive to the selfie-free/spoiler-free zone of the set.
Is that really our names in Gallifreyan? Only Scott and the Tardis know.