SWW17 Time-Lapse Tutorial: Movie Clapperboard

The clapperboard is a unique device that has been used for decades in the film industry. It has been so widely seen it has become its own icon for this industry. But what does it do? Well, the clapperboard is the most useful in post production. When it snapped, the noise leaves a sharp spike in the audio tracks of all the microphones and cameras, this allows the editors to precisely synchronize the audio. More complex clapperboards will have detailed information about the scene, take, and the timings. The editors then can take all that info and that will help them piece together the shots into a full feature film. The highlighted block in the image below shows the clapperboards spike in the audio

The clapper board we are going to make is a simple prop style one with some space to adhere paper (or even a whiteboard) if one wishes to insert information on it. The unique technique we are going to use to make this model is a “print in place” model. What print in place means is we are going to print the clapper board in one print but it will split apart and be a moving object. Eliminating any assembly for the moving parts.

For this we build the model how we usually would, but instead of separating all the different parts and saving them independently, we saved it in one STL. To design like this, you need to be mindful that the two bodies must stay separated in the SOLIDWORKS part, and you have left at least a 0.5mm tolerance game in between the two bodies. This is important as if it’s too close, the material will fuse and it won’t come apart.

Also try to prevent any unwanted overhangs. This because we are going to print this support free; the support will also fuse the material together and not allow us to break it free. We used some simple chamfers to fix this problem. The last thing to remember is orientation; we chose to print it up right as this gave us the least amount of area of over hang.

We saved the mode and sent it to print. When printing make sure you either print right on the bed or on a raft. If you use a brim, which is a single layered foot surrounding the model, this wall fuse it together. Once the print is finished you can remove it off the bed. This is the scary part; using controlled force you should be able to snap it clear and it will start moving but, be careful because too much force could break the model.

The last thing we did was print a few white pieces to slot in to the top of the clapper to give it more color and contrast. And just like that you have your own replica clapperboard! Use this model in your own smaller productions or even as a novelty gift for film lovers.

3D printing has allowed us to experiment and test new techniques. It makes us think differently about how we manufacture products and how design products. This is a perfect example of a new form of manufacturing that could lead way to new and exciting ideas that can change the world, one spool of filament at a time.


Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.