Video Exams

Video Exams

Take your exam from the comfort of your own home!

At RSL Awards, we pride ourselves in the trust and confidence that our dedicated community has in us to deliver outstanding examination experiences. We’re taking this a step further, and we are delighted to announce the launch of our Video Exams.

Environmentally friendly, no waiting times, reduced stress and available worldwide, this digital solution shows our commitment to providing the most accessible exam experience possible.

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Types of Video Exam Available

RSL can accept and mark two types of graded music exams.

  • Performance Certificate
  • Graded Certificate

Performance Certificate

At all grades candidates can submit videos for Performance Certificates. It is important for candidates to remember a few important things to ensure their exam does not break any rules:

  • The recording needs to be continuous with no editing permitted
  • If you make a mistake in a piece you can restart as long as you are not more than 1/3 of the way through. You can restart up to two pieces in your Performance Certificate

Candidates will be marked by an official RSL Awards examiner in exactly the same way that they would be in a face to face exam. Additionally, the examiner will record a short video message to candidates that delivers feedback on the exam performance.

Just like with other Performance Certificates, candidates can choose play all five pieces from the repertoire from the Rockschool Graded Book, or choose to record up to three free choice pieces from the following sources:

  • Their own composition
  • Songs in the public domain, including hits from the charts. For example, a song by their favourite band or artist
  • Pieces from other accredited exam boards
  • A piece from our Rockschool Classics series

For more details visit our dedicated Free Choice Pieces page.

Graded Certificate

Graded Certificates require the candidates to play three pieces (up to two free choice pieces) and all of the technical exercises (so omitting the Sight Reading/Improvisation, Ear tests and General Musicianship Questions) and cover Debut – Grade 5. Please refer to our Technical Exercise Guidance for a comprehensive list of requirements. These should be recorded by the candidate as a continuous take and submitted via the online portal. It is important for candidates to remember a few important things to ensure their exam does not break any rules:

  • The recording needs to be continuous with no editing permitted
  • If you make a mistake in a piece you can restart as long as you are not more than 1/3 of the way through. You can restart up to one piece and two technical exercises in your Graded Certificate

Just like with other Graded Exams, candidates can choose play all three pieces from the repertoire from the Rockschool Graded Book, or choose to record up to two free choice pieces from the following sources:

  • Their own composition
  • Songs in the public domain, including hits from the charts. For example, a song by their favourite band or artist
  • Pieces from other accredited exam boards
  • A piece from our Rockschool Classics series

For more details visit our dedicated Free Choice Pieces page.

Graded Certificates – Mark Scheme and Grading Descriptors
Performance Certificates – Mark Scheme and Grading Descriptors

Procedure Guide for RSL Graded Syllabus Exams

For RSL video exams to be valid, there are a number of rules you must adhere to:

  1. The exam needs to captured as a single, continuous shot in real time - you must not stop or pause the camera in between pieces.
  2. You must not use video editing software to cut out takes or reduce the time between pieces - the video should represent an exam taken in person as closely as possible, so do not worry about taking a little time setting up between pieces.
  3. Your face must be visible in the video, so we can identify the person taking the exam - please refer to the framing guide for further details.
  4. Candidates should introduce themselves by their full name, their age and the exam grade and discipline they are taking, as well as introducing each piece.
  5. Another person is permitted to be present in the room in order to operate the camera. However, the other person is not permitted to interact with the candidate or intervene in the exam, with the following exceptions:

    1.to introduce the candidate 2. to introduce each piece and/or the technical exercises section (Graded Certificate only)

  6. Drummers supplying video exams using mobile phones or cameras where it has not been possible to create a successful balance between drums and backing track only need to supply video of their drum performance - but as well as introducing each piece should audibly mark the final bar of the count in before performance begins by clicking their sticks together. This will allow your examiner to sync the video to the backing track for assessment. Failure to indicate the count in could make the synchronisation between video and audio impossible and may result in the exam being deemed inadmissible for assessment by a marker.
  7. Check the video recording of your exam carefully before submission, making sure that each piece is introduced to camera, the picture and sound are of a reasonable quality and that the full exam has been captured.

RSL AWARDS VIDEO EXAMS-HOW TO GUIDE

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How to Enter for an Exam

To register for a video exam, candidates (or their parents or their teacher) fill in an online form with information about the candidate and the exam (instrument, grade).

Video Exams are not bound by the Exam Periods/Terms that apply to face-to-face exams. Therefore, Video Exams do not have a closing date, though we do require a submission no later than three month after entry.

After uploading the recording, the candidate can relax and we will send a notification when the result is available. We also provide access to a short video of the examiner providing feedback.

We will then produce the official qualification certificate which confirms the award of the qualification. A minimum of ‘Pass’ is required to receive the certificate.

To summarise, candidates/parents/teachers:

  • Read up on all information about how to record video exams
  • Fill in the entry form
  • Set up the recording
  • Record the exam performance
  • Upload the recording to your online account
  • Await results

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Video Exam Checklist

Performance Certificate (Debut to 8)

  • Record and upload 5 pieces (up to 3 free choice pieces)
  • Unedited performance
  • No more than 2 restarts
  • Upload the sheet music (and backing tracks if necessary) for any free choice pieces

Graded Certificate (Debut to 5)

  • Record and upload 3 pieces (up to 2 free choice pieces)
  • Record and upload ALL the technical exercises outlined in the technical guidance below
  • No more than 1 restart (pieces) or 2 restarts (technical exercises)
  • Unedited performance
  • Upload the sheet music (and backing tracks if necessary) for any free choice pieces

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Technical Exercises

Keyboard 2019 – Technical Exercises

Piano 2019 – Technical Exercises

PIANO 2015 - TECHNICAL EXERCISES

Acoustic 2016 – Technical Exercises

Acoustic 2019 – Technical Exercises

Bass 2018 – Technical Exercises

Drums 2018 – Technical Exercises

Electric Guitar 2018 – Technical Exercises

Vocals – Technical Exercises

UKULELE 2017 - TECHNICAL EXERCISES

UKULELE 2020 - TECHNICAL EXERCISES

Graded Certificates – Mark Scheme and Grading Descriptors

Understanding Digital Video

We understand that it can get very confusing just trying to understand all of the words and codes used by companies to try and sell us their latest gadgets. You are likely to have come across terms like 720P, 1080HD or 4k - but may not know what any of the numbers or letter stand for. This part of the guide should help you navigate through the jargon and make the process easier.

With this in mind, please read the guidance below in full to help you have the best chance of submitting a video that we can accept for submission and allow you complete your RSL exam successfully.

RSL AWARDS VIDEO EXAMS-HOW TO GUIDE

What frame size should I set my equipment to use?

As a very rough rule, the larger the number stated, the more detail is captured within each video frame you record - but there is a downside. More detail often means bigger digital files - which require more storage and take longer to upload to the internet.

4k video can, and often does, look fantastic - but the file sizes are big and can cause some compatibility issues too. At the other end of the spectrum, if the frame size is too small, the images can look blurry or pixelated when you try and view them on computer monitors or tablets, so it is best to go for a happy medium - striking a balance between detail and file size.

Full HD (often referred to by the names 1080i or 1080P) is a very good happy medium. However, 720HD video can still look very good (720i or 720P) and will produce noticeable smaller file sizes. As a result, RSL is asking for a minimum of 720HD videos and currently setting a maximum of 1080HD, to ensure your picture quality is good whilst keeping the file sizes manageable.

What does the ‘i’ and/or ‘P’ after the numbers mean?

The ‘i’ stands for ‘interlaced’, meaning that the video file captured refreshes every other line of pixels every frame, so the video file actually contains half the amount of data. It refreshes very quickly, so you can’t see the interlacing in a perfectly set up system. However, most mobile phones and cameras now only give you the option to record in a progressive format - meaning every line is captured. It’s probably best to avoid interlaced formats if you can. If your settings don’t mention it and your equipment is relatively modern, it’s more than likely to be a progressive video format.

But what do those numbers actually mean?

Look at the chart below to see how each frame size relates to each other. This should also explain why 4K is so detailed, but why the file sizes are so big:

RSL Video Exam Framing Guide

What frame rate should I use?

This figure refers to how many frames your camera captures every second. A camera that captures 30 frames per second (30fps) is essentially capturing 30 images which, when played at the correct speed, gives  a good impression of natural movement.

Frame rate has an impact on the perceived quality of video to an extent - a very low frame rate will result in jerky video. However you don’t need a huge amount of frames per second before things start to look pretty smooth. Feature films, for instance, typically use 24 frames per second. This is important, because mobile phone and camera manufactures are currently increasing the frame rates that their devices can capture, largely so extreme slow motion video can be produced. Whilst this is impressive, Rock School don’t need this - and the more frames your video contains, the bigger the file sizes get again.

So, its for this reason RSL is asking you to set your frame rate to somewhere between 24 fps (frames per second) and 30fps. Typically this will be a choice between 25fps and 30fps, depending on the hardware. This will generate video that is smooth but should keep your video file size manageable.

What video format should I use?

Mobile phones and consumer cameras largely gather video and process them and store them in a file, which makes it easier to share using the internet. The results vary, but a well designed video format can do an excellent job of retaining a good sound and image while squeezing it into a small package. The most common formats are .MP4 files which are a good choice, as they are both quite small and open across lots of devices, but .mov files and .avi files are also pretty well supported. If you are at all confused or concerned, it may be worth contacting RSL to check that your submitted video files will open.

Framing & Audio Guide for Video

Framing Guide

The help videos in the next tab should make things clearer, but it is worth establishing some simple principles, so you can be confident your submitted video is more likely to be accepted for assessment.

RSL AWARDS VIDEO EXAMS-HOW TO GUIDE

1) We need to see your face and have a reasonable view of the performance.

Guitarists, bassists and keyboard players should capture both hands in the video frame. Singers should fill a significant part of the image. Getting a single camera shot of a drummer can be challenging, so try and find an angle that allows the examiner to see both hands movement clearly and get some sense of what your feet are doing too - a slightly elevated position with the camera pointing slightly down towards the drummer can work fairly well, as it can make the sticking clearer for your examiner. Whilst it is good from a video point of view for the shot to be slightly behind a drummer and capturing the skins of the drums, it can make recording audio very difficult, with the volume of both cymbals and snare drum resulting in distortion from most phones and cameras. Striking a balance between video framing and audio may take some experimentation, but a compromise can be found.

Acoustic Drums Video Framing Guide

A more detailed shot of your body and hands can be achieved when using an electronic kit...

Electronic Drums Video Framing

2) The shot needs to be reasonably well lit.

Please try and avoid shooting in very dark environments, as this significantly affects the video quality. If you can record your performance in a space with good natural light, or have access to good quality photographic or stage lighting, the end result will be better. Please avoid coloured or moving lights in your videos too - we need to see you clearly.

3) Keep your footage as steady as possible.

If you can use a tripod or some other kind of camera mount, that would be ideal. If you do need someone to hold a camera or phone, please ensure you keep the video as stable as possible and avoid zooming in or out during the exam.

Take a look at the photos below, to help guide you when setting up to film your RSL graded syllabus exam:

Good Practice
Guitar Video Framing - Good Practice

Bad Practice
Guitar Video Framing – Bad Practice

Audio Guide

The help videos will provide more detail, but following these simple guidelines should help you create videos with reasonable audio

1) Don’t set your volume too loudly when using amplifiers or PA speakers.

Mobile phones and video cameras record sound fairly well most of the time, but struggle with high volume sound sources. This can prove especially challenging when trying to record the sound of drums - so please read the Recording drums for RSL exams section below for further guidance

2) Spend some time getting a good balance between your performance and the backing track.

RSL needs to clearly hear your performance when examining, but equally we want your performance to feel connected to the accompanying backing track. It is worth experimenting and producing some test recordings to ensure the balance is good.

3) Avoid very noisy or reverberant spaces.

Your examiner wants to give your performance their full attention, so avoid recording your exam in a space where there is likely to be significant background noise. Also, whilst it may sound creatively pleasing, please avoid capturing your videos in very reverberant places. We want to hear as much of your signal as possible. If you do opt to use a microphone for vocal recordings avoid using excessive amounts of reverb and avoid long reverb times.

TOP TIP
Whilst you can record reasonable audio using a mobile phone in most instances, there are a number of devices you may wish to consider if you want to ensure your audio is of a good quality. Please see below for a list of devices and apps that RSL recommends that can help you improve audio quality when creating your video exam.

Recording drums for RSL exams

The acoustic drum kit provides some challenges when trying to capture clear audio, especially when filming with a mobile phone. Whilst it is possible to record usable audio with a mobile phone with care, RSL highly recommends that drummers use a video device where they can have full control over the microphone’s sensitivity and volume. Mobile phones do not allow you this control by default, so it is worth installing an app that gives that that control, or using a microphone designed for use with a mobile phone that allows you to control the volume of the incoming signal. Please see below for a list of devices and apps that RSL recommends to help you improve audio quality.

We are also advising that, should you need to record your exam directly into a mobile phone, you avoid capturing your acoustic drum performance whilst playing to an audible backing track - the volume required will almost certainly make the recorded audio difficult to hear or result in audio  distortion. In this instance, it is permissible for you to record a video of  your drum exam with the backing track fed to you via either headphones or in-ear monitoring. RSL will synchronise the backing tracks to your performances for marking - but you will need to provide stick clicks to audibly mark the final bar of the count in before the performance begins, so we can easily synchronise the audio to the video. Please see the drum exam video video for a demonstration.

Alternatively, you may wish to consider performing your exam to video using an electronic kit, where you will have greater control over your volume balance. Many electronic drum modules provide the facility to plug in an audio device directly and allow the user to blend a backing track with the drum kit. However, we recognise that many drummers will prefer to play acoustic drum kits during assessment, so this approach is entirely optional.

RSL recommended audio / video devices and apps

Microphone for use with mobile phones (check for handset compatibility):

  • Zoom iQ7
  • Shure MV88
  • RØDE iXY
  • RØDE VideoMic

Mobile phone video apps that allow manual control of audio

  • FV-5 (supported Android devices)
  • Filmic Pro (IOS devices and some supported Android devices)

Dedicated video cameras for recording high quality audio

  • Zoom Q4
  • Zoom Q2n

We hope this set of guidelines has helped you understand the RSL graded syllabus video exam process and provided a clear set of guidelines for capturing and submitting exam material. Should you require any further advice, please contact us here...

RSL AWARDS VIDEO EXAMS-HOW TO GUIDE

Supporting Videos

Examiner Advice

Setup Guide

Filming Guide

Recording Drums

ENTER FOR YOUR VIDEO EXAM!

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