What You Should Know About Being On Camera

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As a former model, I know that there are two important facial features that sell print ads.

Eyes and mouth.

This is where personality, intrigue, attitude, emotion, interest, and curiosity emerge from. These human dimension features either pull us toward the ad and the product or push us away.

When you present on video, these same two facial features are also critically important. If we cannot see both your eyes or watch your mouth moving, we will not connect as well with you as viewers. Why is this important? Because you are the carrier of the message. If we are not drawn to you, we may not hear what you have to say. This week we’ll  focus on the importance of making sure both eyes can be seen on camera, and next week we’ll focus on the importance of not blocking your mouth in the camera frame (happens all the time when people lean forward or gesture excessively).

As the old adage says, the eyes truly are the “window to the soul.” By establishing eye contact with another, we can sense mood, attitude, emotion, enthusiasm, apathy, energy, engagement, disappointment, interest, disinterest, and the list goes on.

The same is true for video.

When you present on camera, we want to be able to see your eyes to make that vital connection. As babies, we are drawn to faces to sub-consciously determine cues about what is happening. Obstacles that may hinder this connection include poor lighting, poor positioning on camera, inappropriately placed rollover text or icons added in post-production, or hand gestures or body movements that block viewers’ contact with your eyes. Let’s explore these one by one.

Lighting is really important, as good video requires lots of light. When you’re recording yourself on video, make sure your face is lit well from the front, which will likely require a side light to remove shadows from the face. If the presenter is in the dark, viewers won’t be able to make that “invisible” eye contact or feel like you’re looking at us.

Another obstacle is that some presenters may also have awkward positioning that doesn’t allow us to see a presenter’s eyes all of the time they are speaking on camera. If they are turned to the side, or worse, their back to us in parts, we are missing vital communication cues with the on-camera presenter. So make sure the presenter is looking at the lens, and viewers are able to see both eyes within the frame.

In the editing process, sometimes text or other images also get added to the bottom, top, or sides of the screen. Or if your video is overlaid on a video platform frame, certain icons may be added as well. Again, test the playback to make sure your eyes are not covered by these emblems, or modify if they are, as this can be a frustrating experience for viewers.

One last obstacle I often see is unintentional gestures. Unknowingly enthusiastic or presenters who gesture excessively may cover portions of their face when they speak on camera. People easily foget that they are talking within a framed boundary and that by moving their hands as they normally would, they actually may raise them too high and partially cover an important source of connection with viewers — their eyes. When you first come on a video set, ask how big your camera frame is so you know approximately where to place your arms when you gesture. Then, keep gestures below your neck so viewers can always see your eyes when you’re speaking. Adding add cut-away shots, B roll, and supporting visuals into your video add many benefits to your overall video, and obviously, these segments would not require an on-camera presenter to provide eye contact with the lens, A.K.A., the viewer.

Overall, when you present on video, remember the importance of eye contact when you first establish a connection with others – even if your audience is off camera.

So don’t start speaking, until your videographer says he/she can “see the whites of your eyes.”

What say you?

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