This guest post was contributed by Andrew Freer. Andrew is the owner of Heave-Ho Productions where he partners with Demo Duck to direct videos like SpringPad. He has worked in the Chicago film and video industry for the past 6 years. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
There are a lot of reasons to use professional actors in your marketing video – experience, acting ability, or having ‘that look’ just to name a few. Sometimes, though, it makes sense for you – the CEO, Founder, Marketing Director, Salesperson, etc. – to be the face of your company.
As a “real person,” you might be able to bring a sense of gravitas to a complicated problem. This video from Wistia is a good example of an expert explaining a complicated topic.
Or you might have a charming personality that helps personify your brand. Dave Thomas of Wendy’s exemplifies this. Every time I saw one of his commercials I wanted to give him a big hug and then eat a Dave’s Deluxe hamburger.
Or maybe you can bring a sense of authenticity to your brand. This video using Khan Academy’s founder is more powerful because it’s a passionate and real testimonial.
Whatever the reason, if you’re going to be on camera you’re going to want to look your best. No one wants to sound boring or look like a deer in the headlights, and just trying to figure out what to wear can be a nerve-wracking experience. And if this is your first time on camera, you might not know what to expect during the shoot. Below are some tips and tricks to help you navigate the waters of being on camera. I’ll even tell you what an apple box is.
TIPS FOR BEING ON CAMERA
I’ve conveniently organized my pointers into three categories – expectations for the day, preparation, and presentation. These should help make your on-camera experience a bit smoother. If not, ask the internet for a refund.
EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR DAY ON SET
I. What Will Be The Size Of The Production?
Video and film productions can range widely in size. This usually depends on the size of the budget, where the final product will be displayed and what you (the client) have asked for. It might be just you and a camera guy. Or it might be you, a crew of 30 people, a lighting truck, multiple cameras, makeup, wardrobe, art department, 10 producers, all your bosses, Clint Eastwood, an animal handler and a giant 30 foot tall inflatable logo behind you.
Likely, your production will be somewhere in between. Expect 5-10 people. There might be a director, a producer, a camera operator, a sound person, a lighting person, and if you’re lucky a makeup/wardrobe person. There’ll probably be lights. Likely, more than you’re expecting. And they might be hot, which is great in the winter, but terrible on a warm summer day. (Worthless production rule: No ice cream cones on set.)
II. How Long Will I Be There?
Again, this depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Check ahead of time with the producer, director, or whoever you are working with. You might be there for 30 minutes or you might be there for 8 hours.
Do know this though – often there is a lot of down time on productions. The lighting might be wrong. The art department has to be switched out. The director and producer can’t agree on something. The audio person needs to figure out how to turn off the HVAC.
Whatever it is, check and see if you need to make extra room in your schedule. And try not to get too impatient with the crew.
III. What Should I Wear?
Work with your producer, director or stylist on specifics, but here are some general rules to get you going.
Patterns: Try not to wear any tight, repeating patterns. They can really screw with the camera sometimes.
Colors: This is something you should check with your crew about. Oftentimes you will be asked to avoid pure white or black and really bright, saturated colors like orange or red.
Jewelry: Jewelry can make the audio engineer’s life a nightmare if its jangly and loud. It’s one of those things you don’t think about until you start listening for it.
Glasses: Sometimes the lighting on set can cause reflections in glasses. You might be asked to remove them. Or expect some down time while they readjust lights. It might be a good idea to let them know ahead of time if you plan on wearing them.
Makeup: Ask if there will be makeup and/or a hair stylist on set. If not, you might want to bring some of your favorite products along with you, especially if you’re used to wearing them.
Microphones: While this isn’t really clothing or something you have to worry about, know that the audio guy might need to mic you up. Sometimes they might get a little close for comfort. Let them know if your personal bubble is larger than most people’s.
(Extra Tip For How To Look Slim On Camera)
To avoid those dreaded extra 10 pounds the camera allegedly adds to your figure, keep these little pointers in mind next time you dress for your role in the spotlight. Dark colors are slimming. So are solid colors. If you want something other than a solid, vertical lines are slimming. Perhaps most importantly, wearing clothes that are well-tailored are slimming.
PREPARATION FOR BEING ON CAMERA
I. Read The Script Ahead Of Time
This should go without saying and is Public Speaking 101 – read the script ahead of time! Practice it. Read it over and over. Get comfortable with it. Read it out loud. Read it in front of the mirror. Read it in front of your significant other / mom upstairs if you still live at home.
That’s not to say you want to sound stilted and like you’re reciting a script line by line from memory. It is saying you want to get comfortable with it. I’ve encountered countless people who are extremely charismatic in person, but freeze up as soon as the lights turn on, the camera starts rolling and the room gets silent.
If you’re part of the script creation process, know that shorter is usually better. And create a script that feels natural to read out loud. When you say it aloud, you’ll know if ‘leverage our core competencies to create a paradigm shift that will empower stakeholders to synergize with, blah, blah, blah…’ works.
II. Should I Memorize The Script?
This goes hand in hand with the last point. Pure memorization probably isn’t the way to go, unless that’s your style. You want to at least be comfortable with the script and understand the talking points you need to cover. A little ad-libbing will make you sound more “un-scripted” on camera.
One example of when it might be ok not to pre-script something is in a docu-style setting. If you want to sound natural and real in an interview format, it’s ok not to memorize. But be warned: you should be speaking on a topic you’re comfortable with and preferably passionate about.
It’s also not a bad idea to get the questions ahead of time or at least a general idea of what you will be speaking on. If you aren’t a passionate and dynamic person or if you’re speaking on a topic you aren’t all that interested in, it might be a good idea to prepare your responses ahead of time.
I. Work With The Director
The director and/or producer wants to make you look good – their jobs depend on it. Listen to their advice. If you’re having trouble with something, let them know. Just try not to be too much of a diva or it may backfire.
II. Reading From A Prompter
Teleprompters are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They seem like they should make everyone’s life so much easier – after all, now you can just read the script, no memorization necessary. Genius! Well, not quite.
The problem is that people can sound awkward and bored when reading line-by-line from a prompter. It’s an art-form to do it well. And your eyes might be tracking back and forth across the screen as you read the prompter from side to side, distracting the viewer from your message. And make sure to look at the right camera!
So what should you do? Put extra inflection in your voice. Try to look directly at the center of the prompter (where the camera lens is) when reading, so your eyes don’t track. And practice ahead of time if you can.
III. Extra Energy!
Production can drag on. The day gets longer and longer. It’s 3pm and you’re only halfway done. Everyone is starting to get cranky. It’s the 12th take of this one line that still isn’t perfect. Understandably, your energy is getting down. But remember that the camera doesn’t necessarily read the energy that you think you are putting forth.
Often you’ll need to overdo it, overemphasize, enunciate and be a little more animated than you normally are. It may feel a little strange, even fake, but it usually comes off well on camera. Sometimes, it helps to keep in mind that there is a real audience you are speaking to on the other side of that lens. Other times, I’ll tell people to pretend like they’re reading a story to their kids. Just bring a lot of energy!
Please smile. Make the audience think you are happy to be there. Smile at the start of your presentation. Smile at the end of it. You could do a half-smile. You could do a full smile. Look happy, and your audience will be more likely to believe you and not be distracted by how cranky of a person you are.
V. Don’t Talk Over The Director
The editor needs extra room to make their edits. If you talk over the director at the beginning of a take or immediately look off camera at the end, the whole thing may be ruined. So make sure to give some space at the beginning before you start talking and hold it at the end. Wait for someone to call cut.
VI. Look At The Camera
Like I said before, if you’re talking direct-to-camera, be sure to look at the camera the whole time. If your eyes are darting back and forth from the camera to something you see off camera, it will be distracting to the viewer. Maintain eye contact with the lens!
I’m sure there are dozens of other useful tips, but that’s a good start. Hopefully, this has made you less nervous about your big day. Oh, and this is an apple box. (You might be asked to stand on it if you’re too short.) Good luck!