How To Be Comfortable In Front Of A Video Camera

As a video producer, it’s important that you as the subject/talent in front of the camera feel comfortable, natural and confident before we “roll”. For some people, it’s a fear that ranks up there with public speaking. I can give some encouraging words, but ultimately it is up to you. Having good interpersonal skills and knowing what you want to say will help you look and sound like great. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Unless you are an actor, public personality or a news reporter, it can take a few takes to get used to the “hot seat” under the bright lights and equipment. Here are some tips to get you ready for the shoot.

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CommonBond filming explainer videos at my studio.

You’ve been asked to do an on-camera interview. Ask the producer what are the questions. Knowing the questions ahead of time will help frame your answers. You don’t have to remember verbatim what you will say. Just think about it before the day of the shoot and don’t lose sleep over it.

I repeat; don’t lose sleep over the interview. It’s important you get plenty of rest. You don’t want to look tired on camera.

Looking good is feeling good. You don’t have to wear your Sunday best. Wear solid colors, limit white clothing, loud patterns, and stripes. Don’t wear heavy make-up. Leave jewelry at home, you’ll be asked to take them off if they cause clanging noises. Go to the bathroom right before you are about to go on and make sure everything is in place. Fix your collar, comb your hair, wipe any sweat, make sure there’s no food in between your teeth, etc. For the last line of defense, ask the cameraman how you look.

For Q&A style interviews, typically they are filmed with the subject looking off camera as if they are talking to someone in the room. You won’t have the pressure of looking into a camera. Make eye contact with your interviewer and treat the interview as if you are having a normal conversation. Ignore everything else in the room. You might be told the interviewer’s audio won’t be included in the video. In this case don’t give one-word answers, instead, answer in full sentences with context.  i.e. Q. What did you have for breakfast today? A. For breakfast, today, I had a toasted bagel with cream cheese and coffee.

If the project is being produced for the web, avoid long answers. The general rule is to keep your answers short, but elaborate with a few sentences.

For prerecorded projects, if you have difficulty with a question and need a moment to think of your answer, don’t be afraid to stop. If you need to cough, scratch or take a drink of water, we can stop. We can do another take. It’s not live television. If you need to stop for any reason, be sure to give yourself a moment to collect yourself before you continue, maintain eye contact with your interviewer. This will be helpful for the editing process. What you say is as important as how you say it.

There are productions that require you to give a message or remember items on a list, but you don’t want to read off of cue cards and chance sounding like a robot. Instead, bullet point some phrases or topics on cue cards and have them in front of you. It will help you sound natural, and you’ll remember to hit on your key points.

Video productions that require you to look directly into the camera present a different type of challenge. Typically, they involve a teleprompter. They are great for helping you say the words you want to say to an audience. If you just read the script, however, your personality doesn’t come out. It’s important to practice your script well before the shoot. If you have an iPad or a tablet, download a free teleprompter app and practice with it. Record your voice if possible. Hear the sound of your voice. You will notice immediately many things you will want to improve on with your message and do further editing. Think of your lessons from public speaking. You will know if you performed well and sounded like an authority on the subject.

I hope these tips help you. Have a great shoot!

Jim Chan is a video professional since 2007. He operates VisualGnome, a video production company in New York City.

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