Tony asks: How do you get talent to be comfortable in front of the camera? I’m tempted to hold up a toy and talk like a baby to get them to at least smile. Is there something I’m doing wrong? I turn the camera off they’re at ease – it gets turned back on they get stiff and nervous like a deer caught in headlights. Some even start mumbling inaudible comments. Help!
Answer: One trick of the trade is not to reveal when the camera is on. Even hide your camera’s tally light – which is the #1 reason why anyone in front of a camera freezes up. Tally lights can can scare off quite a few people from acting naturally.
The tally light is a bit of a misnomer. People relate it to live broadcast television. When the red light is on, you’re on the air. Remember “The Brady Bunch” episode where little Cindy Brady was on Game show and just before the show went on air in the studio the host said “When the red light goes on, (pointing at the television camera) we’re live”. Then the countdown 3… 2… 1… Blink, goes the red tally light on the studio camera and poor little Cindy just glares into the red light like a deer in the headlights. And stayed that way the entire game. Well your tally light can have an effect on people very much like that. I’d have to say little Cindy’s reaction is a bit exaggerated but it can make many people uncomfortable. So much so that they just can’t behave like themselves. A true anxiety can set in. It’s called being camera shy.
There’s many levels to camera shyness and it’s something you should keep an eye out for. And that tally light can be the switch that turns on, or should I say, “turns off your subject.
So if you think your tally light is causing problems or notice some people are acting differently because of it you can usually turn it of. Higher end camcorders will have a simple switch to turn it off. While others might have it in a menu setting. If you have a camcorder that doesn’t have a way to turn off the tally light then simply put a piece of electrical tape or better yet a piece of gaffers tape over the light. Gaffer tape is less likely to leave any gluey residue like duct tape or electrical tape.
Some don’t have to even worry about this because a lot of low end camcorders don’t have a tally light.
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