Monday, September 13, 2010

So You Hate The Way You Look & Sound in Video? Here's What You Can Do About It.

Many times I have heard people say "I hate the way I look on video", or "I hate the way I sound in recordings". This is nothing weird; if you are not used to being recorded then there is always a disconnect between the way you see yourself -- always a mirror image -- and the way others see you. And you hear your voice partly through your head so it sounds different to you. Add to that the technical limitations of affordable hardware and its no surprise that occasional video makers are so disappointed. But there are some concrete things you can do about it.

1. GET USED TO IT. First of all it helps if you see yourself and hear yourself on video more often so you get used to how it looks and sounds. The first time will probably be a surprise but after a few attempts it will seem much more like you. Try also watching yourself on video in a mirror to get a more realistic idea of how others see you.

2. LET THERE BE LIGHT. Many problems are just caused by poor lighting. Modern video cameras will capture an image in almost total darkness but the image quality is only good in fairly strong light. Get some more light on you by going outdoors or moving near a window to get a crisper picture. Soft light from clouds or reflected from a white wall is best.

3. MOVE BACK AND ZOOM. Take a tip from portrait photographers and use a longer lens -- the equivalent of a moderate telephoto of around 100mm on a 35mm camera. You do this on a video camera by moving the camera back a bit and zooming in to frame the picture. This makes your face less distorted and also is less intimidating.

4. USE A CLOSE MIC. To get better sound never use the mic on the camera unless it is a good quality gun type that is very directional. Better to plug in a lapel microphone and clip it somewhere close to your mouth. This captures more of your voice and less of the background and room echo.

5. CONSIDER VOICE TRAINING. If you think your voice sounds thin and weak then invest in a few sessions with a voice coach -- many singing teachers can do this for you, too. You will be amazed at the different it makes to do it right.

6. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Nobody ever mastered a craft without practicing it. Your first attempt might not be great but persist, make a few more videos and you can't help getting better.

7. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Finally, double check that your expectations are reasonable. Let's face it, with the budget and experience that you have you are not going to get something that looks like Avatar. And we are not all Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie -- not that it matters because they probably have zero credibility in your field. Be happy with what you are; just don't make it worse.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hate the way I look on video so much that I cannot use Skype for job interviews to work in another country (I'm primarily in ESL.) The best you can do on Skype is make the image of your smaller but it's just too distracting. At first I made up excuses to move the interview to another day. As the interview time approached I couldn't bring myself to do it even though the job was quite lucrative. I'd rather do a phone interview. To deal with this problem in the midst of a stressful interview is just too much. I'll stick with interviews in person or via the phone.

Andrew Hennigan said...

This post gave general tips but for Skype interviews here are some additional things you should try:

1. The camera should be at eye level. If you use the fixed camera in a laptop/tablet you should put it on boxes to lift it to this height.

2. If you are using a moveable camera it helps to fix it in some way in front of the screen so that when you are looking at the other person you are looking directly at the camera.

3. Light is critical. Either face a bright window or get some lights pointed at your face.

4. Buy a good camera. The one in your laptop probably sucks. Get a new camera that improves the video quality.

5. Get the best microphone you can afford and place it close to your mouth. Good sound quality makes a difference to the perception of quality.

Hope this helps!