Make your on-camera talent look their best by following these five simple steps.
1. Mr. Make-Up?
It’s true. When it comes to looking good on camera, makeup is not just for women anymore. Video producers often overlook this critical first step for several reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to infer their talent doesn’t already look their best; they don’t want to take the time; or lacking a knowledgeable woman on the set, they simply don’t know how to apply even the basics.
Put your talent, and yourself, at ease by acknowledging that even the best looking and blemish-free models, news anchors, and spokespersons (both male and female) always wear makeup on camera. Of course, good makeup will not (and should not) be apparent, so your only challenge is learn the basics and develop the confidence to at least apply a light amount of foundation or powder yourself. (Refer to our September 2005 article, "Wardrobe and Make-up," for details).
2. Get My Good Side
If you’ve been shooting video of people for more than a week, you’ve probably already experienced the shy subject requesting that you only capture their "good side." As a polite producer, you might sweetly insist they are both "good." What’s the cost of a tiny little lie, anyway?
Actually, they are probably right. What makes all of us unique is a combination of greater or lesser asymmetry of our bodies (and faces in particular, especially when it comes to makeup.) You can relatively position the shape, size and skin qualities of noses, eyes, cheekbones and chins to the camera to highlight the most attractive attributes.
It’s your job to set up the camera to feature the side most pleasing to the camera. Of course, just how honest you are about this "positioning" is completely up to you.
3. Fabulous Filters
You’ve probably heard of various tricks camera operators have used in the past from stretching pantyhose over the lens to smearing Vaseline on a filter. But if most of us can easily apply a softening filter effect during editing, why bother putting anything in front of the lens while we’re shooting? Because optical effects can sometimes give you a more natural look. But you’ll need to try this for yourself before you put it to use in any productions.
Several manufacturers make screw-on lens filters that provide a wide range of softening. Some, such as those with sandwiched black or white materials, will primarily soften only dark or light tones in the scene. Others combine a little warming and softening at the same time. With these, it’s important to white balance before you attach the filter. And remember: if you use a filter during production, you can’t take out the effect in post.
4. Careful With That Light
Proper use of lighting is where you can make the most impact on the quality of your subject’s skin. Using a large light source, such as an umbrella or softbox a little above and just to the left or right of the subject-to-lens axis. Called "broad" lighting, this technique will dramatically reduce apparent skin blemishes, but unfortunately, it’s not too interesting.
The further left or right you move your main light the more you will emphasize skin texture. To create a minimal amount of depth you may find this is necessary. Just be sure to use a fill light (usually about half the power of the key) that is very close to your camera lens. Remember, to ensure your fill light doesn’t introduce unwanted shadows, be sure to use a light at least as large (preferably larger) than your main light.
This may be obvious, but it bears mentioning. Extreme close-ups turn even perfectly perfect skin into moonscapes. Be careful and just remember that you always can simply backup or zoom out.
Of course, some people with skin blemishes resulting from acne, sun exposure, or accidents may be intensely sensitive to their condition. It’s possible they may either be offended by attempts to make them look different than they are or they may be relieved that you are willing to make them look their best. But having these tools at the ready will give you the ability to make that choice.
Brian Peterson is Videomaker’s Editor in Chief.