How’s your self-image? Are you plagued with self-doubt? Do you find yourself paralyzed with prepresentation jitters? Does your insecurity cripple you socially? And cure may not be on your therapist’s couch but in front of your camcorder.

Generally we use video recording systems to document events in our lives, but video equipment can also be used to show us something about ourselves and those around us.

Video recording and playback experiences can teach us about how we see ourselves and how others see us. Videomaking can help improve both you and your self-image.

What’s a self-image? We all have an idea of how we look, how we’re perceived; that’s a self-image. But just how accurate is that perception of yourself and your interactions with others? Grab a camcorder and read on to find out.

The Inverse Mirror

When you watch yourself in a TV monitor you’re gazing at an unfamiliar image. It’s not like looking in a mirror; on TV, you’re finally seeing yourself as others see you. you right is their left and your left, their right.

Try this: Set your video camera on a tripod with the monitor in full view. Use natural lighting. Frame yourself with a mid-angle, head and shoulders view. Touch your nose with your finger: you’re centered. From here, try to outline the frame of the camera’s view as you see it on the monitor.

That happened? Did you find the task trickier than expected? Any confusion’s due to the inverse mirror effect. If you’ve been on stage, you know what we mean. In the theas it’s called “stage left” and “stage right.”

You and a friend can experiemtn with inverse mirror imaging. Set the camcorder on a tripod and define an area of the room for the camera’s view. Set up the monitor so the person in front of the camera can see in that view. That person will try to stay within the frame. You’ll try to keep the frame are empty.

You can move the camera horizontally or zoom in and out. The person darting about in front of the camera will notive that movig to the left look in the monitor like moving to the right.

Another way you can see yourself as others see you in by recording yourself-your movements, mannerisms, twitches, tics. Look into the camera and smile. Frown. Laugh. Yell. Cross your legs. Stand up. Lean over. Sit down. Run. Walk. Crawl. Try a variety of poses and facial expression, then play back your results.

Do your feet look bigger than your head? How’s your posture? Try sitting up straight with your shoulders back and chun up. Look straight into the camera.

While you won’t spend every minute composing yourself into a portrait worthy of painting, with your camera’s help you can have a better idea of how you appear to those around you.

Whistle While You Work

“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?” Lauren Bacall teased in depp, slow, sensual tones. “You just put your lips together and blow.”

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” breathed the airy Marilyn Monroe in a voice both sexy and naive.

Bcall’s and Monroe’s distinct manners of speech added to the mystique of their public personas. Bacall was a woman to be reckoned with; Monroe was a casual plaything.

What does your ton say about you when you speak?

The lower range of your voice is the most pleasant for listeners. Jerry Lewis’ shrill comedic buzzsaw is quite different from the bathetic telethonese. Speech therapists recommend finding your “key note” before speaking by bumming a short second of low voice speech.

Videotape yourself reciting the Gettsburg Address, Scarlett O’Hara’s “I’ll never be hungry again’ routine, Peter O’Toole’s marvelous “I deny you!” outburst from Lion In Winter, Captain Kirk’s ponderous “space, the final frontier…” Star Trek intro.

Color Codes

Puce? Chartreuse? Burnt sienna?

Color analysis is a popular activity among people who wish to know which colors enhance their appearance and which colors distract. Lighting conditions are also important: natural, incandescent, or fluorescent.

Sort your clothes into the combinations of colors you like. Record yourself wearing each combination in each of the three lighting conditions. your suit will look different in the sunlight than under office fluorescent lighting. In other words, think about where as well as what you’re wearing.

You can also use your camcorder to prepare for you next job interview, thesis defense, or marriage proposal. Watching your performance puts you on the other side of the desk and allows you to perfect your delivery.

If you’re going to court to fight a traffic citation, state your case to you camcorder. Position the camera from the judge’s point of view. Don’t monitor yourself during the taping. Wait until playing to see how you did.

Say you want to ask a favor of someone in your office. Begin at the beginning. How will you approach this person? have the camera set up to record the practice situation from a wide-angle viewpoint.

If it’s a piano recital rehearsal, however, you’ll want a side view. If asking someone to dinner, think about where you’ll be making the suggestion. Standing, sitting, lying down? Will you be alone or with other people?

While recording remember body movement, posture, voice intonations, clothes colors, eye contact-all the elements that make up your personal image. You can play back and rerecord your rehearsal as many times as you want. Loove for improvements. Confidence in presenting yourself comes from knowing how others see you.


A Family Affair

if you’re behind the video camera, that doesn’t mean you’re not showing yourself. The camera view is really your view, so when you show people what you’ve recorded you’re revealing to them what you chose to see.

Go portable with your camcorder and pretend the camera eye is your eyes. Show your hands and feet if you wish. Come into the house, say hellp to someone, what awhile. Show you favorite place to sit, your favorite view from a window.

Then ask someone else to take the camera. By videotaping this last request and actually handing the video equipment over to the next person you begin a string of video portraits displaying family of friends’ points of view.

After the camera’s passed around it will be fun to get everyone together to play back the tape and compare visions. Though you may be looking at many of the same things, you’ll find each of you has somewhat different perspectives and interpretations.

With family and friends together you’ll have an excellent opportunity to see how you interact with one another. Maybe everybody got a little hungry watching that string of portraits. Set your camera on the tripod in the kitchen to record the folks making popcorn, cutting cheese, slicing apples, dishing out ice cream

Try to find a place where people won’t trip over the camera, where you can record a wide-angle view of the action. The mike should be able to pick up sound from the entire room.

When you’ve recorded for about 20 minutes, check your family imaging. The video playback can help you evaluate how well you communicate with each other, how you present yourselves.

Discuss your interactions with each other. Who does most of the talking? Who completes sentences and who’s interrupted? Who’s assertive? Who hangs back? Who commandeered the refrigerator? Who disappeared and returned only when the food was on the table?

Can you pick out postures, facial expression, and/or gestures that help or deter people from communication?

The video can show you a real-life drama you can rewrite if you wish. It’s possible to appraise each other’s behavior without anger or embarrassment. In reviewing yourselves and your interactions with each other, keep it light. Remember to compliment as well as criticize.

The camera may not lie, but you can always change the truth it sees. Happy imaging.

Bill and Kathy Newroe are consultants in media-based training and public relations. Their company, InfoMedia, produces video programs for special interest groups.

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