Location, location, location
A great way to communicate important messages to your target audience is the tried and true “talking head” video – where you speak directly to a camera. Simple and versatile – you can be humorous or serious, informative or promotional.
Make or Break!
However, there are several elements that will make or break a talking-head video.
A poor background choice will seriously undermine your authority and onscreen presence. Furthermore, it will distract your intended viewer – reducing the overall impact of your message and their experience of you. This is common with a lot of online videos these days – common won’t make you or your brand stand out.
Laundry and clothes piles, cluttered bookshelves, paper stacks, messy rooms, dirty walls, cramped, cluttered office spaces or worse a bathroom toilet seat in the background, doesn’t make for an inspirational, let alone professional visual message.
How focused is the video presenters message likely to be when their chosen filming location is in such an off-brand state? Also, does it entice you as a viewer to want to watch and listen to their message? Does their setting make them look credible? Do they really look like they have it going on?
Creating a dedicated film space, should not be treated as an afterthought.
“With just a glance, people have judged your social and economic level, your level of education, and your level of success. Within minutes, they’ve decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, competence, friendliness, and confidence.”
1st Impressions are Crucial
Influence and persuasion expert Olivia Cabane, states that: “You only get one chance to create a good first impression. Within a few seconds, with just a glance, people have judged your social and economic level, your level of education, and even your level of success. Within minutes, they’ve also decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, competence, friendliness, and confidence.”
The aim of the game is to bring the BEST YOU to the screen and it begins in your pre-production process.
During your video planning give creative thought to how you can create a unified visual appearance to your video creations. Visual continuity drives up the trust factor with your audience while reinforcing your brand identity.
This can be done with the consistent use of brand-aligned background settings, props or objects, your music, audio, wardrobe, make-up, hair, set design, color, lighting, editing, graphics/text, and overall styling to establish a unified visual look and feel.
I’m a big believer in the 6 P approach. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. If you have followed my online personal branding series, you will have already identified your target audience.
Now ask yourself;
- What is the visual impression you want to make on them?
- How do you want to be perceived by your target audience?
- What can you do to improve your audience’s experience of you and how they receive your key messages.
What Kind of Room are You Inviting your Viewer into?
Many people use various filming devices to shoot their content. The key thing to take into consideration is the room that you are inviting your viewer into?
Here are a couple of common scenarios:
If you are filming in a hotel suite, is seeing a bed let alone an unmade one in the background really the best filming setting for your business content? Maybe if your message is “bed” related (your setting reinforces your message), but not much so if you are discussing, time management or strategic planning.
It signals a visual incongruency.
“This approach can undermine your authority and professionalism.”
Alarmingly, some people have their filming devices set up in their bedrooms. This is quite an intimate space to invite your viewer into. Unless you are in the adult entertainment industry – you might want to reconsider this approach.
Filming in dark, or low light level rooms should be avoided. They can imbue your shot with a seedy, creepy, low quality or unprofessional vibe.
“Unless you are in the adult entertainment industry – this is not the approach I recommend!”
Another situation is with video interviews via web/laptop etc. The thought leader is giving an interview or presenting their expertise, but as per the above example, their background setting is completely off-brand, e.g. kitchen, lounge, spare bedroom, closet etc. Not only that, random things that have nothing to do with the video topic are usually situated all around them.
This approach can undermine your authority and professionalism. It does not serve to create a powerful, compelling first impression with viewers who are unfamiliar with your brand.
A kitchen set may work well for a food expert. Speaking casually about food topics, but would you seriously hire me as your video presentation coach in the setting depicted in the images below?
Without even opening my mouth I have already confused and distracted my viewer with elements that have nothing to do with my message.
Note also how my kitchen fit-out is upstaging me in all its light-reflecting glory. Yes, I’m looking at you fridge!
Likewise, if you are filming in your bathroom, style it well. Clear off benchtops, clean mirrors and use matching folded towels (to help cut down visual clutter) but most of all put the toilet lid down! Do your best to keep it out of frame i.e. don’t film yourself sitting in front of it and remove anything the looks cluttered i.e. rolls of toilet paper, toothbrushes etc.
“The Camera loves clean lines and screen space. Keep the visual on-screen clutter to a minimum.”
Yes, you can film your videos around your home. (I do) However, be mindful of what you show in your frame i.e. children, family photos, expensive items, identifiable markers around your property etc.
If you have limited film space. You can’t go wrong with a wall and some (minimal 2 or 3) decorative accents (see below).
Remember the camera loves clean lines and space. Keep the visual on-screen clutter to a minimum, to avoid upstaging yourself or your messaging.
In my own studio I have trialled various green-screens and background products over the years, some with great results and some not so great. I have had poor results with “hanging curtain” type screens (below image shot in my studio).
Hanging curtains (loose fabric) aren’t user-friendly in my experience and are time-consuming to set up:
- They don’t transport well and the fabric is generally cheap and see-through.
- They wrinkle and crease easily and have to be kept hanging, and clipped or taped into place to prevent this.
- Not an ideal choice if your setup has to be packed down and stored after filming.
Since 2010 I have been using “collapsible screens”. I have had excellent results with these backgrounds. In fact, I bought two; a 5’x7′ Green/Blue reversible and a Black/White reversible screen via Amazon.com. These screens are lightweight but come with a sturdy spring steel frame that folds down into a disc carrying case. They are highly portable and travel well, and best of all they show no hideous creases! To date, I have not experienced any issues with them.
I have hung these background screens on my studio walls (using 3M adhesive hooks), or have filmed with them just leaning against a wall. I also use the stand-alone support stand (that comes with the kit) which clips easily onto the frame.
Big Buying Pointers
- Ensure that the screen is made of a professional-grade material like 100% muslin cotton. It’s important that your screen absorbs light and does not reflect it
- A matte surface will give an even color range. It won’t bounce light at your lens
- I have seen cheaper brands and versions of these screens using materials that are shiny or reflective. These should be avoided.
Some Simple Suggestions (without using a Screen)
Try experimenting with interesting “textured” backgrounds. They can look great on video and add dimension to your film space. These are simple shots from around my apartment complex to help you generate some creative ideas.
Bookshelves: Thought leaders may choose to film themselves in front of their library of books, awards, published works to visually reinforce their expertise. The trick here is to style your bookshelf;
- Keep books stacked and aligned in sizing not jumbled
- If the book titles or covers seem cluttered on-screen reverse the books so their pages face outwards
- Create visual balance by allowing some space on one shelf and then weight on another and repeat that “space and weight” pattern
- If you are using a different lens/depth of field visual clutter should not be a problem.
Product placement: Some product placement in the background may be appropriate – for example, if you are a rising artist you might feature your art in the background.
Informal delivery: might warrant a lounge setting but keep it simple;
- frame yourself using the rule of thirds.
- Use only one armchair and keep the background clear of clutter ensuring that no objects cut into your headspace i.e. picture frames, pot plants, lamps etc.
- Keep the area around your headspace clutter-free – doing so keeps the attention on you and your expressive and not on all the (non-important) things cutting into your head area.
Body placement / Posture (in a casual setting):
- Avoid sitting crossed legged to the lens. Not only does it direct your viewer’s attention away from your face, but it can also appear (depending on the camera angle) that you have stumps for legs!
- This posture can also look too casual onscreen (unless you are a Fitness / Yoga expert), and your audience expects to see you that way then fine. But- not ideal nor professional if you are presenting business content.
If you are a jeweler you might wear your jewelry pieces onscreen: be mindful that your products don’t distract from your key messages unless you deliberately intend to refer to them in your presentation;
- Another filming option would be to demo the piece in your master footage and then shoot the piece in a close up as supplementary footage (aka B-roll) so your viewers can see up close as you speak about it (on or off-camera).
Your company logo or your brand colors may also be appropriate for a background;
- But watch that they don’t overpower you or the setting
- Or that your body placement blocks a letter causing an odd spelling of your logo onscreen.
If your setting shows a lot of wall space:
- Ensure that it’s free from scratches, dents, and marks
- If you aren’t using camera lens these imperfections are likely to show in your footage
- Matte-finished walls are good to film against they reduce glare and don’t bounce too much light
If simple is what you are after? White walls can be a go-to option.
- White walls require good, balanced lighting to avoid (hot spots) in your footage or outline shadows around your head and body
- If you have hot spots (harsh light spots bouncing off your walls) move your lighting further away and focus more of lighting set up on yourself
- If your film space is small you will need to step further away from your wall (4 feet) and place a light behind you.
To add a little personality:
- Place one or two elements in the shot – ensure that they are on-brand with you and your messaging and that they don’t upstage you.
- Pay close attention to their placement within the frame and adhere to the rule of thirds.
- Ensure that these elements do not upstage you or your message.
If in doubt, leave it out and opt for a simple, clean and clear setting. Your message and how you deliver it – is the most important thing.
What to avoid
Avoid having TV’s or computer monitors in the background. Flashing images, screensavers, flickering lights (not recommended) all draw attention to themselves. It’s what we actors call “pulling focus” it occurs when an (unprofessional) performer pulls the focus of the lens towards themselves (by using distracting movement) and away from you as you speak during your moment onscreen. A savvy director will spot this carry-on, you may not (yet).
Also, try to find a place to film where you can reduce any background noises and hums that can interfere with your audio recording.
- Air conditioning
- Fluorescent lights and fridges should be turned off during your video shoot.
Hopefully, these insights can help you with your pre-production planning process.
You can catch more related posts on how to frame yourself in a persuasive way and the psychological effects that camera angles have on your viewer – and how angles can impact their perception of you in a positive or negative way.
And, if you want to share images of your new set-design or background settings. Post them to our page – we would love to see them.
Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.