Did you know you can control the mood, and direct the attention of your viewers with the way you focus your video camera lens?
How to Focus your Viewer’s Attention
For example, a “sharp focus” is where everything within the camera frame is in clear focus. This is the typical way for a presenter to be filmed. However, a “soft focus” (which puts a hazy/dreamy effect over everything) is sometimes used for tender moments, or perhaps when the presenter is using their imagination or recalling a dream.
If you have a panel of people being filmed in a video presentation, you will probably pan the camera left and right to frame whoever is speaking at the time. If they are all the same distance from the camera lens, you may not need to change the focus that much, unless you move in to do a close-up shot on one individual while they are talking, or move out to capture the whole panel.
However, when you have people or objects in the camera frame which are different distances from the camera lens, then it gets more complicated. It’s called “depth of field”. You now have to make a choice as to how much of the scene is in focus. This is called “selective focus”, and a common technique used in movies and TV is for the camera to be sharply focused on one specific actor (whom the director wants us to focus on), and fuzzy on everyone else in the scene.
The viewer gets subconsciously “pulled in” to the action.
Force the Attention
The director will alternate the focus, changing from an actor in the foreground to one in the background and vice versa. This quickly forces our attention where the director wants it. If you watch a daytime soap opera, you will see this technique used in a blatantly obvious manner once you know what to look for.
When the camera moves in on a person or object, the viewer gets subconsciously “pulled in” to the action. When the camera moves out, the viewer subconsciously draws back and becomes detached.
This happens subconsciously; we can’t help but follow the actor’s gaze.
Another technique to focus the viewers’ attention is what is called “gaze motion”. The viewer will tend to look in the same direction that the people on screen are looking. Again, this happens subconsciously; we can’t help but follow the actor’s gaze.
Advertisers use this technique to get us to focus on objects or areas of the screen that they want us to pay attention to.
For example, a pharmaceutical commercial will probably want us to look up at the brand name and product packaging, not down at the mandatory side-effect warnings that are displayed on the bottom of the screen. To do this they will have the actors looking up, and arrange other visual elements of the scene to make sure we are focused on the brand, not looking down at the side effects!
Think about the different ways could use these techniques in your video presentations.