Straight Down the Barrel

It’s interesting that people use the phrases “Looking down the barrel of the camera” and “Looking down the barrel of a gun”.

For a lot of us, both are equally terrifying.

I’ve spent my professional performance career ricocheting from stage to screen and learning the techniques of both mediums.

What I have learnt from this experience is that the camera is your greatest friend, not your worst enemy. The camera gives you effortless status and gravitas.

Try framing up someone or something in the room with you now, using your hands like a Hollywood director. See how immediately important that thing or face becomes? That’s what the camera does for you, so the job of commanding your audience’s attention is more than half done.

For me, the simplest way to explain how best to use the camera when you are delivering or creating a video presentation, is to imagine that, through the lens, you are talking to only one other person. Not a roomful or stadium of people – just one.

Presenting to camera is one-to-one communication. Address the lens like a friend who is in the same room with you and as someone you know always listens to you. If you have trouble imagining that a good trick is to talk to the camera operator, because through that lens, trust me, you will always have their undivided attention!

Likewise, the microphone allows you the freedom to speak at your natural level, just as you would to a friend sitting opposite you at the dinner table. No big effort required. All you need to do is remember to breathe and be yourself.

This is often what you hear about wonderful screen actors, that they are not ‘acting’ on camera they are just being themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. But what they are doing is adjusting their performance to live within the frame. They know how to live truthfully in a set of imaginary circumstances, as described in Sanford Meisner’s definition of acting.

Actors understand that the knowledge of how the camera sees you is vital to performance. In the business world it’s equally important – in your video conferencing, marketing videos and website content – that you take control of the circumstances where you are being filmed as much as possible.

  • Find out what size the frame is going to be – is it a close up where you cannot see your hands or do you need to be relaxed and controlled with your gestures? Is it a wide shot where you can see other distracting things in the background?

  • Have you considered what you are wearing? Does the colour look good against the background and suit your skin tone?

  • Have you warmed up vocally and physically so you can deliver your text confidently?

And remember the best thing about working to a camera – there is always going to be a second take if you need it!

Actors use a whole range of techniques to make their time in front of the camera less stressful and ensure they can deliver a compelling performance. We use these and other skills at NIDA to help make video presentations less of a challenge.

You won’t be looking down the barrel of a gun anymore, instead you’ll be sharing your knowledge with a trusted friend.

All views expressed are authors own.


Photo supplied by Gary Wales, Photographer

Di Smith
About this author:
 Diane Smith,Senior Course Manager, NIDA Corporate
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Want to know more? Give her a call today on 1300 650 357