All is well…the shoot is perfectly planned. The set is positioned. The script or interview questions are prepped and ready. The cameras are loaded, white balanced, and in focus. Audio is double-checked, and there are batteries in the wireless mics! The on-camera subject comes through the door right on time. Everything is ‘good to go’… but then…OH-OH…I see it. The outfit. It is a disaster. The wardrobe breaks almost every rule in the book and the entire shoot is about to go down the drain–or at least get delayed–because the subject hadn’t been told what to wear, or what NOT to wear. All the best planning efforts just took a nosedive, or as is now said in contemporary lingo…epic fail!
Does it actually matter what subjects wear on camera? YES, it matters! An otherwise perfectly planned shoot can be adversely affected by a malfunctioning clothing ensemble. So before you jump in front of that camera and start waxing poetic about your product or service, please take heed of these five naughty no-no’s…heck, you might even want to write them on the palms of your hands! If you want your online video to look its best, avoid these 5 “oops’es:”
Oops #1 – Black and White
Video technology has made great strides over the last few years, but nothing wreaks havoc for video much more than wide swings in contrast. That clean, crisp white shirt becomes a great big reflector when the main light is turned on! Combine that with a black suit (that drinks that same light up, by the way) and I will be trying to balance polar opposites. Trying to find middle ground so that faces render nicely will be a challenge, and a good compromise can be realized through the use of more subdued tones, say, blues, grays, medium browns and off-whites. Because I shoot weddings, I see these challenges often (white bridal gown; black groom’s tux), and I work with what I have, but when possible, it’s better to opt for colors that help the production; not hinder it.
Oops #2 – Tight Patterns and Textures
Moire. Artifacting. If these terms don’t mean anything to you, it’s OK, but to the video producer, they’re just as challenging as the wide contrasts between black and white. I would recommend against patterns like houndstooth, or glen plaids if you want the image of your video to look its best. Especially since most shoots today are in high-def!
Oops #3 – Reflective Accessories
While a little jewelry can be fashionable, too much does not play well with lights. There is an axiom in production that says anything that distracts the viewer from the message is an error. Big, shiny, reflective buttons, rings, watches, necklaces, earrings, brooches and bracelets will catch lights and trigger flares and flashes that will draw everyone’s attention to the bling, and that’s not a good thing. Reflective accessories of all kinds are particularly horrific on green screen shoots. I know a story in which a director worked a “green screen” shoot on a soundstage in Burbank, CA where the talent showed up on the set with a giant gold anchor stitched to the front of her sailor dress. It reflected the green set around her and, if not caught, the effect would have caused a gigantic anchor-shaped hole right through her mid-section! With a few snips from a handy pair of scissors, the director had the offending object eliminated before the shoot and saved everyone a whole lot of post-production heartache. Of course, the dress had to be replaced!
Oops #4 – Jangly Jewelry
See #3. Sometimes, it’s just better to leave the bling in the jewelry box. And there’s another reason: If jewelry is banging, rattling or jingling, it will produce sounds that will likely be picked up by every microphone being used. You don’t want your sound track to be botched because of unwanted noises from wardrobe accessories. Just because your subjects’ watches, necklaces, buttons, earrings and bracelets aren’t shiny, doesn’t necessarily mean they are automatically approved. In addition to reflection, you need to be aware of your audio. A piece of jewelry that rattles or jingles will interfere with your sound. Also be aware of any noises made by the clothing itself. Certain fabrics (corduroy, for one) create their own sounds and can be equally undesirable. For problems #3 and 4, a sound check can catch these things before they become problems—unless you want these sounds in your audio!
Oops #5 – Logos and Messages
If your video is going to be broadcast on television, you will probably not be allowed to wear just any logo or convey any message on your clothing. In TV land, this is mostly because they make their money by selling advertising, so any logo seen on screen is a freebie for the company it represents. And sometimes, use of a trademark without permission can have consequences of its own. In the non-broadcast world this isn’t as crucial, but there is still a line of good taste that will need to be drawn. Unless I am interviewing a NASCAR driver, I probably don’t want the interview subject adorned in logos like, well, a NASCAR driver. The same goes for printed T-shirts with messages. Depending on the type of video being produced, the shirt that says “I’m with stupid” or “Eat at Ace’s BBQ!” may be inappropriate for a number of reasons. If you’ve watched a TV program and logos and messages on clothing have been “pixelated out,” this is why. Now, if your video is intended to market your product/service and your wearing apparel displays these messages, feel free to dismiss this paragraph!
So there you have it…sound advice to heed before the cameras start rolling! If you’re in doubt, bring a couple clothing/accessory options. Here’s a hint: Take a look at the best broadcast talent and TV anchors around, and observe what they are wearing. Follow their lead, and everything will go well in your production. And we’ll all be happy!