How to look and sound even better on video calls
If all those hours on Zoom and other video conference platforms have made you feel a little insecure about your onscreen image, here’s some helpful advice.
In this time of pandemic, the video call is proving to be an invaluable tool in battling social distance and isolation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to put yourself in front of the camera.
Some people address the problem by showing up to meetings and social calls with cameras turned off. While that might make the camera-shy feel more comfortable, it might not be the best way of communicating.
So how can we go about looking our best on camera and making ourselves feel comfortable on video calls — all for the purpose of better communication? We asked Santa Rosa-based independent filmmaker and Emmy-nominated television producer Joshua Dylan Mellars for some tips.
Should we even bother putting effort into our online image?
“You shouldn’t feel bad about trying to make yourself and your surroundings look good,” says Mellars. “It’s a form of communication. In the times we’re living in now, it’s a principal form of communication.”
Whether filming an actor or someone in a documentary, Mellars always pays a lot of attention to a variety of details in order to capture subjects in the best possible light.
Camera angles, lighting, and sound affect how a person is perceived. When these elements aren’t working well, it can be a distraction. “Things can come out harsher or distorted in this medium if you aren’t careful,” he says.
So before turning the camera on, give a little thought to what you are about, what your purpose is, and how attention to a few elements will make for better communication. When these elements work in harmony, they have palpable positive effects on both the viewer and yourself: the communication experience becomes more engaging, edifying, even entertaining and fun.
Be guided by the natural light in the room
Mellars says that finding a spot that has the most flattering light should dictate where you place the camera or, in this case, laptop or smartphone.
When you don’t have a complex set of professional lights and lighting technicians at your disposal, like on a Hollywood film set, it’s important that you find the best available light and set up your shot to make the best use of what you have at your disposal.
Whether he’s filming indoors or outdoors, Mellars looks carefully at where the light falls naturally before deciding where and how to frame the shot.
“The sun is a free, natural light source that is always on during the day” he says. He explains that a diffuse, soft, even light—the kind of light that might come through a window—tends to be more flattering for a webcam type of setting.
Make sure to position yourself directly facing the window so that there’s no shadow on either side of your face. Note that indirect sunlight is probably preferable. Direct sunlight— when you can actually see the sun through the window—should be avoided because it casts its light directly on you and in the process creates undesirable pronounced shadows.
Add an artificial light source if necessary
If you’re not using daylight as your light source, for example when you are shooting at night, find a lamp with a good shade to soften the light.