Tips for Talent - Be Prepared

HarrisFrequently, guests would come into the studio for some sort of video recording. 

It might be guests for a talk show or panel discussion.  Perhaps it was the Spanish class coming into the studio to shoot commercials that they had written in Spanish.  Maybe it would be the entire slate of everyone running for student government doing campaign speeches to be played over the announcements or in the cafeteria during lunches.  Perhaps it was local politicians practicing stump speeches.  Whatever.  There were dozens of different reasons for people wanting to come into the studio to be placed on video.

Inevitably, many of them would ask me about what to wear, make-up, etc.  Eventually, I wised up and prepared a handout to give people to help them prepare for what they were about to experience.  I’d give the handout to the sponsors to give to the individuals ahead of time so the guests would have some time to prepare for their 15 minutes of fame on TV!

What follows is the handout.  Feel free to use it if you like for your own classes.

Tips for Talent

So you’re going to be on TV! This tip sheet provides information on how to perform and look your best on the television screen. Follow these simple rules to help ensure a smooth recording process.

What can be expected when you arrive at the studio?

Organized chaos. “Hurry up and wait” will be a common theme, or so it may seem. While you should arrive completely prepared for your performance, the television crew will likely have to make adjustments for your unique performance on the spot. Expect some last-minute light changes and set pieces may need to be adjusted. Please bear with the studio staff. Their goal is to take the time to make you look your best!

Please be quiet in the studio!

This is a ground rule in any television studio. The technical crew will be very busy with last-minute details, such as setting microphone levels. They must be able to hear each other. Any questions you may have should be directed to the floor manager.

Watch your step!

In all likelihood, there will be wiring and various cords lying on the floor. Please do not stand or step on the cables. They break rather easily and long delays will occur while repairs are made. Additionally, you do not want to trip and fall.

Do not call, “Cut!” during program shooting.

If you make a mistake during your performance, please do not yell, “Cut!” Try not to let your face show that you have made a mistake by rolling your eyes, making a face, or giggling. The studio staff may be able to fix errors during editing. If necessary, the floor manager will call, “Cut” and restart the scene as close as possible to the point where the mistake occurred. A scene cannot be fixed in the editing room if you suddenly break out of character or make sudden extraneous sounds.

Pay attention to what the floor manager tells you.

The floor manager is in charge of starting and stopping action in the studio. If the floor manager says “Cut,” it means that taping has been stopped by the director. The cause is usually some type of an error. If the error was on the part of the on-screen talent, they will be told. Otherwise, it may be a technical error on the production side of the cameras. Please do not ask what happened. Simply remain quiet and listen for the floor manager to tell you at what point to start again. Quietly return to that spot physically and verbally. Wait for the floor manager to give you the cue to start again. The production staff does not have time at that moment to explain what happened. If you are curious, ask later and they will be glad to tell you.

Commonly Asked Questions

What do I wear?

• Both men and women should wear something button up, like a shirt, jacket, or vest. These articles of clothing permit a clip-on microphone to be put underneath and clipped to an edge.
• The colors black, white, and red are not flattering on television in large amounts. If you must wear black or white, do not wear a large amount of either color and absolutely do not wear them side-by-side, like a white shirt under a black suit.
• If your complexion is dark, do not wear light-colored clothing. Light colors will make you look even darker and quite possibly silhouette you.
• If you have a very light complexion, stay away from dark clothing. Dark clothing against a light complexion will cause your skin to shine to the point of a science fiction-type glow.
• Wear colors near the middle of the spectrum, such as grays and pastels rather than whites and dark grays. Wear brown, dark blue, or dark green instead of black. Wear pastels instead of white. People with olive complexions, however, should avoid green.
• Avoid extreme contrasts between clothing items and between clothing and backgrounds. Avoid small, busy patterns, like herringbone and vertical or horizontal thin stripes. These patterns will appear to vibrate in rainbows of color. Horizontal stripes also make you appear considerably heavier than you actually are.
• Clothing should be pressed. If items appear to have been in the bottom of the closet for a week, the wrinkles are magnified on camera.
• Avoid wearing skin-tight tops. The TV camera adds the appearance of about 10 pounds. They will be unattractive pounds if you are wearing skintight clothing.
• Do not wear shirts with logos or writing. The writing is likely to be in a size or font that does not reproduce well on television. This creates a frustratingly unreadable image for the audience. There may also be copyright or trademark issues if you place a logo in the program.
• Short sleeves are rarely worn on television.

What kind of makeup should I wear?

• People with extremely pale complexions need a darker base makeup. This applies to both males and females. Without makeup, you will appear bright white and pasty.
• Makeup must be applied to the face, neck, ears, and perhaps even the hands.
• Audiences have come to expect women to look like they are wearing makeup when on television. Most men need no more than a base application. Teenagers usually look better if they have a translucent powder applied to take away an oily shine.
• Women should avoid glossy lipstick. It creates distracting and unflattering light reflections. Very red lipstick should also be avoided. Ruddy colors work far better on television.

Do I need to apply my makeup heavier than I would for normal daily wear?

• No.  Heavy makeup is only needed in theater.
• If you wear eyeliner, do not line all the way around your eyes. It will give you a beady-eyed, rogue look and diminish the effect of the most expressive feature on your face.

Should I wear jewelry?

• Avoid large, shiny metallic pieces of jewelry. They reflect so much light back into the camera that it detracts from your statement or message.
• Large dangling earrings naturally wiggle while you are talking and are very distracting on television.
• Large jewelry gives nervous hands something to fiddle with, which creates an undesirable on-camera action.

Where do I look when I am in front of the camera?

• Look at the people you are talking to, just as you would in real life. If you are acting in a scene, look at your fellow actors and completely ignore the cameras. If you are giving a campaign speech or delivering news, look directly at the camera lens because that is where your audience is.
• If the camera has a tight close-up of your face and your eyes are roaming around the television studio, the audience stops listening to what you are saying and begins to wonder what you are looking at. It undermines your image of being a confident, honest speaker.

How do I use the microphone?

• The microphones found in a TV studio are totally different from the ones used by your favorite singers on VH1 or MTV.  TV microphones are much more sensitive and can not be treated the same way as the microphones singers use.
• Never put it right next to your mouth and speak into it.
• Never blow in it.
• Never tap it.
• Never get the cord caught in the wheels of your seat or roll over the cord.
• When asked to do a sound check, speak normally to give the audio technician an accurate reading. Do not be shy. A good idea is to recite what you are going to say when the tape starts rolling.