Dress, Costuming and Props

Dress is one way in which individuals express their identity. A discussion about the way clothing communicates can take place in the context of a lesson about video communication.

How actors dress for a video can have a huge impact on how effectively their message is received, and talent in video should dress according to their part in the production. For example, if the students are making a video on lab safety, they should look like sci­entists and wear white lab coats, which lend credibility. If the students are producing a video on the stock market, they will command more respect from their audience if they are wearing business clothing rather than shorts and flip-flops.

Costuming is the dressing of a character for a theatrical performance. Having actors dress in period attire adds authenticity to any performance. Costuming can also liberate the actors to play their part more enthusiasti­cally or realistically. Students are more likely to act like clowns if they are cloaked in fright wigs, gunnysacks, and huge shoes. If a character is por­trayed as cool, it is easier for the student to play the part wearing dark shades and a leather jacket. If you want to free students for slapstick roles, give them the cover of outrageous outfits, wigs, and glasses. Costuming can have the effect of making an actor less self-conscious, allowing the character in the attire to emerge.

Some colors and patterns work better on video than others. When choos­ing costumes or clothing for a production, try several combinations if you have time. Stay away from small patterns and pinstripes, as they shift and move unnaturally on video. Solid colors work well, but bright white cloth­ing under strong lights can sometimes glow and give a halo effect.

The proper use of props in a video also adds an element of authenticity. Props help orient the audience to the action of the video, especially in
theatrical performances. Props may also be necessary for demonstration purposes in a video, such as a ball in a video about gravitational acceler­ation. Props also give the actors something to do with their hands.

Symbolism is an important communication tool in video. Just as in litera­ture, video can have symbolic elements that suggest a meaning beyond their physical form. Symbols in video can be as obvious as a student col­oring his or her thumb green to signify an affinity with plants or painting his or her hand gold to imply a golden touch. Metaphors are also useful in storytelling on video. The physical act of walking through fire to reach someone can be a metaphor for willingness to sacrifice or make a com­mitment. I have seen student projects that employ symbolism and metaphors overenthusiastically, most frequently video montages, in which symbols are sometimes used without meaning attached to them. Symbol­ism without purpose can be seen as free expression or abstract art, but it can also be very confusing to the viewer.