If you want to impress your production crew and sound like a real pro during your next on-camera opportunity, ask your camera operator, “How am I being framed?” The answer will shape your physical presence during the video and give you insight into how you should address the camera.
Essentially, frame size is how much you can see of you and how much you can see of your background in the shot.
How you are framed changes the closeness of the conversation and thereby changes how big your gestures can be. The wider the shot, the bigger your gestures can be.
Gestures for a Tight Shot
When you are framed in a tight shot, your audience will basically be able to see you from the shoulders up with only a little bit of the background. In essence, you are very close to your viewer and you are having a very intimate conversation.
Think about the kind of gestures you would use with someone in person if he or she were only a few feet away. Would you be throwing your arms wide and gesticulating with gusto? Surely not—it would seem very out of place.
When you are being framed in a tight shot, your gestures need to shrink in size based on the close proximity of your conversation partner or be kept out of the frame completely. Flapping hands in front of your face can be distracting and keep the viewer from focusing on what you are saying.
Body Movement Off-Camera
While a tight shot of your on-camera performance represents a very close, intimate conversation with your viewer, it does not mean all movement must cease. In fact, if you do stay stock still, you will likely appear stiff, uncomfortable, and unconvincing.
Even if your gestures cannot be seen in the shot, they serve a vital purpose. They help you to release tension and allow your words to flow freely. If you are physically relaxed, your delivery will be as well. If your jaw is clenched and your hands are balled up in fists, you will have a very difficult time coming across as confident. A hand movement might not be seen on camera, but it will have ripple effects through your shoulders and be visible to your viewers. Even small motions add visual interest while allowing you to channel some nervous energy outward.
Gestures for a Medium Shot
A medium shot is generally framed from the waist up. Your viewer will be able to see a little bit more of the background than on a tight shot and your arms, when bent, will appear in the frame.
Consider this conversation like a cocktail party. You are close enough not to shout, but you have a little more distance and freedom to gesture and move.
In a medium shot, you still want to avoid giant gestures, which might extend beyond the screen. However, you can feel free to talk with your hands as you would in normal conversation.
A word of caution: Do not allow your arms to play peek-a-boo. Constant bending and extending your elbows with your hands jumping in and out of the shot will draw attention away from what you are saying. While it is totally fine to have your arms both extended naturally as well as bent, just make sure it is not done in rapid succession.
Gestures for a Wide Shot
If you are being framed in a wide shot, you are free to move about the studio—well, not the entire studio, but you can move much more than you can in a tight or medium shot.
In a wide shot, the viewer can see you from head to toe and can also see much of your background. Wide shots aren’t used for long periods of time. In a formal studio production, it might be reserved for the opening shot of a video before the director calls for a cut to a tighter shot for the bulk of the production.
When you are being framed wide, you have the freedom to use those big gestures, almost as if you are standing in front of a classroom or a large conference room.
So the next time someone asks, “Are you ready for your close-up?” You can respond with an “Of course, and I’ll be sure to keep my hands out of the shot!”
Learn More: On-Camera Coach
If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.