Let’s set the stage. You’ve crafted a memorable message with your viewer in mind. You have perfected and marked your script, and it is now in the hands of the teleprompter operator. You have picked out a camera-friendly outfit (or two) and are ready for your close-up, Mr. DeMille.
Next, you show up at the studio and find a whole host of people there to greet you. Who are all of these people?
Meet the Crew
The size of the studio crew often depends on the budget and the scope of the project. Over the years, I have worked with a crew of 1 all the way up to a team of 20.
In this article, I will describe the members of the production crew you are most likely to meet face-to-face in the studio, with the assumption that the producer and director are out of sight. On the occasions of live broadcasts or live-to-tape sessions (meaning the show will be taped as if it were live), the director and producer often sit in the control room, where they can freely speak during the actual performance without their voices being picked up by microphones.
- The Floor Director—this is the person who serves as the air traffic controller of the studio crew. He or she is the one who receives instructions from the director or producer and then disseminates them to the rest of the crew. The floor director is also the person who does what’s called a countdown and then cues you to start talking. You will find him or her standing near the camera into which you will be speaking. When the floor director counts you down, it will go something like this: “In 5-4-3-2-[silent beat],” and then he or she will give you a visual cue, letting you know that you can begin talking. That visual cue is often a matter of personal style. Sometimes, a floor director will simply point at you or the camera. Periodically, a floor director will get creative and offer his or her own Sammy Sosa, peace-out sign. Regardless, the cue is rarely subtle, so don’t worry about missing it. (You may be wondering why the floor director doesn’t count all the way down to one. The microphone you are wearing is not always “live” but will most definitely be turned on right before you speak. If the floor director says “one,” there’s a chance his or her voice might be heard a split second before you say your first words or even as you are saying your first words if you jump your cue. You, the talent, are expected to silently count one in your head, and then speak when the floor director physically cues you to begin.)
- The Audio Technician—this person gets up close and personal with you, mainly because he or she needs to put your microphone on. Audio technicians will be especially appreciative of your carefully selected wardrobe that gives them easy access to a spot for the transmitter pack to hang. A sheath dress is the stuff of nightmares. The audio tech will also find the best place to clip your microphone, preferably a place where there’s no chance of it rubbing against part of your clothing, hair, or jewelry. There is no need to project your voice when wearing a microphone for on-camera work. Part of the audio technician’s job is to set proper volume levels. He or she will adjust the volume based on the level at which you naturally speak. To do that, he or she will ask you to say a few words or even count down from 10. It’s your intelligence test.
- The Camera Operator—In a studio setting, the cameras are typically handled by a camera operator who takes instruction on framing the shot from the director. He or she will make sure there is nothing in the frame that shouldn’t be there (light stands, duct tape, odd reflections) and will sometimes adjust framing during a performance if the talent’s movements require it. If you are having trouble reading the teleprompter because the camera is too far away, ask the camera operator if it would be possible to move closer. Usually, that is not a problem. Expect the camera to be at eye level the majority of the time. If you feel as though you are looking down or up, ask if that is by design. This is especially common when there is a big disparity between the height of the talent and the height of the camera operator. Looking directly into the lens will offer the most flattering and natural angle. If the performance requires multiple cameras, as in the case of a webcast, there will be several camera operators on set at one time. Remember to ask how you are being framed so you can give some thought to how much room you have to move and gesture.
- The Teleprompter Operator—as the person responsible for making your script available to you during your performance, the teleprompter operator plays a very important role in your success. Sometimes, the prompter operator is in the studio, and sometimes he or she is in the control room with the director and producer. Regardless of where the prompter operator is during the performance, know you can always request his or her help with prompter edits. If the prompter operator is in the control room, the floor director can relay any information to him or her.
Now that you’ve met your crew for your on-camera performance, what’s most important to remember is that each and every one of them is there as a team to help you do and be your best. They want you to come away from the experience satisfied with how you did and pleased with the final product. It doesn’t matter to the crew whether you do two takes or 20 takes. They are invested in your on-camera success, and they are more than willing to wait for it.
Your goal should not be to get your performance over and done with in record time (though no one would complain if you knocked it out of the park on the first take). Your goal should be to utilize their talents and yours to deliver the best performance possible.
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.