Hollywoo at Home
Updated: May 18, 2020
Welcome to Hollywood, or Hollywoo if you are a Bojack fan. Whether you want to be or not, you are now in the Movie Business. In the world of online remote meetings everyone is a studio, director, sound engineer, lighting specialist, set designer, and actor. Oh, you are also a streaming service. And, if you want to impact those around you in a positive way you need to take each of these roles seriously. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Studios are magical places. Don’t believe me, do the Harry Potter Studio tour the next time you are in London. If you are a fan who watched the movies you will love the tour. Did you know Hogwarts doesn’t really exist? It was all made up. An illusion. I know we all know this… but you don’t really ‘know’ it until you visit the studio.
Studios are places where movies are produced. Where they construct sets, hang lights, place cameras, and restrict access to those not involved in making the movie. The studio makes it possible to control what is captured on film by getting the right lights in the right places, capturing the wanted sounds, and constructing the desired sets.
The first thing to ask yourself is where is your home studio? Make it a space where you can restrict access, keeping away those who are not actually cast in your movie, from pets to loved ones. Make it a place where you can control lights, sound, and set.
A studio usually has a light signal outside the building which signals whether or not others should enter the studio. Do your family the same courtesy. Control access, but give them a clear signal when it is OK to come in. If the old red lava lamp is on it means I am recording please do not enter. Off means come in and give me a hug.
You computer is a key item in your studio. It is important you become familiar with the things that slow your computer down and make it a less productive tool. We always recommend rebooting your computer before an online event, as well as turning off all other technology which may negatively impact the success of your video stream.
My Studio Score: _____ Rate your studio on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your studio experience before the next meeting. ____ Display a signal to family members that you are about to start shooting
____ Reboot your computer 30 minutes before the meeting
____ Turn off, close, all other unnecessary Apps and Programs
____ Turn off TVs, phones, tablets, printers, and other devices which may use the internet
____ Test internet speed after reboot: https://www.speedtest.net/
____ Launch Zoom from the Desktop client
____ Have a high speed (10 Mbps Download) internet connection (test at https://www.speedtest.net/)
Directors are concerned with how lights, sound, sets, costumes, actors, cameras, and script come together to tell a story. In your work and in your career, you are always telling a story. Historically, people who understand this better adjust their behaviors at work with specific intention. They change how they dress, act, speak, and even how they decorate their workspace. They usually seek to tell a story that increases other’s confidence in them and in their abilities. Good story tellers at the office understand that these judgments are often automatic and subconscious.
The same is true working from home. What you film becomes a part of who you are, and the message you are sending. Are you a dark figure in a dark room mumbling like Brando in Apocalypse Now, then I probably do not want to work with you. Are you well lit, framed, and easy to hear like a nightly news anchor… yes, I want to spend more time listening to you.
There is a reason nightly news shows design their sets and dress their anchors the way that they do. It inspires confidence. It is reassuring. It makes you want to come back to hear more.
My Director Score: _____ Rate your Director skills on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your Director skills before the next meeting.
____ Understand your role in every event in advance
____ Login 5 minutes before event begins
____ Turn on your Camera
____ Check the framing of your shot before the meeting starts
____ Warn others nearby you are about to start filming, perhaps by saying "Action"
Stop sitting in front of windows! Usually all we see is a silhouette in front of a blinding light. In general you want to be front lit without light behind you. Acquire a couple of directional lamps you can put in your studio to light your face. Watch the shadows. You probably want your eyes bright and cheery not sunken and in shadows. Play around with the lights and the camera and think about what other people are seeing.
Consider experimenting with different colored lights to get an effect that looks good on your skin. This is how everyone sees you now in the virtual world. They may never see your beautiful skin under natural light. You now exist only on the screen. Look your best!
My Lighting Score: _____ Rate your lighting on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your lighting experience before the next meeting.
____ Do not sit in front of windows
____ Be visible, light your face from the front
____ Check for shadows, adjust lights to eliminate unwanted shadows
____ Check for reflections in glasses, adjust lights to reduce reflections
You need to be clearly heard. Reduce or eliminate unwanted sounds. Put your studio in a quiet location and turn off noise makers like appliances, furnaces, phones, family, and pets. OK, family and pets may not have an off button but that is where control access comes in covered previously.
Sometimes the unwanted sound is you typing, tapping your fingers, tapping your foot or digesting your food. Be AWARE of the noises you make. If you are unaware your spouse can probably tell you, they have probably been dying to do that anyway.
If you enjoy playing a little background music while you work, be aware that even the most soothing of music can still be heard by others. That is especially the case when participants are wearing headsets, the background music comes through rather clearly to their ears. Noise reduction headsets may provide a good option for you, or better yet, just turn off the source of the background music during the remote meeting.
The best way to restrict unwanted sound is with a high quality headset with a directional microphone. It picks up fewer sounds and provides you with the audio feed in a manner that doesn’t create any feedback. The mute button is also your friend but recognize if you mute you need to unmute fast when someone asks a question. We hate seeing your lips move with no sound coming out.
In many modern computers and webcams the built in microphone is more than good enough. RECORD YOURSELF AND LISTEN TO THE SOUND. Is it distracting? If not, go with what is simple and easy. If needed, fix the sound distractions by trying different microphones until you find one that works. Almost everyone accepts returns!
My Sound Score: _____ Rate your sound on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your sound experience before the next meeting.
____ Find a quiet Location
____ Turn on your microphone
____ Turn off other devices nearby which make sound
____ Turn off any radio / stereo / speaker playing background music
____ Use noise cancelling microphones
____ Have a headset microphone / speaker
____ Have a spare headset microphone / speaker
____ Check your sound before the meeting starts
____ Mute cell phones, tablets, and other devices
____ Tell roommates you are about to go live
____ Check your sound before the meeting starts
____ Put a sign on your studio door begging for quiet
What sits behind you is a part of your story. What does your set say about you? Do not just plop down any place in your house and let the camera capture whatever happens to be behind you. Communicate with intention.
Do they see books, art, motivational messages, or dirty laundry. What does each say about you and your character? Think about how what you show adds or distracts from your message. Do more of what adds and less of what subtracts.
Consider virtual backgrounds if your workspace doesn’t accommodate the most business of backgrounds. If your desk is set up in a bedroom and the bed is visible behind you, a virtual background solves that issue nicely. When possible, use conferencing tools that offer this option.
My Set Design: _____ Rate your set design on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your set design before the next meeting.
____ Ensure your set looks good in your shot
____ Remove unwanted items from the shot
____ Have something that supports your message or brand in your set
____ Use virtual background if set is inappropriate
____ Have a portable green screen background
____ Have a place where you can restrict access, and others will not walk into the shot
You laptop almost certainly comes with a built in camera. It usually works great in a pinch but it highly limits your ability to get the shot you might want. If you get a tiny tripod and a tiny webcam you can put the camera anywhere you want.
A nice configuration is to get a second monitor to put your conference attendees on and a monitor for any materials you need for the meeting. Many current laptops can support tablets as second monitors. For example, my MacBook Pro running Catalina can support my iPad as a second monitor with the Sidecar feature.
RECORD YOURSELF AND WATCH HOW YOU LOOK. Is the camera angle flattering? Does it add to or distract from your message? If it isn’t working then fix it trying different cameras and/or angles until you find one that works.
If you are running a longer training session using more than one camera reduces tedium and allows you to frame different shots. Zoom allows you to easily switch between cameras with a keystroke. Some folks have positioned a second camera where they can stand up and write on a whiteboard physically. Their movement and the camera change can make the shot more interesting.
Rate your camera on a scale of 1 to 10. _____ Pick one way you will improve your camera before the next meeting.
____ Use a high quality HD camera
____ Turn on HD video in your video settings
____ Use a tripod and position your camera at eye level
____ Clean your camera lens
____ Use more than one camera
____ Have tissues available to clean your camera lens
Costumes & Makeup
Dress better than you think you should. Consider for business meetings being the best dressed person on the screen. It is almost never a mistake to dress well. We know you are home but leave your Christmas jammies in the other room and put on something nice. What do you want to convey about your character? Think about it like how you imagine a director would, who is directing you as a successful hero in the movie, and then dress your character accordingly. Some folks have a nice shirt, sweater, or coat in their studio which they wear only when on camera. Between remote meetings they switch into something more comfortable.
You may want to even use makeup to make your face look fresh and healthy. Zoom allows you display (just for yourself) a mirror view of you. If you turn on "Mirror My Video" the view of yourself on your monitor looks as if it was a mirror. This makes it easy to apply makeup and comb your hair. Although you have the option to see the mirror view continually, the folks remotely always see you in the normal way. Zoom also has a digital makeup feature called "Touch Up My Appearance." If you turn on this feature Zoom applies digital makeup for you. Blurring your face, removing blemishes, and removing years.
My Costumes & Makeup: _____ Rate your costumes & makeup on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your costumes & makeup before the next meeting.
____ Dress better than you think you should
____ Comb your hair and adjust your costume before the meeting
____ Have a comb or brush always available
____ Have tissues available to keep yourself clean
____ Use makeup or face smoothing feature, if appropriate
Look into the camera not at the picture of yourself on the screen. You are talking to the camera like you are on a reality TV show because, surprise, you are on a reality TV show. Talk to the camera. That is how you talk to the fellow participants. Do not talk to the video of yourself or the video of them on the screen.
People need eye contact. We have to fake it in remote video. Stare in the camera when you are speaking. Stare in the camera when you are listening. Some people are highly distracted when they see themselves on the screen. Zoom allows you to hide the view of yourself. This can be especially useful in one-on-one meetings. Hide yourself and all you see is the other person. Now you can totally focus your attention on them. You can always bring yourself back into view from time to time to check your shot.
Speak clearly. You have way fewer cues that people are not hearing you adequately and many people will not speak up. If you are a fast talker, slow down. A quiet talker, speak up.
A few simple tricks… lean into the camera for intimacy and emphasis. Lean back from the camera for hand gestures. Sit up straight with good posture.
My Acting: _____ Rate your acting on a scale of 1 to 10. Pick one way you will improve your acting before the next meeting.
____ Do not multitask
____ Make eye contact when talking: look into the camera not at the picture of yourself
____ Speak loud enough to be heard
____ Speak clearly, slow down if necessary
____ Make eye contact when listening: look into the camera not at the picture of yourself
Get That Raise!
Although you may not know it yet, your online presence in remote meetings is a direct reflection on who you are and how others see you, hear you, and treat you. It may be the difference between having a successful meeting or a failing meeting, a successful project or a failing project. It is definitely the difference between being heard and being ignored. Can something as simple as lighting and sound affect your next raise, promotion, or advancement? You better believe it. So let’s get this right.