What to Wear - the Basics
While today’s tech is a lot more forgiving then the video of the past, there are still some considerations when selecting your on-camera outfit. In the past these were things to really, really, really pay attention to, but modern technology has eliminated the worst of these problems. This is especially the case in higher-end equipment and with modern editing software. However, if you’re using a lower-end camera and you won’t be sending your footage to a professional editor, you should be aware of these things.
Pattern - Avoid the Moire’
Close, high-contrast pin stripes, corduroy and herringbone all create a wavy rainbow-colored pattern called a moiré effect on television. You can see a video of a shirt with moire’ on it here Shirt Video.
The reason? American television has 525 horizontal scan lines, and horizontal scan lines have trouble displaying vertical lines. So what you get is a moiré effect right in the middle of your shirt, jacket or tie. Even HD video with twice as many scan lines can have trouble with small patterns, especially pinstripes and houndstooth.
Despite the new technology, video does have trouble handling some colors. This is mostly true of lower end cameras and DSLRs. If you’re being recorded on professional grade equipment and a colorist is going to be in the edit suite this is less of an issue.
Lower end cameras oversaturate the red channel to warm up skin tones, if you’re wearing red this exacerbates the problem. Reds and oranges can also “glow” on camera. Darker reds and oranges like maroon or pumpkin are less of a problem, it's the bright tones like cherry that you should be wary of.
High-contrast clothing is another major problem, especially if you’re not lighting your set or have your camera set on auto-exposure. Video cameras have trouble with high contrasts between bright and dark objects, and this includes skin tone and clothing.
Dark-skinned people should avoid wearing bright white or very light colors. When they do, their shirts can “blow out” when you set the camera to expose the face properly. Extremely light-skinned folks should avoid black or very dark clothing. A black shirt will become a formless hole in the video, because it will have to be very dark if you set the camera so that the skin tone is properly exposed.
You can compensate for this with great lighting, or higher-end cameras but it still makes everyone's job easier to be aware of this.
Regardless of your camera setup, in our opinion the major consideration when choosing an on-camera outfit is its shape and fit. It is true that video can make people look ten pounds heavier. Especially if you’re using a wide lens.
When you see people in the world, you see not just them, but their environment. Video strips out much of the environment and you loose something to compare the subject to. This added focus and lack of context can make you look larger.
So choose an outfit that highlights your shape. Make sure you’re wearing something that cuts in and has structure. Shapeless, baggy, loose fitting clothing can make you look big and lumpy on screen.
Also avoid sequins, super shiny fabrics, metallic threads, and anything with sparkling stuff on it. While those look great in person, they can catch the light and be distracting.
Clothing Do's and Don'ts
Always keep in mind that the character/brand/energy you want to project will dictate the type of clothing you will wear. If your business is rock-n-roll, wear those leather pants (matte ones please, the shiny ones sparkle too much!) But chances are your business is a bit more conservative than that. We say, wear what you would if you were about to make a really big pitch.
First line up all your on-screen candidates and eliminate anything that will moire’. That means clothing with close pin stripes, herringbone, corduroy and any busy plaids.
Pull anything that is cherry or bright orange. Cool colors and earth tones generally look good on camera.
You can keep the white shirts, but only if they are going to be worn under a darker jacket or sweater. A shirt with a collar looks better than a t-shirt, so unless you would always wear t-shirts no matter what, then don’t wear one here. If you must wear a t-shirt, make sure it’s solid colored, has no large logos or brand marks on it, and please make sure it’s clean!
Layers are always good. You can pull them on and off depending on the look you’re going for. Jackets can give an outfit structure and help you look leaner. The jacket can be a solid color or have a faint low-contrast pinstripe or pattern. An off-white shirt is preferable to a bright white shirt. (We call this color movie white.)
Even if you’re only being filmed from the waist up, double check that your socks and shoes are appropriate. It would stink to decide to do a walking shot, only to be foiled by 5 year old trainers with holes in them.
Protip - if you want to wear a short skirt, make sure that you're comfortable in it and know how to sit without constantly tugging to keep it down. We fuss with our clothes all the time and don’t think about it, but once you’re on screen these tics become super obvious.
Protip 2 - A professional crew will want to mic you. Unless you like having a mic box taped to your back, consider wearing two pieces and have a belt or sturdy waist on your bottom half. Often we drop microphone down your shirt and clip it to your bra. Your professional sound tech will try to do this without being too handsy, but you can help them out by being prepared.
In general if you are shooting a professional interview, you should look the part: shirts, ties and jackets for men; skirts, dresses or pantsuits for women. Shoes should be polished, socks should be long enough to cover the leg when crossed and colors should be muted to draw less attention.
Try to avoid wearing anything large and sparkly. This includes large rings, bracelets, dangling earrings, necklaces and pins. You want the focus to be on you, not on the crazy specks of light or the over enthusiastic jewelry. Also watch out for jewelry that makes noise. The clank of bracelets/earrings over and over on your audio track will drive you bananas.
Makeup & Hair
Thankfully we no longer have to put four inches of stage paint on to look normal on camera. Today's cameras are very sensitive and generally recreate skin tones very well. Makeup is primarily a means by which you can even out your skin tone and add a touch of color.
Normal street makeup is fine, but EVERYONE (men and women alike) should wear minor eyeliner. Also chuck some powder into your bag to touch up shiny spots as they pop up.
You’ll also want to try to tame as many of your fly-aways as possible. Spraying hairspray on a brush or comb and then using it can help.
Hydrate & Sleep
The night before the shoot is not the night to stay up late and party. Try to get a good night's sleep the night before and hydrate as much as you can so your skin looks its best!