Rob Nelson on CameraOn-camera Hosting

Hosts can add a personal touch to productions that are hard to get with interviews, and voice over narrations. They bring the audience into the scene and give them a personal tour of your subject.

Of course, when using a host, they can make or break your show. You'll want to get one that appeals to your target audience. Learn more about this in our section on Finding Talent!

We'll assume at this point either you a) have a great host and need to give direction or b) you are a host and you're looking for tips. To make it simple we'll frame this advise pretending you are the host.

Look at the camera more than you normally might if you were in a natural environment. You're trying to reach your audience and guess where they are. They're sitting on their couches and you'll need to look right at the lens. This may seem obvious, but its a common mistake. For example, say you're in on a beach full of jellyfish. You're supposed to describe what you see. A new host might turn to the environment to describe what they're looking at. You can do that briefly, but turn back to the camera to describe most of it.

Be animated whenever possible. Enthusiasm is addictive and your excitement will get the audience excited about your subject. There is no need to go over the top and pretend like you're the likes of Steve Irwin. Everyone gets excited in your own way. This brings us to our next point.

Be yourself on camera. Nothing is worse for a production than trying to be someone you're not. I can't tell you how many people roll play as Jeff Corwin or the Crocodile Hunter when we begin. Often as soon as the camera starts rolling, many people freeze up. They think they have to act a certain way. You don't, and better yet, it will come off richer if you're true to yourself.

Learn about your subject before you go into the field. You're the only impression many scientists will have of the media industry. Unless your approach is to look like a newbie, you'll be better off knowing your stuff. If you are going to interview a scientist, get a list of publications and at least read the abstracts. Remember, knowledge is power.

Know your role in the crew. This is rarely a problem but occasionally you have a host that wants to direct the production, telling people where to shoot and how to do their job. Those same people are there to make you look good and if you treat them like dirt, its not helping you any. Find gentle ways to give criticism.

An Example:

Watch the following video we shot on Rainforests. Critique the delivery of the hosts. Believe it or not, the entire production was scripted and then delivered with a skeleton film crew. We're not saying its all great. But it should allow you to see several different examples.


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