The Cold Stare of the Video Camera Lens
The cold staring eye of the video camera lens can be equally unsettling when you are being filmed presenting to camera. The camera has no human qualities. It doesn’t blink, smile, or give you encouraging feedback like a real person does – it’s just a machine (standing in for your audience) observing you with an intense robotic stare.
This can take some time getting used to. Actors and TV presenters are trained to deal with this. Unfortunately most people who are new to presenting come across very differently on camera than they do in the flesh and without knowing the “performance technicals” required for the camera, this can seriously detract from your message.
Our Eyes are the Key Communicators On-screen
Our eyes communicate our feelings – including comfort and discomfort. Few things project our emotions as well or as rapidly as the eyes. Humans have relied on looking into someone’s eyes for thousands of years to get an understanding of how the other person is feeling and whether or not they are telling us the truth. In this situation the video camera can come across as being dominant, it signifies a psychological relationship of power because it does not interact with you – it observes. This could explain why some of my clients feel psyched-out by the overbearing lens. Thankfully, awareness is half the problem solved.
Common Eye Contact Pitfalls to Avoid
This is an industry term we use while casting a.k.a. “the bulging eye”. This is where a presenter appears to be “staring down” the camera, their eyes unnaturally bulge and they barely blink (similar to that of an insect – hence the term bug-eye) while delivering their message. Having observed 100s of people doing this when casting them for TV commercials, my theory is – is that they are unconsciously “mirroring” back the unblinking stare of the camera lens. (This is caused by their mirror neurons which I will discuss in a future article).
Their eyes are bulging and they seem to have a glazed over stare. It is like they are trying to bore holes with their eyes. This unnatural staring or “eyeballing” can come across as being creepy and off-putting to the viewer. Subconsciously, having bulging eyes and an infrequent blink rate can signal hostility or tension to the viewer, and can detract from your message.
This is the opposite of the Bug-eye, where the presenter blinks more frequently than normal. When we are stressed, nervous, or struggling emotionally, our blink rate increases.
Actor Hugh Grant famously uses his eyelid flutter to show his bumbling nervousness around women in movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral. Pop-star Madonna does this in the extreme and sometimes closes her eyes entirely while speaking. Body language experts say it could be a combination of things – perhaps feelings of superiority combined with social anxiety or not liking what you see.
Either way, an excessive blink rate it is not a positive thing to be doing when you are presenting to camera and want to be taken seriously. More importantly, this phenomenon is also often seen with liars and can detract from your message.
In my next article I will share my tips and techniques, on how to look at the camera lens in a natural, confident way for your online video presentations.
What have been your experiences going eye to eye with the video camera lens?