Tuesday, June 26, 2007


So today I was sitting in front of the TV, wondering just how much trouble I’d get into if I put all the clocks in the house forward by two hours, ran into the bedroom, and told Sunny she had to get up because she was late for work.

Then I decided I quite like my testicles where they are, so decided to read the blogs instead.

So, I read Kato’s latest, and it struck a chord with me, especially as I’d just watched Tom Hanks on “Inside the Actor’s Studio”.

Tom Hanks said that for any actor, Artifice and self-consciousness is poison.

I want to take that and apply it to podcasting and Video-podcasting. (Incidentally, if you’re reading this on Tuesday morning, Episode 2 of ‘Earth Concepts for Aliens’ should be up. Check it out here).

You see, Blogging is one thing, podcasting is a totally different animal. With blogs we have that nice screen of anonymity. If you get popular, you have the option of being recognized. Don’t provide a picture of your face or your real name, and no one knows you’re ‘that blogger’ unless you tell them.

If we get into podcasting, we’re definitely putting ourselves a lot more ‘out there’.

This is where self consciousness comes in. I, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, hate my voice. It’s the classic ‘tape-recorder syndrome’. We hear ourselves speaking every day, but when we hear it played back, we all ask the same question:

“Do I really sound like that?”

The truth is, yes you do. But it only sounds weird because we’re not used to it. The way I like to look at it is that everyone else knows what I sound like. If they heard what I thought I sounded like, that’s what they’d think was weird.

It’s the same with our looks. Everyone’s a little insecure about the way they look, and we all have the same reaction when we see ourselves on camera. We have this self-image that the camera totally destroys:

“Does my profile really look like that?” “When did I put on so much weight?”

We get embarrassed because we know other people are seeing us at what we think isn’t our best. The kicker is the same as not liking our voice. That’s what everyone else sees all the time.

Even looking in the mirror we don’t see what everyone else sees. What we see in the mirror is backwards because it’s…well, a mirror image. If you don’t think I’m right, get someone to stand next to you when you look in the mirror. They’ll look slightly odd because no-ones face is symmetrical. The thing is, the ‘odd’ version you see in the mirror is what they think they look like.

Long story short, notice how when you watch a home movie, everyone looks normal except you? Everyone else watching thinks they’re the ones who look strange.

So where am I going with all this?

The point is, if you’re self conscious in front of a camera, it shows. The trick is just to relax and not worry about it. The only person you look weird to is yourself. Just watch TV for a while. Plenty of people on there are far from perfect. (Look at Jim Brass from CSI, Huge eyebrows, beer gut and he’s balding. Ever looked at him and thought “What where the casting people thinking???”)

In other words, the only person hung up on what you look like is you.

This brings us to artifice. If you’re on camera and start thinking about being in front of a camera and trying to look or sound cool, it comes across as really forced and fake. This doesn’t just apply to acting, but any time you’re in front of a camera.

Go and watch a podcast, any podcast. Most of the ones you’ll see will demonstrate my point. I’ve listened to a ton of podcasts where people for some reason people try to talk in a ‘radio-guy’ voice. It sounds like someone trying to be someone else, and it just doesn’t work.

It’s the on-camera paradox. The more you think about the way you want to look or sound, the less likely you are to achieve it.

I remember making my college show-reel, and I had a scene to shoot where someone had to walk through a door, turn left and walk off camera. Unfortunately, as soon as the camera went on, the guy did it, but held his hands all weird at his sides like a robot, stared directly ahead the whole time and kept looking at the camera out of the corner of his eye. He was that focused one being filmed, he couldn’t even ‘act’ a simple thing he probably does a hundred times a day.

So this brings me to my point.

If you’re making a podcast, which is just you and a buddy sitting on a couch talking about the latest tech stuff, that’s exactly what it should be. Look at Diggnation. When it’s funny, it’s funny because…well, it just happened to be funny. Kevin and Alex aren’t sitting there trying to be funny.

If you decide ahead of time that you’re going to be the ‘funny wacky one’, you’ll come across as being ‘the douche who tries way too hard to be funny and fails’.

In other words, be honest and be yourself. Otherwise you’ll look stupid. When people try to act, or are in front of a camera, they tend to over act.

For example, if you’re reviewing a movie, in real life you might say:

“It was an awful film, I just didn’t buy Joe Actor as an action hero after all the comedies he’s made.”

In a podcast, most people end up sounding like:

“OH…MY…GOD! This film was TERRIBLE!! And JOE ACTOR??? Go back to COMEDIES DUDE!!!! YOU SUCK!!!” (High-fives the co-host) “Joe Actor? More like SHMOE Actor!”

To close today, I just want to give one final example.

There’s an advertisement on television here in SC for a law office. In order to ‘appeal’ to the SC people the guy in the ad decided it would be a really good idea to wear a cowboy hat in order to be ‘country’.

Instead, he looked like a lawyer in a cowboy hat. It was just absurd. No Southern accent, just a lawyer giving a very stiff performance about personal injury…in a big cowboy hat. It stopped being a hat, it became a HAT. Something that sat on his head and screamed for attention because it was so out of place.

A high-school principal can’t ‘be fo’ realz’ with the kids at his school by wearing a backwards baseball cap and a huge dollar sign bling chain along with his suit. He might think it makes him look street, but it just makes him look like a tool.

Long story short, ‘forced’ doesn’t work.

So, while I can hardly claim expertise in this area, if you’re starting a video podcast, relax, be yourself and forget the camera. Otherwise you’ll look like a tool.


Kato said...

Jim Brass for the win!

Also, ping-pong.

MC Etcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MC Etcher said...

Hmn, the whole explaining things to aliens concept is also part of an idea I had a few years ago for a book about an (altered-human) mutant crime-fighter. Sadly, it fell into a Brain Crack.

He wakes up surrounded by aliens on one of their ships, in the classic alien exam table type room.

He's told that the Earth had been nuked and poisoned 500 years ago, and that they're archaeologists who have been assigned to study Earth.

He's told that he was found in a cryogenic storage tank, and that he's the first and only viable human they've found thus far.

He's just a regular guy, and he explains that he doesn't know how well he can help them, but he'll try. They rev up his brain with their technology, and then start bringing him artifacts that they've dug up.

Unfortunately, they don't bring him interesting stuff, but rather things like a fork, a thimble, a CD, and then one day, after a few months, they bring him a Big Mac.

It's at this point that he realizes a) He was probably never in cryogenic freeze and b) The aliens aren't very bright, despite their brain-revving tech.

(But hey, just because you have tech doesn't mean you're smart - can I build a toaster? No.)

It turns out that it's still the present day, and the guy foils a nefarious alien plan and escapes.

But he still has a bunch of cool mental abilities and some stolen tech... End of Book One.