Our top tips for acting on camera

By Yvette White - 24/05/2020

Our top tips for acting on camera

Due to the lockdown and COVID-19 actors have had to produce more video auditions for their prospective courses. Perform this is here to help.

Firstly acting on camera is very different to acting in the theatre; the main difference is that everything on the stage in theatre is seen whereas film/TV sets only include what they want to show on the camera. Both types of acting have very different obstacles to face so switching between the two can be tricky. Remember that when acting on camera, less is more so you don’t need big and dramatic gestures. Here are our top tips for acting on camera! 

Get comfortable  

A common fear for those starting to perform on film/TV sets is a fear of the camera and this is something that must be overcome as the fear will reflect on the camera to the audience as it picks up everything. Practise talking to the camera like a person, watching recordings of yourself and performing in front of it; it may seem silly, but you’ll soon learn how to give a great on-screen performance. Unless requested, you should also learn to ignore the camera as you don’t want to break the fourth wall.  

Details 

The camera will pick up every detail, even minute details that don’t seem important to you. This means that small details or gestures can’t be ignored as they will be noticed. Work on your facial expressions and make sure that everything in the frame fits in with the scene as this will help to make a good performance.  

Camera angles 

The film/TV show will likely be shot from various angles at the same time so be aware of this in your body language. Know the difference between all the camera angles so you’re aware of what each shot will show if requested to perform for a certain angle. Remember that each shot will focus on your eyes and the closer the shot is, the more important your eyes become, so use them to pull the viewer in and express emotion. 

Audio recording 

Know the different types of audio recording and be prepared for the microphones to pick up every small detail of sound. You need to be aware of any background noises such as whirring of a laptop or the noise of a boiler, the microphone will amplify these sounds reducing the clarity of your audio. Unlike stage acting, don’t over-enunciate your speech as you have equipment that will ensure you are heard; speak as you would normally and don’t put too much focus on the clarity of words you’re saying. 

Silences 

There will be times when you’re on camera but don’t have lines. Think of your silences as lines as they will impact your performance just as much as speech. Use silences to listen to what other characters are saying and express your reactions to what has been said; this will also help in the editing process as they will be able to get the flow of narrative captured well and will help with your character development. 

Preparation 

Prepare for your character journey to be shot non-consecutively depending on location, time and weather. It’s unlikely that the film will be shot in order, so you must be prepared for the order to be changed, not to have practise of shots and have to do well in only a few takes. If your character preparation and narrative analysis are good, you will be more flexible and able to do this with ease.  

Be informed  

Make sure you know the technical language that will be thrown around on set and understand what’s required of you. You should learn who does what so you can build connections and speak to the right person in the right situation. Film/TV requires many departments to work together to create a product so if you know your way around, are respectful and easy to work with, it opens up the chance of being asked to come back for other productions.  

Relax 

If you’re not fully relaxed or comfortable, the camera will pick it up. Film yourself and watch it back to see what you do (without realising) when you’re nervous and work on stopping this. Know your lines, know your character and be prepared for anything in order to help you relax and stop stressing out. You must be able to drop into character as soon as the camera starts rolling, so make sure you warm up, warm down and do breathing exercises.  

Teamwork 

Work with your partner and run lines together, discuss character relationships and improvise scenes listening to each other’s ideas and working together. Acting is based on reacting so working well with your partner is essential. If the scene requires you to look into their eyes, don’t change between eyes, pick the one closest to the camera and stick with it. You know a rehearsal is good when other’s think you’re just having a conversation rather than rehearsing!  

Avoid distractions 

Film/TV sets can be a distracting place, but you must stay in character and avoid distractions. Find something that works for you and develop a way of getting into character and staying in it when distractions arise. Don’t let other actors throw you off; all actors work differently and only you know what works for you, whether its meditating or repeating a sentence to yourself.  

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