woman holding a film clapboardGoing from behind the mic to in front of the camera is a BIG difference, in fact, it’s so huge that I’ve decided to share my own experience with you.

Fortunately, I’m working with someone who understands where this audio girl is coming from. This same person worked with Don LaFontaine at one point in Los Angeles so you know he’s good.
Hear what I’ve come to learn and also find out what worked for me on VOX Daily.

What’s Cooking?

You might be wondering why I’m talking about on-camera and how it came to be that I can share my experiences doing so. At Voices.com we have decided to make a series of videos for the web pertinent to the voice over industry and are working with Adam Caplan of Web.isod.es.

You might recall Adam’s name as he has contributed to VOX Daily from the perspective of a producer who has worked with Don LaFontaine on the Practice of Brevity.
Ashley Hall, an Account Executive at Voices.com (check out our Facebook page to meet her), is assisting me in this process and we’ve learned a lot, much of which is detailed in today’s posting. What you read here are insights and experiences gleaned from the screen tests we did on July 20th, 2010.

Standing in the Limelight

A green screen is a creature I’ve heard about but have never encountered personally until today. Something you should not do, which of course I did, was to wear green or yellow in front of a green screen. I wanted to make sure that this wouldn’t cause an issue for my hair colour (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which one that is) and was assured that it would not be a terrible thing.

There are a number of factors one must think of when on-camera that are moot subjects for individuals safely nestled behind the microphone. One of these points is your clothing.
No one cares what you are wearing when recording a voice over so long as it doesn’t make noise that ruins the audio.

When you are on-camera people can see you and your physical appearance. What you choose to wear will make an enormous impact on how people receive your message. If a green screen is in use, the colours you choose to wear also matter. Here are some tips to consider when using a green screen:

Run Away from the Following and Avoid like the Plague:

๏ Green clothing
๏ Yellow clothing
๏ Flashy jewelry
๏ Noisy jewelry
๏ Hair that moves too much (banish frizzies, tie it back or flat iron it ladies)
๏ Open toe shoes (I know!)

Teleprompter VS Powerpoint

Have you ever tried to read from a teleprompter before?
I had never in my life attempted this and was amazed by how everything worked. Many people on TV aren’t as brilliant as you might think… most of them follow a teleprompter or many teleprompters as the case may be when on live television to deliver the news or share tidbits about a featured guest. This includes news anchors, talk show hosts and on-camera personalities in sports, entertainment and more.

I was given the choice between trying to read from the teleprompter or from a Powerpoint. We tried the teleprompter first. It kind of reminded me of how an accompanist needs to follow a singer. Although it worked to a degree, I found that because I wasn’t used to the teleprompter, some difficulty ensued when trying to speak at a comfortable pace. Parts of me wanted to get ahead of the teleprompter because I wanted more context for what I was saying in relation to what came next.

While reading from a teleprompter was doable, I found that reading from a Powerpoint was the better option for me. As it turns out, all of the voice people Adam has worked with also prefer the Powerpoint to the teleprompter because they see more of the bigger picture and also can establish their own pace.

Exaggerate! Bigger is Better

While the camera may be known for adding 10 lbs, it is notorious for zapping you of your energy, shrinking the most natural gestures that even the most animated Italian can muster and reducing normal movement to a restrained attempt to use your arms effectively.
Bigger is better when acting on-camera. Your movements need to be deliberate and nearly twice as big as you would deem appropriate in any other setting.

Your Voice is Awesome… Now, if the Rest Would Follow!

When presenting, my voice was projected well, fluctuated and came through with a crisp, inviting delivery. On the contrary, my physical presence outside of smiling eyes and a smiling face, was not.

This comes with time and may not even happen after the first session. What you can do to loosen up is practice in front of a mirror to become used to making larger motions and how to hold your hands. The worst thing you can do is to not move at all and appear to be frozen.
Be aware that physical tension may creep in. This is easier to spot on-camera.

If you have physical tension when you perform, this may become glaringly obvious when on-camera. Know where these areas of tension are and see if you can relax those areas. Whether it’s locked knees, curled up fingers or some kind of overcompensation posture wise, you need to identify it and find a way to subdue or eliminate tension so that it doesn’t come across in the footage. Sometimes this tension affects the voice as well. While most tension can’t be spotted easily in an audio recording, it’s a different ball game when on-camera.

Do You Have Any Tips or Experiences to Share?

For those of you who have been on-camera before and have tips to share, please do! Your comments and stories will help those who have not been on-camera but are required to do so at some point. I for one could use your advice and trust there are others who would appreciate it too.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,
©iStockphoto.com/Yvan Dubé

Previous articleThe Voice of God
Next articleMid-Year Reassessment a.k.a Check Up From The Neck Up
Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Yes, I’ve done a fair amount of on camera work, but stopped doing it about 15 years ago because it doesn’t pay as well as voiceover.
    But I’ve found that gestures need to be SMALLER on camera, and large as life on stage.

  2. My sister (Rosalind Graham) and her husband produced a public-access music and ministry program for 18 years. I was priviledged to be the announcer for the program (Intro, outro, etc) but from time to time I was called on to speak or sing in front of the camera. Many are the shots of the surprise of forgotten lyrics, talking to the wrong camera and sometimes not talking at all ( those long pauses before and after songs)…Practice finally made perfect–or at least much better–as through disciplined self-direction and professional help I was able to get better.
    No teleprompters, though…that probably would have been even MORE disastrous for me…

  3. I’ve been working on camera nearly as long as I’ve been doing voiceover work, which is 20 years now. I’ve focused on VO work because on-camera work definitely zaps the energy much more quickly than voiceover. I often find I’ve managed to work up a major headache after a day on camera, which never happens after a day in my recording booth! It’s also great to not have to worry about being “camera ready” all the time, as well as avoiding the hassles of fighting rush-hour traffic–ahhh, the joys of working from home in ones own recording studio!
    All that being said, if you have an opportunity to work on camera, do it! The camaraderie with other actors and crew when you are on the set can be very energizing and rewarding, which doesn’t happen often in the confines of a lonely sound booth. I personally love the teleprompter, and found Stephanie’s comments very interesting. I guess having done it for so long, it’s very comfortable and I prefer it to even a hard-copy script, but it was very interesting to get a different perspective on that.
    It’s also amazing when there are scads of people on the set, including producers, directors, sound, light, makeup and clients, all trying to make decisions and collaborate to make the shoot run as seamlessly as possible. That’s when I love just being the “lowly talent”, saying my lines when I am called upon, with no other responsibilities. It’s a different world on-camera and if you ever have the chance to try it out, go for it!

  4. As someone who has made the transition from radio to voice over and on-camera work, I’m certainly not afraid to be ‘in the spotlight!’ But oh how lucky to be able to use a teleprompter or power point! During my radio career, I’ve spoken in front of concert crowds of 10,000…but 1 on 1, in front of a camera & crew? read on….
    I haven’t done many on-camera commercials, perhaps 4 or 5, but the most-recent made me a bit nervous, because it was just ME in the spot! Yup. Just me, and a big ‘ole camera about 3 feet from my face. And all I had to do? Just act out my 3 lines.
    I received the short script the evening before. (Did they really think I could memorize ALL 3 lines–about 12 seconds of copy)??!!!
    I’m a voice over guy–I’m used to having the script right in FRONT of me!!
    Well, with the help of the crew (holding up script), I was able to get through it with no problem. Next time, I’ll be sure to get the script far enough in advance! My nerves got the best of me, but with each project comes more experience. I enjoy on-camera work, and expect to do more in the future…but can now really appreciate how difficult it is to be a good on-camera actor!

  5. If you have a blue board, you can’t wear blue either, however, green is the most common. You also need to stay away from white which can often produce a “glow” and do not wear busy patterns such as houndstooth/plaid.

  6. Sounds very interesting!
    When doing voice over, I make whatever facial expressions will help with the delivery, and I don’t worry about whether I look silly with those expressions, whether my clothes are sitting just so, whether I look fat, etc.
    In contrast, when I had my first on-camera job, I had to remember to smile, think about what I looked like, think about how my body moved, think about where I was looking, etc the whole 4 hours – all while reading from a teleprompter and listening carefully through an ear piece.
    That’s a BIG difference!

  7. Or when you have on camera experience but you’ve been in the booth so long, you forget how to “act”. ‘-)

  8. So true! I do both kinds of work here in Houston and I truly need to make a mental shift before each gig.

  9. I’ve spent many years on both sides of the camera, using a teleprompter and the ear prompter. I’ve been a spokes person for many a corporate video when there used to be budgets for such things. Most of that is behind me now and most of my time these days are spent in a padded cell with a mic in front of me.

  10. I have done some green screen work on both sides of the camera and I have a couple of tips off the top of my head that might help. If I were to sit and think for awhile, I could probably come up with more.
    Don’t wear white or pastels to a green screen event – it throws off the exposure levels of the camera, so the green goes out of balance. Stick to dark blues, browns, greys and blacks.
    Powder your face, especially guys with receding hairlines – a little “glistening” on the forehead causes glare, which is the video equivalent to distortion.
    If possible, try to be ready to do the script in one continuous take. While having talent standing perfectly still makes the viewer uncomfortable, editing a video where the subject is moving – even rocking back and forth slightly – is impossible to edit. Even though the audio may sound smoothe, you’ll look like you’re having some kind of seizure as you jerk back and forth.
    If you have any nervous habits with your hands, hair, lips, or wrinkling your nose, work on controlling them – they will become obvious on camera.
    I hope that’s helpful to someone. Again, it’s just random thoughts that leap to mind from my experience making mistakes. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
    Make it a great day!
    Chad Ketcher

  11. Hi Stephanie – first let me thank you for taking the time and making the effort to support your members in such creative and enjoyable and helpful ways!
    I am an on camera talent, voice actor and musician and have lots of experience in front of the camera. One thing that I wanted to add is that while it may seem counter intuitive to make gestures smaller – hence the remark about making them bigger [ but perhaps you were referring mainly to green screen, which in my experience is a played a little bigger when having to match visuals on the monitor] it’s actually very distracting to the viewer to see lots of arm/hand/head even EYE movement!
    I’ve taken many many hours of on camera classes, workshops and acting intensives and i can tell you that across the board the energy an on camera talent brings to the commercial spot, green screen industrial, film, tv video project is what makes a performance come alive. I’m a very large personality with lots of energy and have learned how to be physically circumspect while creating the emotion and energy with my intention! If that sounds too esoteric I can vouch for the fact that the intention, focus and honesty/authenticity that an actor brings to the script and the action are what make the piece real. Which is very similar to what we have to do to interpret- even the driest copy in VO – to make the read believable.
    Here’s link to a national commercial I did for Merry Maids a few years ago -http://sissysiero.net/Video_Reels.html that’s still on the air!
    I do want to add one more thing: any VO actor who wants to broaden skill sets to include on camera should most definitely take an on going scene study class that is taught on camera. It’s the fastest way to find what works and what doesn’t so the lessons are learned in front of a casting director!
    Sissy Siero

  12. >>>This same person worked with Don LaFontaine at one point in Los Angeles so you know he’s good.
    Just because he worked with Don LaFontaine means nothing, although he may be great.
    Did he tell you that your gestures should be large? …forgive me…my curmudgeon gland is acting up 😉
    Even when I was an animated TV weatherman, my animated gestures were small, controlled and very smooth/fluid. Any movement, in a shot that is fairly tight, exaggerates movement. Above all movement must be smooth/fluid unless there is a compelling reason for it not to be.
    When I was doing TV it was a blue screen…. You kids 😉
    As for teleprompter, I never had any problem with them. Perhaps that was because I had always written the script and knew the context or maybe I had great teleprompter operators.

  13. Hi Sissy,
    Thank you for commenting! Yes, I was referring to using a green screen. We did a test run to see how things would look with me further away to show a full body shot. For these reasons, it was important to try being bigger than what felt comfortable. After reviewing what I looked like with smaller movements in comparison to how the actions appeared when they were graceful yet bigger, it made an enormous difference and was the way to go when shooting from that distance.
    While I’m here, I’ll answer Steve. I agree, just because someone has worked with a celebrity doesn’t mean that they’re talented by association. I assure you, talent is not in question nor was the advice given to me as you can appreciate in my response just above directed to Sissy.
    Thank you everyone for sharing your tips, experiences and opinions. In some cases, it is better to keep movements smaller but where I was concerned using the green screen, this worked for me. Everything is relative 🙂
    Best wishes,

  14. Hi Stephanie,
    Love the Vox Dailies as usual. Your consistency in supplying them, and with endlessly interesting topics, is to be applauded – you’re amazing!
    Just wanted to correct a little “fact” in this article. One can NEVER assume that ALL actions should be bigger on camera, just as they can never assume they should be smaller (a more popular misconception).
    I always tell my students when talking about this to think about the SHOT SIZE. Is it a Long Shot (big movements, and comparable to acting in a large theater), Mid Shot (usually from about the waist (Smaller movements, as in a smaller theater), Close up (say from the chest/neck, or in an intimate sized theater), or a “Choker Shot”, ECU or Extreme Close Up (no comparison in a theater, unless maybe a 6 seater!), where the “thinking” process is seen in the performer’s eyes and facial tics? If you used big movements in an ECU you’d look like you’re having a seizure!
    However, the “internal energy” dictum applies to ALL of the shot sizes, in that we can sense, as an audience, if you’re flat or fizzy. Just as we can in your voice. So keep your energy up, always, but find out your shot size before performing so that you can adjust your movements accordingly.
    Keep up the good work.
    Best regards,

  15. Hi Mirren,
    Thank you for your amazing feedback and clarification on the Shot Size. I was indeed being directed to do so because we were shooting with me at a distance re: Long Shot (bigger motions, etc.).
    Great advice that I trust people will take to heart 🙂
    Best wishes,

  16. Dear Stephanie:
    This may be a touch belated in a reply to this newsletter about “on camera” work but hopefully usable for the future.
    I have done a good deal of on camera, plus worked on several movie sets with movie crews. I learned a lot on both sides of the camera.
    Yes, on camera work can drain your energy, plus dehydrate you if the hours are long. I take a bottle of juice or mineral water that has been diluted with an equal amount of water. Add a small dash of salt. This way you have fluid replacement without too much of an all sugar type drink.
    The lights get hot. Keep loose powder on hand for make-up. Also, for those “Italian hands” that I also have, ask the cameraman or director this question. “Where is my frame?” That way you are aware what you can NOT do, so that you won’t keep going out of frame with your hands.
    Hope those are still worth knowing.
    Rosie Goodman

  17. Thank you Rosie!
    I appreciate hearing from you and your comments are just in time. We haven’t had the official shoot yet and what you’ve shared is wonderful. I trust it will help others too who are inexperienced with being on-camera.
    Best wishes,

  18. I attend Clayton State University. We have a news organization, cstvnow.com. I like the idea of using powerpoint, but how would you be able to control that while looking at the camera? Is it in the same format?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here