Just Another Beautiful Day in New Mexico
Friday, April 10, 2020, 6:00am. My Friday started like all the rest of my days in week four of my sequester. In the high desert of New Mexico, mornings start crisp and cool with a bright sunrise over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Not a bad way to start the day. So, this Friday, I punched the Nespresso Machine and waited the moments for it to brew. Cat Isabel cruised by, and Jasper dog and Wendy were out an asleep in bed. I sort of like the solitude and rarely look at email until after the first espresso. I know you are saying, “poor baby.”
Today was different, and for some reason, I opened my email on my iPad. I never do that! Maybe it was a mistake or something Freudian.
The first thing I saw was an email from Megan, an old consulting client and long time friend in New York marked “Urgent”- Respond Immediately! She is an executive with a mega-company, and I worried that something was very wrong. So, I popped open the email and began to laugh out loud. Here was the first line. “Bob, holy shit, I need your help now. I am working from home and have to teleconference every day next week, and I look like shit on camera.” “What should I do?”
Before I go on, Megan knows me very well and my misspent youth. I spent many years involved with Hollywood mostly behind the camera in the early days of digital productions. Lots of tall tales, but I do know a few things about making people look good on camera. Keys KPRO line was developed in Hollywood with makeup artists. Today my Beta test team, Wendy calls them “Bob’s Possie,” are makeup artists, actors, or makeup specialists. So, Megan is in trouble and needs some image guidance.
First, my days for the last month or so have been turbulent with lots of customer questions, manufacturing issues, and scrambling like most everyone. Most days are 12-14 hours. It may seem to pale in these times, but honestly, I welcomed the Saturday Night Live moment. So as I sipped my Nespresso, I decided to take the request seriously because I know her, and she was in distress over how she looks to her peers.
Megan lives on the water in Connecticut. She has this beautiful porch that overlooks the sound. It is a very old New England style home and a perfect setting for an executive to have a conference call. She is a big dog, so people expect her to have a nice home. She does, and why not show it off.
It is crucial to recognize that Megan is quite pretty, thin, and self-assured. Said, nobody looks good on a cheap webcam in poor lighting. That is why the lighting people get paid whatever they ask for, followed quickly by the makeup artist. Lighting is everything!
Rather then paraphrasing herein is my email to Megan.
Megan, do not ever do that again. Do Not ever use urgent unless you or mark have been hit by a beer truck.
Here is what I want you to do in order:
- Move your computer out onto the porch where people can see the water and boats going by. It will distract them from looking at just you with a bare white wall behind you.
- Make a couple of reflector flats by taking cardboard and covering it with crinkled aluminum foil. Position these, so the outdoor light fill in so that it is not too bright behind you. A movie screen will do if you have one tucked away from 25 years ago in your basement.
- Move your computer toward the back of the table so that you do not fill the screen of your webcam. They know what you look like, so you do not have to hover an inch away from the webcam.
- I will FedEx you Our Luminos and KPRO tinted moisturizer. I developed Luminos as a means of tricking digital cameras into softening and diffuse the look on screen without looking like a soft-focus filter. I want you to Google “Strobing” and notice where they suggest to create a brighter area on your face. This is around the eyes and on your cheekbones. This is where you will use the KPRO tinted moisturizer.
- I am going to order you a ring light from Amazon that I want you to hang over the camera on your computer. These light fill in your face with no shadows (Here is what I sent her). I hope it will arrive Monday for you, but you can use most any light right above the camera to light your face.
- When you get the ring light, practice with it by not looking directly in the camera, but by sitting off angle a bit and looking slightly to the left or right of the camera.
- Then when it comes to the teleconference, wear bright jewel tones like reds, blues, and greens. Dress up!
- Do not stare at the camera, and do not stay still. You want people to believe you are still alive.
- Consider using the stand that holds the ring light that I bought you and your iPhone. The iPhone camera is better than the one on your computer, and you can move it off-angle. You don’t need to see other people on the conference call. You will see what I mean. People on a webcam can be extremely distracting.
So, this is as important as dressing up going to the office for a big meeting. You do not want people to think you are on vacation and doing the frump thing. Get up and walk around once in a while. I know how much you hate sitting still. And do not hold up charts in front of the camera. People cannot see them. Send any presentation ahead of time, even though you like the art of surprise.
Lastly, Smile and keep your hands away from your face!
So, I heard back from her that the first call went off well, and everyone complimented her on how she looked, that she looked rested (Thank you, Luminos) and that she seemed like a Dover pro doing teleconferences. The ring light did not arrive on time, but she received it later on Monday. It will be an addition to the Tuesday call.
Now some of you might think that this is a sort of quirky subject at a time when there is lots of bad news. To me, there are a lot of people working from home, and the estimates are that video chatting is up 10,000% or an order of magnitude in geek terms. Keeping moving in tough times is not only necessary, but it is also something that can energize and console people. Clearly, there is no replacement for personal energy being with people. A well-lighted video call can be the next best thing.
Lights, Camera, Action!
“It is a serious time, but even in times of war you must laugh when you can.” Churchhill
Seems like a lot of people want to know what ring light I bought for Megan. Here is a link from Amazon.