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4.2 Facial Expression

When you speak, your face is the centre of attention. What you do with it is all part of communicating your message. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the importance of eye contact and how to use facial expressions to appear more animated.

4.2 Facial Expression

I'm Cindy Burgess for Tuts plus. In the previous lesson we looked at how to position our bodies in front of the camera and move naturally. This lesson is all about how we use our face to communicate. Everything from eye contact to expressions and animation. This is especially relevant for video work, because more often than not, the shot is framed from the waist or armpits up. Your face is the center of attention. And what you do with it is all part of communicating your message. Let's start with eye contact. Earlier on I mentioned that one of the ways to be comfortable and conversational on camera is to imagine you're talking to a friend who's sitting or standing across from you. Try to imagine their face where the lens of the camera is. Look directly into the lens like you're looking into their eyes. Try to avoid looking off camera like this or letting your eyes dart around while you're talking. Keep looking directly into the lens while you speak. Blink naturally. If you're recording video using your computer, a tablet, or a smartphone take a moment to figure out exactly where the lens of the camera is. It's usually located on the side or top of the device and can be hard to see. Try sticking a little piece of paper or a sticky note around it to help you know exactly where to look. Place your video camera at eye level. If you're recording using a laptop or mobile device you might have to get creative in order to raise it to eye level. For example you could place your laptop on a stack of books or a small box. If you're using a tablet or smartphone, there are many tripod attachments and stands you can buy or you can find a creative way to prop it up. Okay, so you've got your video camera at eye level. Maintain eye contact with the lens while you speak. This is what you would do if you were speaking to someone in real life, so do this with the video camera as well. This next tip is a biggie, smile. It sounds so obvious but many people forget to do this. They're nervous, they're concentrating on what they're going to say, they're worried about making a mistake. And as a result, their expression turns serious. So relax. No one's going to live or die based on what you say. Presumably. Enjoy yourself. Remember you're talking about what you know. You're the expert. It's especially important to smile at the beginning of your video. When you're welcoming your viewer and at the very end when you're saying goodbye. This is the viewers first and last impression of you so make it a good one. Here's the other thing about smiling. It has to be genuine. We all know what a fake smile looks and feels like think of the last time you posed for a photo and had to say cheese, that's a forced smile. Real smiles engage your eyes as well as your mouth. They cause the corners of your eyes to crinkle up. Take a look at my two smiles here. Can you see the difference between the forced smile on the left and the real smile on the right? So smile with your eyes, as they say. When you're not smiling, try to maintain a neutral or pleasant expression. The only way you'll know what this looks and feels like is if you practice in front of a mirror. For me, a pleasant expression feels like a faint smile. So as I sit here talking to you I feel like I'm smiling slightly. I find if I don't do this like now, I tend to look too grim and serious. So spend a little time in front of the mirror to find out what a pleasant expression looks, and more importantly, feels like for you. Now let's talk about facial animation. People who are new to video tend to sit very still and are afraid to move their body and face. They end up with a deadpan expression. This ends up being reflected in a monotonous tone of voice. Very few of us are like this in real life. If you could see yourself as you're talking to your friends and family you'd notice much more animation. We raise our eyebrows, furrow our brow, nod our head. You wanna do the same on camera. This will add energy to your presentation and your facial animation will be mirrored in your voice. Again, this all goes back to being loose and relaxed. If you're tense your head and your face won't move naturally. Most of all, remember that performing on camera is a craft. It's the kind of thing we learn by doing. Experiment with different body positions and facial expressions and see what works for you. The more you practice, the better you'll get. In the next chapter, we'll focus on crafting your message and delivering it on camera. I'm Cindy Burgess for Tuts plus. Thanks for watching.

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