Treble Voices – Let’s look at Lens Time

Treble VoicesLet’s talk about lens time.

I guess first we should say what it is. Lens time is your time in front of the camera lens.

Now, why is this important? Your a singer or dancer, not a marketing agent or a salesman. You want to do your craft. How much lens time and the quality of that lens time is how they decide who they sign to entertain. You are an investment. And although they seem nice and may have you thinking they are doing this because they like you, never lose sight that it takes money to do these things and it doesn’t grow on trees. They will invest only in the good acts, the most entertaining. Lens time is how they measure you. The more they see your face and hear your voice, the more someone has invested in you.

Everyone wants to be on a winning team.

If they see your face a lot, they assume someone else thinks you’re going to pay off in the end by bringing lots of people to see and hear you. Many people will part with those dollars for parking, drinks, food entry fees and the like. There is a return on their investment. So if you like to do your craft and you want to be the best, then you need to learn a few things besides the song or dance in your act. It would be best if you learned how to act in front of the camera.

Lots of our young singers transit back and forth from stage singing to acting. This brings about some confusion regarding treatment given the camera lens. It can be not very clear, especially to the very young.

This should act as a general guideline for you or your youngster.

Let’s talk about acting.

 When you are acting on stage as in a play like Oliver or Maybe the little prince, your interaction is with the other cast members. Your audience does not exist. They are looking at your pretend word through a window. You pretend they aren’t there. The same goes for the camera. It is so those in another room can also see through their window into your pretend world. So when you look at the camera lens, you return them to the reality they seek to escape. In short, don’t look at the lens. It is not there.

Entertaining and Interviewing.

When you are on stage entertaining, whether singing, dancing or juggling, the camera is your audience and is more so your audience than the people sitting in the seats in front of you. The people sitting in the audience will think you looked directly at them if you even glance in their direction. The camera is usually feeding screens behind you or to the sides of the stage. It may also be feeding a recorder or a broadcast system. When you are singing, the camera is your best friend. Sing to it, look affectionately at it, and smile whenever it goes with the context of your song. If it is a sad ballad, then look sorrowfully at it. The camera will help you create an emotional bond with your audience. A bond that lasts long after your song and event is over. Here is a wonderful example of a great lens technique.

Vox angeli Les comédiens

Vox angeli Les comédiens

Notice how each singer appears to be singing to you, personally. Didn’t you feel that connection?


Hopefully, the emotional connection lasts all the way to or long enough that they order your personalized CD. Don’t be afraid to put an “add on” with your order for an autographed CD for an additional sum. Maybe make half of that sum for a charity. Many will cherish the personalized nature of the CD and be willing to pay the additional sum. It also helps in branding your talent. But that is for another writing.

So the bottom line is this. I love the camera, and it will love your bank account and get you more work.

Interviewing is soooo important. It can also be the scariest. You’re not singing a rehearsed song. You have to come up with answers. This is so important I can’t express it adequately. If you interview well, you will get more lens time than shake a stick.

If you interview by answering each question with a yes or no or worse yet, shaking your head yes or no, then it really doesn’t matter how much talent you have. You just went down a notch or two on the call-back list. So it would help if you learned to converse. That means using several words at a minimum. Ideally, you want to take 30-45 seconds for your answer. With a one-word answer, your cameraman doesn’t have time to tack you, zoom in and focus. You have to allow enough time for him to do that and then transition back to your host. With one-word answers, your audience will get ill if they bounce back and forth, so what you end up with is a two-shot, a shot where you share the lens with your host.

They [the audience] are not there to see your host. They are there to see and hear you! They will judge your sincerity and character by your answers and the tone of your voice, and most of all, by your eyes and the lens.

Interviewing is a little different in the way you treat the lens. You start off looking at the person asking the question and then look to the lens and back at your host at the very end of your answer. You also lower your voice at the end of your answer. Going up indicates you are not done speaking. These are signals to the producers to prepare for a switch. That may be a little tough for our British contingent as they tend to go up instead. Get over it.

[pull_quote_right]I try to see interviewing as performance art and take it as it comes.
Liz Phair[/pull_quote_right]

It would be best if you learned to speak slowly, don’t rush it. Speak plainly and project well. Pretend there is no microphone, and you want to be heard. That doesn’t help me to yell, but to speak loudly. One way to set the tone of the interview is to take the opportunity to thank your host for the invitation to appear before answering your first question. Let it go something like this:

Host Marie: Well, Johnny, you have quite a voice for a little guy. How long have you been singing?

Johnny: Well, before I answer I want to thank you for this invitation to sing it has been just wonderful, you and your staff are simply the best. [Pause for the applause to die down.] Now to answer your question, I started singing when I was very young. Mom said I would pretend that I had a microphone and sing along with the radio. I would have been four or five, maybe. But I didn’t start singing professionally on stage until I was nine.

Now, what did we do? We captured 20-40 seconds of lens time that we would not have had with a simple two or three-word answer. Think about how valuable that time is. That is 20-40 seconds more that the audience has to learn your face, voice and personality—all very important.

The questions you are likely to be asked are generally easy to predict. And your mom or dad can help you rehearse and practice to stretch out your answers. They can also ask the booking agent to ask what questions the host might ask you before the event. That way, you have the opportunity to think about how you will respond ahead of time. You can use catchphrases to give yourself time to think or avoid questions that make you uncomfortable. But that will be in my next work on Interviewing.

Just make them laugh, and you have purchased invaluable lens time. And more importantly, they will move you up a notch on the call back list. More interviews mean more opportunities to sing.

Relax and smile into the camera. Remember that $miles go a long way towards you getting lens time.

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