Video uses images and sound to deliver a message or tell a story. An effective video requires pre-planning ("pre-production") with attention to every aspect including the appearance of talent. Whatever your budget, everyone who will be on camera (actors, interviewees, extras or other speakers) needs to convey the desired image. What is their purpose in the video? What style is necessary to deliver your message and to be consistent with the content?
Advance attention to clothing selection and makeup techniques is crucial to allow talent to look their best. (This article assumes that special effects make-up and stylized or period costumes are not required for the project.)
Ideally there is someone with a vision directing traffic, i.e. a director. On lower-budget projects, the director’s role is often combined with that of the producer. For very simple shoots, this role is often eliminated entirely. However, if these responsibilities are not considered, the message of video will suffer.
Before the shoot, someone must have developed a plan for the story or message the video will tell. Based on this plan, an overall look or style should be defined that supports this message. This look should be reflected in the set/environment/location where the video will be shot, the clothing and makeup worn by the talent, and the lighting and shooting style of the videographer. The director (or whoever is filling this role) should think this through and communicate it to the crew and talent in advance to allow them to prepare.
Clothing should support the content through style, be flattering to the wearer, look good on camera, and not create problems. Clearly communicate to your talent the role they will be playing in the project and what you expect from them, providing as much information as possible. Do not assume anything. If you want them to wear a specific item on camera (suit, dress, jeans, flat shoes, etc.), let them know well ahead of the shoot date, so they have plenty of time and can ask questions or raise issues.
Here are a few important things to consider when planning the wardrobe.
Talent makeup should look natural and improve appearance without detection. Although non-professional talent may initially feel uncomfortable with the idea, everyone benefits from even a modest application of cosmetics. Additional definition will boost the overall look and offer more polish than a simple “street makeup” approach. Makeup can also hide facial imperfections, such as circles under the eyes, sagging chins, scars and misshapen features. If your talent has these kinds of special needs or the content of your video requires a specific visual style, a professional makeup artist should be hired.
If you are not employing a professional stylist, don't assume your talent will come to the set ready to shoot. Discuss this subject with them preemptively and be clear about your expectations. For most purposes, daily makeup is all that is needed, and cosmetic wearers are usually comfortable applying their own. However, it is always a good idea to have basic tools available that they may not bring to the set, such as tissues, swabs, a comb, hairspray and a mirror. Here are some simple tips to basic makeup application for video.
Before the shooting starts, do a final visual check using an external monitor if possible. Everyone on the set can help – the more eyes, the better. Make sure everyone understands that tiny details can sometimes make or break a video and are worthy of time and attention.
To many, wardrobe and makeup may seem like minor details. Professionals know that careful preparation will help avoid jarring inconsistencies and save time, money and headaches in the long run. If the talent is playing a married person, make sure they have a ring. If a woman playing a shopper needs a handbag, don’t assume she is bringing one.
Many problems are avoidable with proper planning. As one producer/director explained, “I once hired an actor to play a salesperson from his professional (but dated) headshot, and he showed up to the studio with a bleached blonde Mohawk style hair cut! This was my mistake, since I assumed his hair color hadn’t changed and I hadn’t asked the casting agent how old the photo was. I was so relieved when our very resourceful stylist was able to save the day! Unfortunately, everyone had to wait an extra hour for the actor to become camera ready.”
Even a simple detail like a glistening forehead or a distracting stray hair can waste time on the shoot or in the edit. “The devil is in the details” and a bit of extra attention to wardrobe and makeup can make the difference between a sloppy final product and a smooth, polished production.