How to speak to camera when you can’t remember your lines

Speaking to camera, you either love it or you really really hate it! There are a number of ways to speak to camera to get your message across in your videos, and while some might be easier than others, today we are going to explore ways to come across on screen like Anchorman (ok, maybe not like Anchorman!) But at the very least like you know what you are talking about and can keep the viewer engaged in your message.




How to Speak directly to camera

Some videos may require you to speak directly to the camera, these techniques works when you want to engage directly with the audience instead of talking ‘off camera’ to an interviewer for example. It is very very hard to speak directly to camera when you have a set script with specific information you want to get across, this is especially true when you have a few pages of information you want to say.

There are a few techniques that can be used to speak like a pro directly to the camera, each have their pros and cons and suit different scenarios.


1. Use two camera angles and switch between each view with editing.

Pros: Keeps the pace of the video by switching to each camera

Cons: Increased editing time = increased cost of video.

This technique can work very well if you are able to remember your script for around a few lines to a paragraph at a time. The editor can use each angle to ‘join’ each paragraph of you speaking together seamlessly so the audience thinks the video just changes camera angle but in reality, you have had a breather to remember the next paragraph / have a shot of your favourite tipple to calm the nerves!

If you don’t have access to a second angle, you can always film the interview twice, once on a wide angle and then again on a close up. These can then be switched back and forth in the edit.


Above is an example of a 2 camera interview (check the 27 – 33 second mark)


2. Request the production company to bring an autocue.

Pros: You don’t need to remember your lines at all!

Cons: Some people can look very serious on camera when reading the auto cue, auto cues / tele prompters do take some time to get used to.

The same technique used by news readers all over the world, using a teleprompter / auto-cue literally puts the words at the front of the camera so you can read the lines and look down the lens of the camera at the same time.

It does sometimes require an extra person on set for longer scripts or challenging locations. With the increase of technology, it has become much easier to fit an auto cue onto most cameras using a simple app on an i-pad and a bit of hardware. This means that for simple setups when talking to camera, most production companies can arrive with a basic auto cue ready to go.



Example of an auto cue attached to the front of a camera.


3. Don’t have a set script and speak to the camera off the top of your head.

Pros: Quick, easy and natural speaking delivery is always the most engaging!

Cons: Not easy to do, especially when the script is of a technical nature and is quite long (more than 200 words or so).

“I’ll just wing it”… Sounds easy right! Well, to some people it is, if you know what you want to say off by heart and want to speak to the camera in a more natural tone, then speaking just from the top of your head is a great option.

This can also be used with the two camera angle technique we spoke about above. When you have script that requires verbatim though (numbers, quarterly reports, dates, specific terminology etc) then this can be a risky option. I have seen it happen so many times where as soon as the camera starts rolling your head goes blank. Because the camera is rolling, the lights are on and the crew are ready people can start to become nervous which makes you even more nervous!

It’s then easy to look a bit stressed on camera which the audience will notice!




4. Use a lot of ‘overlay’.

Pros: Can make your delivery to camera much more engaging, keeps pace of the video, can help describe what your talking about.

Cons: Not really many cons with this one, the filming time will increase though.

‘Overlay’ is the term given to vision that is edited over you talking to camera and is used to support the topic that your talking about. For instance, if you’re a CEO speaking to all staff members in the company about the companies vision for the future, some footage of your staff members doing their job (well) or interacting with customers etc can really help to take the video to the next level and keep the staff engaged when they are watching the video.

The editor of the video can then cut back to you speaking every now and then just to remind the audience that you are speaking to them. If you chose to use this technique then you can simply read only a few lines to the camera and read the rest of the script off the paper itself.

Filming overlay is recommended on most videos where there is a person speaking directly to camera, it adds interest, engagement level, dynamism and helps get the message of the video across.


What you shouldn’t do:


  • Sticky tape the script just below the camera and take a peek at the script whenever you forget what you are saying. Seriously, don’t do this! It will put the audience off as they will be able to see your eyes moving away from the camera and looking just below the lens to have a read of the script! You will lose their focus and it never looks good!


  • Create the script 20 minutes before you are scheduled to record it.


  • Unless its a highly targeted, pre engaged audience I wouldn’t recommend speaking to camera for more than 2 minutes. A neat trick to see how long your script will go for roughly is to do a word count on your script and divide the number by 3. Thats roughly how many seconds your delivery to camera will go for.



Need to find a production company in Australia to film your interview to camera?

Crew Scout has hundreds of vetted production companies and freelancers ready to pitch directly to you for the chance to work on your project, you can view their past work, reviews, skills and experience. You pick your favourite!




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