How not to do a presentation; how to make the most of your actors
A few tips on two sides of 'performance'
Life After Death By Powerpoint
This isn't quite as funny as the audience makes out, but it does make a good point about some obvious things to avoid if you are doing a powerpoint. Some people think that just using a different presentation tool, like Prezi, automatically gets you over these problems, but it doesn't. Every year, lots of students submit presentations that don't really make good use of the medium in getting their message across, but which are really little more than disguised essays. Often Prezis can induce a feeling of seasickness so just like Powerpoint, use them carefully.
If you are asked to do a presentation live in front of an audience, aim to have the minimum amount of text on screen and go for images instead that you can explain aloud. Less writing on screen means you are less tempted to just read it out; talking from pictures gives you the chance to really explain what you know and understand. If you are asked to produce something in a format for a distant audience- like putting it online- think about how much you need to write and how much you could explain by other means there too.
Sometimes tools like Voki or GoAnimate, with speaking avatars, can be quite tempting, but again can end up simply disguising the fact that you don't have much to say. Some of the best online evaluation and explanation of work that I have seen has been in video format, with some good use of voiceover, intertitles and inserted video material.
Making the most of your actors
One of the hardest things with any kind of student production work is getting people to perform effectively. Whether you want people to be in your pictures or to act in your film or to be the band in your video, they have got to look convincing for the part. It is a really common way in which projects fall down- the acting just looks unconvincing. So here are five top tips to make it better:
1. Prepare. Make sure the people appearing know well in advance what they have to do. If they have lines, give them the script to learn. if they have to sing, give them the song words and a copy of the track to practice on their own.
2. Disguise. On the day, have a costume and makeup for them. make them look like someone else and have a mirror so they can see they look like someone else. It is amazing how you become less self conscious once you look different and start 'playing the part'
3. Rehearse. Before you run the camera, run them through precisely what to do- where to stand, how and where to move. Don't just make them make it up. You are the director, so you need to tell them what to do. If they are uncomfortable with it, you may have to adapt, but you have to be in charge!
4. Direct. Be sure that the camera, the actors and the location are in tune with one another. Think about all the setups you need and different angles you might use and make sure you get enough coverage of them all.
5. Edit. If you have done your best and they have too and you have shot lots of stuff, it should be ok, but in the edit you may still find bits you don't like much. This is where you have to make some choices about what stays in and what goes out. If it looks poor, it is poor. Cut it.
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