Like mic fright, camera panic can range from mild to wild.
For many performers, it is a stronger feeling than mic fright because television adds the element of being seen as well as being heard. There is a sense of anonymity in radio that offers some comfort, whereas the camera removes any barrier between the performer and audience.
The television camera is the beginning of the video link that delivers the image of the performer from the studio (or field) to the viewer's TV set or monitor. As a television performer, you should know some basic guidelines for being the person in front of the camera.
For many people, the first few experiences before the camera are unsettling. As noted, camera panic can set in and words that usually flow easily suddenly become stuck in your throat. Hesitations and mistakes come in a deluge. Actually, this anxiety that many experience is quite normal. The primary reason for all the mistakes is the split attention that develops when you go on camera. Suddenly, you are aware of everything you say, how you look, how you're standing or sitting, and just about everything else imaginable. As a result, instead of having 100 percent of your attention focused on what you are saying, you are operating at about 50 percent of your potential because the other half is busy criticizing and worrying about how things are going. This is where practice comes in. The more camera time you get, the easier it all becomes. Work on avoiding the self-criticism and put all your concentration on the presentation. It's another skill that can be learned. Eventually, you'll know the camera is there but you won't care. Any kind of speaking performance can help you adjust. Public speaking is good practice, as is theater work. The goal is to get used to having others looking at and listening to you. Judging by the vast number of people appearing on television, it isn't that hard a skill to master.
Further, fear of failure is strong for television performers because nobody wants to make fools of themselves when everybody can see them. On television, you must be concerned with not only your actual performance (for example, reading the script properly) and your general appearance, but also your posture, your movements, your facial expression, your attire, and so on. A "fluff" in any area can play on your anxiety about failure. Of course, being inexperienced and unprepared will cause camera panic, just as it will cause mic fright. Beginning performers can be overwhelmed by television. The lights and cameras in the studio and the crew members necessary for the production process all add to the distraction. However, with practice in this environment it becomes easier and easier. Use every opportunity available to get camera practice. This is the surest way to get over the discomfort. Work on keeping your concentration up and your focus on the task at hand. Adequate preparation is necessary for broadcast talent and will lessen any chance of camera panic or mic fright that comes from not being ready to go.
Because the visual element is so dominant in television, a cause of camera panic can be a dislike of one's appearance. However, if you apply all the things covered in this text, you have no reason to worry. Proper dress, posture, preparation, and delivery will make you look like a pro. Doing those things will likely mean that you are the only one uncomfortable with your appearance.
Occasionally, nearly all broadcasters encounter situations in which they are unsure of, or disturbed by, the circumstances they are covering, and feel off balance. Keeping your poise and letting your professionalism and experience take over will go a long way toward getting you through a difficult time.
There are many basic concepts that are important for your development as a video performer in the mass media industries. An understanding of the studio environment will make your performance efefots better, as will practice. Each time you are in a performance situation, try to aply a few of the concepts you ahve learned. We will be covering them in more depth in the regular monthly issues of School Video News. Before long, many of these techniques will start to become second nature and you will be on your way to being a polished video performer.