Montreal faculty member Adam van Sertima – a self-described “Dad, philosopher, art historian and Games Studies specialist” who teaches film courses – sat down with Liz Allen-Pennebaker of the Core Division and CLT to share his filmmaking expertise with all of us at Champlain who want to up our video conferencing and video recording game. Edited by Caroline Toy.

Our Top Tips:

A little powder goes a long way

Try Zoom’s “Touch Up My Appearance” Tool

Adjust Your Lighting

Very Basic Makeup for Any Gender

Adam: Makeup is right out of my wheelhouse – but what I would say is that it’s kind of the same thing as with laptop positioning. What you’d normally do is not what you do to make it seem normal. When you’re videoconferencing, you put the laptop in a different place and it feels weird to you – but it gives the people watching you the impression that you’re using the laptop like usual. For example, if I were being interviewed on TV right now, my head would be powdered, because otherwise I get this glowing dome of male pattern baldness reflecting off the lights in the room – but you wouldn’t see the powder, just a normal-looking head.

Liz: If I’m doing something where I really have to look like I’m on top of things, like if I know I’ll be on camera in front of a lot of people, I’ll wear full foundation and the works, which I never do normally. But this ties in to my gender presentation, which makes wearing makeup non-controversial for me…. So do you have any tips for looking better that work for everyone who just wants to look “put together” regardless of gender presentation?

Adam: Like I mentioned above, a little bit of powder can go a long way if you are worried that your skin will look shiny. And a dollop of blush is something most people could use on camera. It really does make people look great.

Looking Good without Makeup for Any Gender

Liz: I’ve played around with the Zoom “touch up my appearance” feature and I think it did make me look a little nicer. Fewer wrinkles. It’s one of the things I like about Zoom compared to Google Meet, which doesn’t have that feature.

Adam: Oh, good heavens, I do have the touch up my appearance on my Zoom account! Yeah. It does make a difference. It does smooth your skin tone a bit. Reduces contrast and shadow. You can adjust it.

Using Zoom’s Appearance Touch-Up Feature

In a Zoom meeting, go to the bottom left to the video camera icon. Click on the upward arrow next to the video camera icon. From the menu that appears, choose “Video Settings.” A settings window will open up. There, you can click the box next to “Touch up my appearance.” A slider bar will appear. Liz says: “You can think of it as the “Benjamin Button” slider – the farther along you move it, the younger you look. Trust me – this thing rules.”

You can also try “Mirror my video” (which makes you see yourself the way you’re used to seeing yourself in the mirror) and “Turn off my video when joining meeting” (which will mean that your camera will never be on when you’re not expecting it – you can wait to turn on your video until you’re looking serene and pulled-together).

Zoom will remember these settings and use them the next time you join a meeting. Unfortunately, this feature is not available in Meet.

Other Strategies

Adjusting your lighting can help downplay wrinkles and tired eyes, avoid shadows, and minimize reflection on glasses and skin. You may want to experiment with diffusing your light in particular. Good lighting is the most fundamental way to make yourself look alert and professional!

Clothing can also make a big difference. For the visible parts of your clothing, choose colors that complement your skin tone and lighting and do not clash with items in your background. If you are using a virtual background, wear colors that are distinct from what’s behind you. Avoid loud prints — as fun as that psychedelic paisley tie or floral shirt may be, it may also be really distracting on screen.

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