IMAG: Minimize Distraction

My pastor and others who appear on stage (or on video) say that I harp on them too much about what clothing they wear, perhaps you have run into the same angst. I can only hope that they all understand that my chief objective is to make them good as well as minimizing distractions during our worship services. I have a mantra that they are all learning (slowly):

No whites, no blacks, no stripes, no patterns, no plaids! (It has a little bit of a cool rhythm to it, if you say it right!)

Here’s an explanation:

White shirts/tops blow out the camera’s iris with even minimal stage lighting, thus making it very difficult to expose for a person’s skin tone. When I have to iris-down to expose properly for the bright white shirt, the subject’s face ends up very dark. I’m a firm believer that the eyes communicate as much as the mouth; we need to see your face! A little bit of white is OK (under a vest or sweater).

Black shirts pose a problem most when the stage’s background is dark. If the background is completely black, your subject can end up looking like a disembodied head and hands moving strangely across the stage! If you have a pastor who is completely enamored with the color black, suggest dark grays; something that picks up a little bit of light can make all the difference.

Stripes/patterns/plaids – There are a number of reasons that busy patterns can be a nuisance, mostly because they “dance” on screen.

{apologies to Rick Warren for making him the “don’t” example here!}

The other distracting problem with patterns is the potential for conflict with on-screen graphics. At Seacoast, our song lyrics are displayed as a lower-third with no background; a worship leader wearing a ‘loud’ shirt (or a shirt with a graphic design or lettering) can make the lyrics unreadable or confusing. I realize that your worship team is probably really cool, but they need to be mindful of how they look on screen. Everyone owns a solid colored shirt, or at least something that doesn’t pose as much on screen conflict. I’ve been working with our worship teams long enough now that they know that I’m looking out for the best interest of the worship experience and not just coming down on their wardrobe decisions. I have asked them to bring an alternative shirt/outfit if they are unsure about how something might look like on stage/screen.


4 comments on “IMAG: Minimize Distraction

  1. We pretty much have the same standards for speakers: no whites, no plads and no stripes. Black can work for us at times depending on how the stage is setup. Very important if you’re doing IMAG, essential if you’re doing multi-site IMO. Whenever our pastor buys a new shirt that he’s thinking about wearing, he’ll bring it in on a Thursday to test it out.

  2. From the other side of the camera it is not always easy to find non-white, non-black, non-stripe, non-plaid shirts. Believe it or not very few designers are excited about solid non-white, non-black fabric.

    How do they handle it on television? It seems like people wear a variety of clothing and look ok.

    • I understand that in Film/TV white shirts are ‘greyed down’ making a thing called a ‘tech white’. It’s for the exact reason above, so that when the camera is exposed right for the face, the shirt ‘looks’ pure white but still has some crease line/shadow details in it. A ‘real’ white just makes this weird, featureless blob.

      On Geoff’s question, I imagine the background and overall lighting has a lot to do with it. There are different constraints on building and lighting a TV set than there are when designing a church platform setting. As in the example in the article, you do see a lot of dark/black backgrounds in church platforms, but rarely so on a TV chat show. That might be the difference?

  3. No black? My wardrobe is 90% black and we are getting a new video system. I should have budgeted for new shirts!

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