Having worked in the Dallas video production scene for the past 17 years, I have been asked by clients on many occasions, “What should I wear on the show?” After once joking, “I’m not sure, I let my wife pick out my clothes” and having that flop, I now just stick to the facts. As long as I stay away from fashion advice, I can usually be pretty helpful.
A little history: Back when the magic TV box awed us with standard definition’s 525 scan lines, tight patterns and certain colors wreaked havoc on television signals. If you have ever seen the “bleeding” of a dress on screen or the “bounce” or “crawl” of a tie, then you know what I am talking about. Simply put, these effects are caused by colors sharing subcarriers in a composite signal and the divergence of the on-screen patterns and the horizontal lines of an interlaced image; like I said, simple.
In the HD world and moving into 4K and beyond, these particular effects are mitigated by better camera technology, higher television resolutions and progressive scanning. While avoiding bright colors and tight patterns is still sound advice, there are some other things to consider when planning your wardrobe.
First, know the set you will be using on your production. Sets may utilize a desk or table that blocks the view of the legs or allows the subjects to be more visible. Chairs may be low to the ground or higher stools. Knowing what the audience can potentially view helps in choosing clothing. Men’s socks and women’s skirts are potential problems. Other sets may warrant a more relaxed look of couches or chairs and a coffee table. Think local news versus Ellen or The View (the interview part, not Hot Topics…moving on).
Second, functionality comes into play since, typically, a lavaliere microphone is used. Clothing should allow for a place to clip this mic: a lapel, a collar or a button-up shirt, etc. Avoid wearing anything that may contact the microphone, such as a long necklace, blousy scarf or Mardi Gras beads (it could happen). Mics may also be clipped to neckties for men (or women who wear a tie à la Annie Hall). Also, anticipate accommodating a wireless mic transmitter at your hip area. This is the size of a pager or older cell phone. A belt or firm waistband works well or it can be placed in a pocket.
Third, avoid wearing anything that is noisy (watches, cufflinks, bracelets and necklaces that jingle & jangle). These items themselves or their contact with set elements, like desk tops, can be picked up by microphones and can be distracting. I will also mention the “clicky” pen. Having a retractable pen on set, one may be tempted to repeatedly click said pen driving the audio engineer crazy. You might not realize you’re doing it, but we will.
Finally, avoid wearing white and saturated colors. Large areas of white tend to “bloom” on camera since they reflect so much of the studio lighting and saturated reds, yellows and oranges can “bleed” or “glow.” Pastels and earth tones, however, translate nicely on television. Remember also, studios are usually kept particularly cold. Dressing in layers or wearing suits can help you stay comfortable. Ladies (or gents, I won’t judge), unless otherwise instructed, arrive wearing your normal make up. Touch ups will typically be provided by a make-up professional, but you will be covered if there is not one available. Bringing extra make up with you is also a good idea. Also avoid hats.
Overall, be aware that the camera sees things a bit differently than the eye, so what looks good in person may not translate to the screen. If you have specific questions, ask your Producer and, whenever possible, have back-up options for wardrobe.