Candidates & The Importance of Staging

It was interesting watching the Iowa Caucus results last night, Twitter was buzzing with commentary from all kinds of people from all over the place. As the results came in there was a distinct felling something big was happening and history was in the process of being made.

What surprised me most though was one big detail that it seemed, only one campaign thought of – how their candidate was staged for their end of night speech.

Zoom lenses are horrible things when you’re trying to make a place feel big and open. For those who aren’t familiar with lenses & cameras etc., when you zoom in the effect is one where the depth of the image feels dramatically shortened. All of the “layers” of the image feel very dense and right on top of each other.

Take a look at Hillary Clinton & Mike Huckabee’s speeches below:

Both feel densely packed in a small space taking on, at worst, a news conference feel, at best a regional level politic event, rather than presidential campaign in full swing. These images don’t stand out from most other footage you would see from these candidates along the campaign trail, or even in their day-to-day lives as politicians in lower levels of office.

John Edwards fared slightly better:

But still a little crowded, and in the case of all three the surrounding people are clearly in focus – which is distracting. There were numerous times in Hillary’s speech when I missed what she was saying because I got distracted by someone in the background (albright trying not to get trampled, creepy semi cross-eyed guy over her shoulder, bill looking sick as a dog). It’s especially tough for Hillary because she’s shorter – so her background people loom over her.

Now take a look at Barack’s video:

He’s got the crowd of people behind him but they’re:

a) far enough back that they give the illusion of much more space
b) they’re out of the depth of field for the camera in comparison to Barack. You can really only focus on Barack and what he’s saying

He’s also got that killer extra camera angle that the others didn’t… this is probably out of their control but it’s entirely possible the organizers let the networks know there would be positions for two cameras at the venue instead of just one.

There’s one other touch that could just be a happy accident but it’s also something to consider. Listen to each of the videos.

The soundspaces for Hillary, Mike & John are all flat – it’s just their voice (and sounds of crowd reaction).

Now listen to Barack – he’s got that big hall echo again. Granted some of this is just how the sound guys set things up, but the room you’re in has a huge impact on how “live” the room sounds.

When you add up the look & sound – it’s amazing what effect a few small changes have, regardless of what the candidate is saying.

Of all the video I saw last night, only one candidate truly looked Presidential.