How To Turn The C-Suite Into On-Camera Pros In 60 Seconds With Steve McWilliams Of EyeDirect

EyeDirect C-Suite Video Steve McWilliams

Your viewers will engage more with videos where the on-camera person looks them straight in the eye. That’s why our special guest Steve McWilliams invented the EyeDirect, a camera accessory that turns C-Suite video rookies into on-camera professionals in about a minute. Just take a look at how these Hollywood film stars reacted when they used the EyeDirect for the first time on Film4.

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GUEST: Steve McWilliams, inventor of the EyeDirect. Follow EyeDirect on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Also read “Philip Bloom Introduces The EyeDirect“, how EyeDirect helps with more authentic content, and “EyeDirect: Solving The Problem of Getting People to Look Straight Into The Camera.” See our previous posts that talk about the EyeDirect, including: “Why Your Videos Hate Your Customers” and “Look Your Customers Right In The Eye With EyeDirect“.

HOST: Dane Golden of HEY.com | LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube

SPONSORS: This episode is brought to you by our affiliate partners, including: TubeBuddy, VidIQ, MorningFame, Rev.com, and other products and services we recommend. Thanks for your support!

PRODUCER: Jason Perrier of Phizzy Studios

How Does an EyeDirect Work from Steve McWilliams on Vimeo.

TRANSCRIPT

Dane Golden:
It’s time for Hey.com. This is the podcast where we help marketers and business owners just like you get more value out of your video marketing efforts. My name is Dane Golden and today we’re going to speak with Steve McWilliams, the inventor of the EyeDirect. Welcome, Steve.

Steve McWilliams:
The inventor of the EyeDirect, yes, yes.

Dane Golden:
Welcome.

Steve McWilliams:
Thank you very much.

Dane Golden:
How is EyeDirect spelled?

Steve McWilliams:
E-Y-E-D-I-R-E-C-T.

Dane Golden:
One word? Capital D?

Steve McWilliams:
Correct.

Dane Golden:
Okay. Now, so EyeDirect is a device, I call it a sideways periscope, but what do you call it?

Steve McWilliams:
I would call it a sideways periscope, that’s a good reference to it. It’s much like a teleprompter or an auto cue, but in those instances you have a monitor that reflects text in front of a screen and then the subject can read the text. Well what my device does is it requires no electricity. It’s just mirrors, so it makes it more like a periscope, and a subject looks to a reflection of the interviewer and vice versa, the interviewer can see the subject through the device. So the subject ends up speaking directly into the lens because they’re just having eye contact with the interviewer.

Dane Golden:
So let’s repeat and rephrase for emphasis because I really want the listeners to envision what this looks like. So they, it’s a a hood of sorts that goes over the camera.

Steve McWilliams:
It looks much like a matte box where it mounts directly in front of the lens.

Dane Golden:
Not everyone here is a pro, so helps us with the terminology a little bit.

Steve McWilliams:
Yeah, right, just directly in front of the glass Lens, you’ve got this a box that mounts to the camera and it actually covers the camera so often your subject doesn’t even know there’s a camera present. What they see, they look into this box and they see a reflection of the person interviewing them.

Dane Golden:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And why is that important? Why would they want to see a reflection? Why can’t they just look to the side of the camera as many people do if someone’s interviewing them?

Steve McWilliams:
Well, that is the older style because to get a non actor, a real person to be able to look directly into the lens and connect with the audience was often artificial and it often was uncomfortable for the subject to try to do. But the more and more media that you see these days is using devices like this that will pull that attention straight into the lens. You also have the confessional cam and many reality shows where the people go in and look directly into the Lens, you know they’re by themselves and they speak directly into the lens. And so you get a real solid connection with the subject and the audience, the viewer of the video. And because communication is so much a part, that nonverbal communication that eye contact is so much a part of the way humans in society respond. I don’t know that we would tolerate our newscasters and our presenters and our people selling us on a television commercials when they’re convincing us that the product is the finest and the greatest, I don’t know that we would accept them looking off. We want to see them looking directly to us these days.

Dane Golden:
Yes, and that’s one of the reasons I went searching for something to recommend to our video production partners and that’s how I found you a couple of years ago because so many so called corporate videos don’t look the camera in the eye and I just feel that on YouTube that can be a death knell and I was wondering what you’re thinking about that.

Steve McWilliams:
Yeah, it can and what you find is in YouTube, the ones that are really knocking it out of the park are the ones that make that intimate connection with their audience. They’ve got that direct camera aware presence. They look right down the barrel of the lens and they they visited with their audience and connect that way. What we find in a lot of corporate environments, and I shoot a lot of corporate material myself. My background is television commercials as a director cameraman. But when you are doing corporate, often your in a C-suite office and you are trying to be unobtrusive. You may or may not be able to afford a teleprompter or to put that in front of somebody and often the solutions come up with an assistant trying to write something out on a piece of paper and hold it to the side of the camera so that the CEO might present like he knows these facts and these numbers and these names off the top of his head, but actually that kind of introduces another dynamic that just pulls authenticity away from the viewer.

Dane Golden:
I think it’s more than that, too, and you’re the expert on this, but one of the things that I’ve come to believe is that YouTube acts as a salesperson for the company, that it is actually their top salesperson when that is speaking to the camera, whether someone’s buying something or not, this is the image of the company that someone gets. And I don’t know how many people you’ve had tried to sell to you, if they would walk in and look over your shoulder instead of looking you in the eye, I don’t think they do very well.

Steve McWilliams:
Well I couldn’t agree more. Of course, I’m a big fan of eye contact because I’m involved with this, but I didn’t invent eye contact. This is a human dynamic and you find that when someone never looks up from their electronics, their phone or their iPad or they won’t even turn to you away from their screen when you might walk to their open door, just that disconnect where they don’t have full attention to you is picked up and I think it really does say something about the person who ignores that interaction. You really want to have that interaction and that time to connect and fortunately I direct solve some of those challenges.

Dane Golden:
What was the problem you were trying to solve when you created this?

Steve McWilliams:
Initially I had always thought that babies and moms would be great. This would be great because you can’t use logic with a 10 month old, but you could reflect mom in front of the device and the baby would look to mom or the baby looks to jingling keys or their favorite toy, and so you could capture pounds and pounds of footage just by the baby being attentive to mom. The first time I actually put it into use, I was shooting a Target back to school commercial with the PBS spokesdog, Wishbone who had had 40 episodes of the dog with an inner monologue to the audience.

Dane Golden:
A dog actor. You were working with a dog actor.

Steve McWilliams:
Exactly, and so I was wondering what I could do that they hadn’t done in 40 episodes and basically I asked the dog trainer if it was possible to have the dog speak to their master and then turn into camera for like can aside something like, “Oh well thanks for getting my dinner, but do I have to go to school tomorrow?” Just to have some cute little component where the dog looks over his shoulder right into lens. And she said, “There’s no way to do that. I can send him to the lens, but I can’t pull him.” I mean she said, “I can’t send him to the lens, but I can pull him from the lens.” And so I said, “Well, could you work with the dog to see if he would work in a reflection?” And “Oh yeah, sure, they work in reflections, not a problem. I just jingle his little treat cup and the noise and the site pulls his attention into where he sees the treat cup. And that could be a reflection.”

Dane Golden:
So you sort of rigged up something special.

Steve McWilliams:
I did. Initially it was a pizza box followed by some foam core and some black tape. So it didn’t look quite so bad in the production stills. And I didn’t want to embarrass myself with a large pepperoni kind of hanging off the front of the motion picture cameras. So I thought I was best to go ahead and build it out of something that looked a little more pro.

Dane Golden:
So to help people visualize this a little bit more, I have described it to people as a sideways periscope, if you ever used those mostly as a kid. But tell me if I’m correct, the subject looks at the camera but they don’t see the camera eye, what they see through a series of mirrors is they see the person standing behind or to the side of the camera. Correct?

Steve McWilliams:
Exactly, right, right. And the –

Dane Golden:
Their expressions, they hear them because they’re not far away. It’s as if they’re looking at a person.

Steve McWilliams:
Exactly. And it also allows the seated interviewer to sit where they always have been. They’ve always usually been seated on the right side of camera or on the left side of camera and they kind of get their head close to the camera lens so that the subject will look closer into the lens. But my device puts a mirror in front of the actual camera lens that reflects a second mirror which reflects the interviewer. And the the beauty of that, it’s just kind of a happy accident the way I worked with EyeDirect, but because it has two mirrors, you can now hold up a photograph, a newspaper headline, [inaudible 00:11:01] or a name down on an index card and hold it up and the two mirrors make the image a left to right, correct image. It’s no longer a reflection. I call it a referral. So when the baby looks at mom through my device, if mom’s hair is parted on the right side, that’s what the baby sees. The baby doesn’t see a reflection of mom but actually sees this referral. And once you use it and sit down with it, it’s interesting because I have had agencies say, Well this is a box we’re going to use for eye contact and this is the way it works and all this. And generally what happens is by about the third or fourth interview, they just suggest, look at me. And they start a conversation and it just is as smooth as it is. If you’re sitting across from a dinner table.

Dane Golden:
It needs no special instructions.

Steve McWilliams:
No.

Dane Golden:
For the speakers, that is.

Steve McWilliams:
Correct.

Dane Golden:
And I wanted to ask also, because when we look at other people, friends, relatives, loved ones or strangers, we have certain facial expressions, not just our eyes looking directly at the camera, but we have certain emotions, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but they’re more relatable I think. And do you think that that’s part of the resonance of the success of this?

Steve McWilliams:
Absolutely. Yeah, when you are leaning into a dinner conversation and you can pick up the nuance of a raised eyebrow or a little tension in the forehead, or perhaps there’s a glance off left or right. And all of these things are, I think of him as a semaphore, a code that comes from the subject. They’re sending you a message. And as humans we’re lucky enough to be able to respond to those and to pick them up very quickly. And I think it’s critical to have that kind of attention when there’s a difficult message, a trauma that’s being revealed. Certainly in those environments, yes, but survivors, when they tell their stories, you want to be able to be sensitive to what they’re saying and pick up those subtle cues. But when somebody is championing their product, telling you that their people are going to pay attention and that they have a strong work ethic, you also want to look into that face and recognize that those eyes are telling the truth.

Dane Golden:
And how big a deal is it, somebody says, “Hey, listen, I just sit right by the camera. It’s close enough.” Do you feel that looking directly versus looking five or 10 degrees off camera, that big a deal or big deal?

Steve McWilliams:
Well, I suggest to people, if they’re going to include the interviewer’s questions or if you ever see the interviewer, then it’s perfect to have the subject look to the camera right or left and have the interviewer to respond that way. And if you hear that person on camera, there’s a reason for them to look off. But if you’re trying to allow these subject to be the center focal point and you want them to tell the entire story, you will not hear a narrator, you won’t hear the questions. The balance there is to get that eye contact directly into camera and you can tell if they’re looking even an inch off axis and the –

Dane Golden:
This is all in our lizard brain, right? We have these, we understand many more emotions of the face than we think we know. We understand a lot more about eye movement than we think we do. It’s all really down in our subconscious, much of it.

Steve McWilliams:
It is. And the papers that I’ve read and I’ve researched this and what is the trick and why is it that people are so interested in getting this direct eye contact? And it goes back to the other 220 primates that don’t have the whites around their eyes. There’s an anthropologists that suggest that that white around the eye is what allows humans to have a collaborative society.

Dane Golden:
Wow.

Steve McWilliams:
One human can look to the other and see where they’re looking. Whereas with other primates, if a human will just tilt their head eyes closed to the ceiling, the primate will look to the ceiling. But a human won’t be deceived that way. So that there’s a very rich, like you say a very primitive component to the necessity of eye contact.

Dane Golden:
Right.

Steve McWilliams:
And I’ve just been lucky enough to be part of cobbling together some mirrors and some plastic in a nice metal bracket and voila we can capture it for the camera.

Dane Golden:
And I also am a avid reader of a blog called Body Language Success, which has really thousands of posts on these micro expressions that you don’t really think about until he describes them and like, oh well that’s really, of course that’s valid. And so these are things that we don’t notice and sometimes they happen very quickly. But I wanted to ask you, so now someone’s hearing about this thing, it goes with the camera, but what about that sort of person that is a prosumer in a level. Maybe they’ve been brought on at a company and they’re the official videographer, they may have all sorts of different types of names. They’re saying, okay, well now I’m in charge of interviewing all these people maybe at the C Suite or wherever in the company and they’re like, yeah, this product sounds nice, but I don’t know if I really want to mess around with a whole other thing. How hard is this actually to put into use?

Steve McWilliams:
Well, some people have said from start to finish, it takes about 10 minutes to set up the larger device, which is built for the optimo and the mirror cameras and the large production style cameras.

Dane Golden:
What if they have a DSLR, just something pretty straightforward. It’s nice, but maybe it’s not as heavy or the tripod isn’t as heavy. Can this be used? Can the EyeDirect be used with just something like that?

Steve McWilliams:
Right, it can and I have two models. One is large for the production style cameras for television commercials and larger projects and it’s been used all over the world by BBC and Nascar and NFL films and others that I can’t mention.

Dane Golden:
But it rhymes with the Blord Motor Company.

Steve McWilliams:
Close, yeah, very close. But social media companies have multiple devices in different offices. Banks, hospitals, there’s even a Cadillac dealership in my home town that has one, as well as rental houses that get them. And we do ship all over the world and often ship multiple units to the UK. Got a call today from, do you have a device in Singapore? And I sold one to Singapore but I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it’s very exciting that way. It is a easy device to set up. It can be balanced almost on the head of a pin as you don’t need real heavy tripods as you used to in the old days with teleprompters. It has an adjustable base plate and I’ve built it so that the small one accommodates DSLRs and mirrorless cameras with prime lenses or short zooms and that one will fold up like a laptop and you can put it over your shoulder and carry it on a plane. The larger ones come in a foam fitted case and they’re built for the production style cameras.

Dane Golden:
And is it appropriate to say how much they cost?

Steve McWilliams:
Surely it’s easy to find it on my website and the price hasn’t changed in years and that’s because I feel like this is the price I would pay for this device. The larger one is right at $2,000 and the small one is right at $1,000. and you had mentioned that for the new videographer or the new camera person that goes into an environment and they really want to change the look, do something that short of lighting with a ring light or bringing in, deciding to shoot everything under 5,600 or whatever that decision might be, I do have a producer who said as soon as he got the EyeDirect, he started shooting these camera aware, direct eye contact interviews of those in academic circles. He works with the universities and colleges all over the country. And he said there was that one little trigger that people couldn’t put their finger on it, but everybody looked in the lens. Everybody from the bursar to the dean to the professor to the student and alumnus, and that solid connection on every piece of video just changed the way those videos were accepted. And so that –

Dane Golden:
You might get a lot more business because of that, because they look a lot better.

Steve McWilliams:
Well, you would hope. And also you don’t have to introduce the interviewer in those videos spots where you’ve got three or four people talking about accessibility to faculty. You don’t have to have somebody over questioning them. You can just have them directly in the camera and telling a story about the subject.

Dane Golden:
And if people don’t see that they’re going to use it all the time, there are the rental houses and these guys will ship and can rent it for a few days, that type of thing. Right?

Steve McWilliams:
Right, right. And what I’ve found, there’s been some like the Amanda Knox video on Netflix and Cartel and many of the others that they find they rent it for two or three days and they might as well have bought it.

Dane Golden:
It’s your best sales tool.

Steve McWilliams:
It is. It really is because it just, it makes it so simple for that connection to be established. But you can see in the pro, the real professional productions also when they need that dynamic bumper, you will see the camera person just enjoy that eye contact and zip in with the lens and go from left eye to right eye and pop down to their hands and backup to an eyeball. And so they’re using that eye contact where normally you might hear a question being asked and the subject has undivided attention to the questioner. That is a gold mine for the editor where the cameraman can go in and find all these wonderful little direct eye contact moments and then the editor sequences together into a little bumper and you see that quite a lot. There’s a great show on Netflix called Long Shot and it features that sort of editing style that is just, it’s really exciting.

Dane Golden:
And so with the EyeDirect, you can have a CEO be as comfortable on camera as a YouTuber in about a minute.

Steve McWilliams:
You can and I say that often when I’m challenged that, oh this gentleman’s really difficult or oh, he doesn’t have much time for us or any number of things, I find that if I can use my facial expression and if I lift my eyebrows up and if I raise my voice up and give him that raised shoulder and those hands to the ceiling, he will see all of that, pick all that up in that nonverbal and he reacts in the camera. He could also react if I was to the side of him, but it would be a little odd. But this way when when you cut to him, you take out my question, he’s amped up. He’s energized. He’s mimicking. There’s a, a wonderful little thing discovered back in the 90s called mirror neurons and these mirror neurons fire. When I drink water, if you see me do that, you start to salivate and feel the water.

Dane Golden:
Yeah, that’s why I can’t watch fast food commercials. Tell me, Steve McWilliams, how can people find out more about you and the EyeDirect?

Steve McWilliams:
Well, we have a little website that we do all of our business there. It’s called EyeDirect.tv and it’s spelled like the eye on your face, e-y-e-d-i-r-e-c-t.TV. We also sell from B and H Photo in New York and CVP in London as well as VMI carry our product. And like I say, we ship daily. I’m from production and my background is somebody gets awarded a job on Monday and they want to shoot by Wednesday and we can accommodate that. We’re ready to go.

Dane Golden:
Excellent. Thank you, Steve McWilliams of EyeDirect.

Steve McWilliams:
Thank you very much.

Dane Golden:
And people will be able to find this episode by searching for Hey and EyeDirect. My name is Dane Golden and I want to thank you, the listener, for joining us today. I do this podcast and the videos because I love helping marketers and business owners just like you grow your customer community through helpful, how to videos. Because when you share your expertise in a way that helps your customers live their lives better or do their jobs better, you’ll earn their loyalty and their trust and their business. Thanks to our special guest, Steve McWilliams of EyeDirect. Until next week, here’s to helping you help your customers through video.

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