At TopLine, we’re junkies for new tech and cool gadgets. So when we got our hands on an Eye Direct, we couldn’t wait to test it out. The chance soon came along when a client chose us as its video company to produce customer case studies.
Shooting with an Eye direct was a sublime experience.. Here’s why we’ve fallen in love with it.
The Eye Direct: a quick overview
You may not have seen an Eye Direct before, but chances are you’ve seen something it has produced. Ever watched ‘24 Hours in A&E’ or ‘24 Hours in Police Custody’? The Eye Direct captures the experiences of these shows’ interviewees – the camera recording the emotions and the intensity of each participant.
As for the camera itself, well, it looks like something you’d find in a magician’s prop bag: a black box containing two mirrors, designed to be placed in front of the camera lens (Fig.1). The producer or director sits behind the camera and peers into the device, which reflects their face onto a mirror positioned directly in front of the camera lens. It’s a simple, but effective tool that allows the interviewee to look at the producer or director’s reflection – and conveniently, the camera lens behind the mirror (Fig.2)
Why does it matter?
Humans are communicative creatures, and it’s easier to communicate with another face than an inanimate object. The Eye Direct is built to facilitate realistic interaction in an onscreen interview – delivering naturalistic soundbites from interviewees. This improves the overall quality of the production.
Five things we love about the Eye Direct:
- It relaxes interviewees
Cameras can be intimidating, and not every interviewee is immediately ready for their close up. A friendly face can make the process more natural and familiar for them.
- It makes it easier to establish eye contact
When interviewees have to look at the lens, their eye lines naturally begin to drift from side to side as they don’t have a specific point of focus. This can look awkward. Having someone to focus their gaze on makes them look less shifty on camera.
- It breeds empathy – and empathy makes for better video
Studies have proven that the human brain has ‘mirror neurons’ which mimic the feelings and expressions of others. This is where the Eye Direct comes into its own: if our interviewee is telling a funny story and they can see the producer or director smiling along with it, the interviewee will most likely mirror those facial expressions which naturally results in them coming across better on camera.
- It’s more authentic
After all, an interviewee is likely to be more candid in an interview with another human being.
Candid responses make the interviewee more personable on camera. The viewer feels more invested in the conversation and finds it easier to develop a bond with the subject and the brand. The goal for video makers is to hook the audience and keep them engaged – the Eye Direct makes this happen.
- Its design is compact and portable
The Eye Direct has a sleek, compact and portable design which makes it easy to take on any shoot, anywhere. The extension door you see in Figure 1 folds inside the box and conveniently comes with a mounting bracket for your tripod – so there’s no need to carry extra grip equipment to attach it to your camera. Foam inserts are provided with the kit so there is little chance of the internal mirrors shattering en route to your shoot.
So why not just have the interviewee looking off camera at someone?
Any Eye Direct review should emphasise that using it is a stylistic choice. The effect depends on audience, messaging, and context, and won’t work for every scenario. Having the interviewee look off camera at someone (Fig.3) is a perfectly acceptable interview technique and has worked for many years.
But there’s no denying that, when used correctly and in the proper situation, an Eye Direct can enhance an interview.
Talk to our head of video production to discuss your brief.
Fig.1 Eye Direct device
Fig.2 still from our Neyber shoot where we used the Eye Direct
Fig.3 Traditional interview setup, British Academy of Photography shoot