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Dark Shadows

"...People going into these telepresence rooms usually have nothing to do with a make-up artist beforehand, so it seems to me the visual half of teleconferencing, also leaves something to be desired. In fact participants end up looking like an extra from one of those classic Hammer vampire films, drained of their vital juices - and I'm talking blood here." -- IT Week, "Telepresence Vampires and the 140,000 Telephone"

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Anyone who has produced movies, television programming or corporate videos knows the importance of lighting to mimic real-life representations of the people on-camera. Outsiders on the set of video productions are often surprised to see the shockingly intense illumination systems required to brighten up the stage. Indeed, part of the talent of an on-air newscaster or actor is the ability to work under the intense brightness (and sometimes heat) of the lights.

Once under the lights, people don't look like they normally do, especially when their moving image is mediated to view remotely. Makeup is required if you want to present your best face. It's easily arguable that the lack of special television makeup on Richard M. Nixon in 1960 in the first televised presidential debate cost him the election in losing to John F. Kennedy. He sweated like a pig under the lights. His drab, gray suit blended with the background. John Kennedy had a crisp black and white suit and a father named Joe Kennedy to rig the election. It's interesting to note that there's research supporting the view that those who saw the televised debate thought Kennedy won, and those that heard the debate on radio thought Nixon won.

How does lighting affect so-called telepresence meetings? To get the best image quality of people at the other end of the meeting table, how much more light - and makeup - will be required to create an "illusion" that the remote participants are in the same room as you? (We have no illusions.) If we're to believe the article in IT Week, there needs to be even more light than there already is. How does the technique of horizontally radiated light (to get rid our all those dark shadows and double chins) impact the comfort, stamina, and information transfer of participants in remote meetings?

We ask these lighting and makeup questions in the context of breathless fawning over the described "life-like" (a relative, fluid and subjective term) attributes of telepresence. There's an assumption out there held by some in the conferencing & telepresence space that the richer the media experience (like "telepresence"), the better the productivity gains in the context of your business objectives. This may be true for certain remote meeting applications, but this is an incorrect assumption from several points of view which we'll address in forthcoming posts.