The debates: Image is everything

Through the art of video production, one candidate can be portrayed more favorably than the other. On October 7, 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain met for the second of three presidential debates. The format was a town hall debate. Both men roamed the floor and locked eyes with the audience members who asked questions. Numerous cameras were placed around the room to capture the candidates regardless of where they stood.

While equal time was given to each man for questions, the audience, when viewing the televised debate, experienced subtle differences in the camera angles for each candidate. Typically, when Obama spoke, the camera displayed a close up, eye-level image, filling the frame with his upper chest and face. This presented to the viewer a strong image of Obama. In contrast, when McCain spoke, the camera often showed a waist-up, medium shot, filling the frame with as much background as McCain himself. These shots made McCain appear small, which was exaggerated from time to time by camera angles that looked down on him. In addition, because of the wide shots of McCain, Obama had more face time on camera, as he was often shown in the background when McCain answered a question.