How do we make podcasting futureproof? What needs to be done to challenge the industry to innovate and produce daring content? In this new column titled “Revelations”, Meera Kumar pokes and prods the audio industry and its creations before revealing the shows worth listening to and their place in the zeitgeist…
Podcasts are traditionally audio only, but I’m not a purist and I don’t think we need to limit ourselves by defining exactly at which point a podcast ceases to be a podcast. Sure, labels help us categorise the things around us – food, human, lightbulb – so we can understand the world more easily. But they aren’t strictly necessary, they can be subjective, and they can sometimes draw focus away from appreciating something as it is.
I think we can probably all agree that a podcast is a podcast if 1) the content makes sense when you listen to it without seeing any visuals 2) there are audio-only episodes to listen to.
There are a number of reasons to create a video podcast – you may reach new fans on YouTube because a lot of fans of your podcast genre live on YT, you can cut the video down and repurpose clips for different platforms which in turn may help you reach more people, you might get access to more monetisation opportunities, or you might offer video as a subscriber perk to paying community members to strengthen your relationship with them. Regardless of the benefits, it’s worth understanding what’s involved before you dive in.
If you’re considering creating a video podcast, consider first whether your podcast lends itself to the visual medium easily. Chat shows, like The Colin and Samir Show, have been some of the first podcasts to make the switch to video but many genres are more complicated. Such as narrative documentary podcasts which have so many different audio elements that creating visuals would be complex. Take just the contributor element for example – contributors may not want to be filmed, you might have recorded pickups with them that blend in seamlessly audio-wise but don’t work as a visual edit, and the hundreds and hundreds of fine edits in a contributor’s tape just wouldn’t work if we could see the person talking on the screen. You could film them doing something in their daily lives whilst their tape plays over the top, you could film abstract scenes that make sense emotionally with the tone of the overlaid audio, you could just film their hands, you could cut to a static image with text, or you could create animations like The Midnight Gospel, My Favourite Murder, this short clip of a Love + Radio episode, this QCODE teaser, and StoryCorps. There are many excellent creative visual workarounds but they take time, skill and money to execute – which is kind of at odds with the low barrier to entry of podcasting. That being said, if you need to cut costs, consider only producing videos for special episodes or looping the same animation as in this QCODE video.
If you’re forging ahead, remember quality is the priority. Do justice to the story you’re telling and don’t give people the opportunity to ‘skip’ the story just because the visuals are poor.
Here are my tips for those stepping into video podcasting:
- Cameras. Ensure you’re filming on a good camera, but be aware that a fancy expensive camera doesn’t automatically create great visuals, you need to understand how to use it and you need to understand lighting. This video from Peter McKinnon is a great place to start.
- Remote recording. An alternative to getting everyone in the same room with cameras set up is a dedicated remote recording programme. I’ve been using Riverside.fm, for years. It’s simple to use, records the video and audio locally so it’s high quality, and is ideal if you and your guests aren’t in the same location. I suggest linking your laptop to an external camera. The audio is also recorded as a .wav so you’re not compromising on the quality of sound either. Bonus: you can invite listeners to watch your recording live so you can build community relations at the same time!
- Background. Set up your camera and figure out what is in the shot, then tidy and dress the set.
- Microphones. If you need to mic up a few people and don’t want to deal with the faff of hiding cables, setting levels and recorders, there are plenty of new solutions to this – for example the Nomono Sound Capsule has four wireless mics that you can clip on and auto uploads all of the recordings to the cloud.
- I mainly use Reaper to produce podcasts but that doesn’t work for video so software for video is essential. For those already working in Adobe Audition there is that option, and I’m teaching myself how to use Davinci Resolve to edit and colour grade videos. I highly recommend it and there are some great tutorials online.
- If you have the resources then be playful with your edit to make the visuals more engaging – multiple camera angles, B-roll, cutaways, animation, creative subtitles, and so on. Don’t overwhelm the viewer, but don’t be afraid to try something different.
- Subtitles. The other aspects you can experiment with what works for you, but if you’re going to create visuals to accompany your audio, then subtitles are non-negotiable.
Sharing stories orally is an ancient practice and there’s only one way I can think to describe how I feel about audio storytelling – bare-bare, a Japanese phrase that (according to the book I was reading) translates as ‘the sound of being so invested in something that it leaks into everything you do’.
I’m up for embracing video and experimenting if it elevates a story/show, but there’s something special about audio that other mediums can’t capture. As Pod Bible’s Digital Editor says: “it is – and always will be – okay to make an audio-only podcast”.
Want to try video podcasting – as a podcaster OR a die-hard listener? Check out Meera’s recommendations for video podcast about video podcasting:
- The recent Cumulus Media and Signal Hill report about consumer preferences and video podcasting has been put out as a video podcast.
- The Colin and Samir Show has diversified into video with its popular YouTube channel – this episode features Tim Ferriss talking about the evolution of long form video podcasts.
- The Midnight Gospel – this animated video podcast is about a video podcaster in space
- If you’re after some tips for setting up your video podcast, YouTuber and Photographer Peter McKinnon explains background and lighting here >>