How to improve your podcasts and videblogs

* I don’t listen to podcasts. I am not about to start listening to them.
* I don’t watch videoblogs. I am not about to start watching them.
* I don’t create videoblogs or podcasts. I am not going to be doing them either. Not in the near future, or not-so-near future.
I am however, going to give you specific advice on how you, as a videoblogger and podcaster can make your Internet broadcasts a lot better.

(For the remainder of this entry, I might refer to videoblogs and podcasts as “broadcasts”)
h3. Transcribe
Some time ago, I wrote an entry titled “Paperblogging”: which was entirely sarcastic. Sadly, it was also entirely ignored by the videoblogging and podcasting community. I wrote:
bq. If you blog, and you’re afraid that your mother, employer or your wife will find about your weekend anal fisting activities, don’t worry. Google can’t index your handwriting.
The very same is true for both your videoblog and your podcasts: Search engines can’t see your content. Speech and video recognition systems are still in their infancy, and it’ll be another 20 years before we have something that reliably recognizes your words.
If you also want said speech-recognition to be context-sensitive, and have it add any notion of semantics or structure, wait for anything from 50 years to an eternity. You need high-level AI for that.
So, just provide that transcript yourself, will you. Incidentally, this will also make your podcasts and videoblogs available for people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf.
h3. Focus
_Shorten your broadcasts. Don’t try to create one-hour shows._
Please, realise that when a one-hour radio or TV show gets aired, there is an entire staff behind this: They are dedicated professionals with expertise in several fields: Scripting, camera, lights, audio, anchoring, journalism. These shows are not the result of a one, two or even five-person job.
Even if you are talented, you probably don’t have the ability to single-handedly produce something that’s interesting for more than a couple of minutes.
My piece of advice is: You shouldn’t create anything that’s longer than you’re willing to spend writing the transcript. Which, for the most of us mere mortals would weigh in at a couple of minutes.
h3. Dumb down and clean up
* Drop all that fancy music. It’s most likely only going to annoy your visitors.
* Drop all those fancy transition effects. They’re most likely only going to annoy your visitors.
* Drop all that fancy camerawork. It’s most likely going to annoy your visitors.
Keep everything _simple. Very simple._ There are fewer points of failure when you do so, and you’re more likely to get it somewhat right, and you’re more likely to focus on the right stuff: Your content.
h3. while(result != “good”){ script(); rehearse(); record(); edit();}; publish();
Sorry about the programmer lingo, but that one-liner is what is best able to describe how you should create your broadcast:
# Write a script. Yes, really. Write one.
# Rehearse. Rehearse until you get it right: You should not sound or look like you’re bound by the script. In fact, rehearse until people can’t tell that you have a script that you follow.
# When you’ve recorded it all: Edit and evaluate. Most likely, a lot of it is not going to be good enough for publication. Go back and rerecord those parts. Some parts aren’t going to work at all, and it’s far better to leave something out, than keep something in that is only going to embarass you in three months.
# When you _think_ you’re done with step 3, do it again, but listen to, or watch your show all over. Imagine that you are a total stranger. Will this be good enough for that total stranger? If not, re-script, re-record, and re-edit.
# When watching your own clip or listening to your own show doesn’t embarass you, you might be ready for publishing.
h3. Speaking
Practice speaking. At some point in your life, you have probably heard a speech or lecture that you found utterly boring, embarrassing, horrible, painful or a combination of all.
More often than not, the person speaking has one or more problems with “diction:”:

  1. Choice and use of words in speech or writing.
  2. Degree of clarity and distinctness of pronunciation in speech or singing; enunciation.

No, I’m not suggesting that your diction should be spotless, it’s just that a little practice makes the experience _a lot_ better for the viewer or listener:
* Make sure that you don’t speak too fast. I know someone who works in media monitoring, and these people listen to news broadcasts at 3x normal speed. Do that yourself, and if you’re unable to understand what you’re saying, you’re very likely going too fast, and with too short pauses between words and sentences.
* … nor too slow. You should also avoid silence. Silence can be very embarassing.
* Neither should you use filler words and sounds. “Umm”, “Mmm”, “Aahh”, and similar sounds just make you sound dumb.
* Ensure that your voice is neither too flat nor too eager or enthusiastic. If your voice is too flat, you just sound like Forrest Gump, and being enthusiastic doesn’t make you sound cool. It just makes you sound insane.
h3. Body language
When you watch a show on TV, apart from some neo-avantgardist MTV shows for kids on speed, you are most likely to see people using fairly neutral body language.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon all notions of body language, but you do want to avoid the following:
* Don’t let your hands obscure your face. If your hair gets in the way, don’t use your hands to remove it — instead put it in a pony tail. Likewise, if you don’t have hair, don’t pretend that you have, and that it gets in your face. While these gestures are quite acceptable when you are speaking to someone in the same room, they just look annoying on camera.
* Don’t move around too much. You don’t see the anchors on CNN continously move from one end of the picture to the other. They mostly sit/stand fairly still.
* No excessive hand-waving. Unless your show is about excessive hand-waving, that is.
* Blink. But not too often. If you don’t you just look like a robot, and if you do it too often, you just look like a small furry creature from Alpha Centauri. Which is bad, unless you _are_ a small furry creature from Alpha Centauri.
* BTW: There is no reason for you to move _that_ close to the camera. Unless you want to expose your skin problems and bad breath, that is.
* Talk to the camera. You’ll be amazed at the lip-reading capabilities of the deaf or hard of hearing.
h3. Conclusion
Please note that what I’m saying here isn’t the absolute truth. There are exceptions to these _guidelines._ But, if you want to break the rules, you have to know them first.
Learn about audio and video editing. Take classes, buy a book. Get some good software.
Have fun.
And please, pretty please, _write those transcripts._ You can use the script you wrote before creating your piece as a draft. The following people will be happy:
* The deaf or hard of hearing
* People who are interested in your content, but don’t have the time to listen to you.
* People who are interested in your content, but are in an enviroment where they can’t use sound.
* People who are interested in your content, but don’t know you yet. They will mostly need to find you through a search engine.
* Yourself. Instead of listening through twenty hours of material when you want to find that five-year old broadcast you made, you just search for it, and get to it in five seconds.

1 Comment

  1. I like it.
    I doubt most people realize how much harder it is to make a professional-looking video (or even an audio recording) versus just typing some “stuff” into a webpage. I learned the hard way, as I did some of this work in high school. It’s not exactly fun, and when done poorly looks really stupid.
    The target audience is quite sophisticated, with high expectations from being exposed to big-budget professional TV broadcasts/radio news for umpteen ages. It’ll be a real challenge to meet this, let alone go beyond it. And if you can’t meet it, nobody will care.
    At least for now, I don’t see any advantages in making a video recording versus typing in text. You’ve already alluded to this; the fact that a transcript needs to be made anyway.
    The other significant advantage to a text-only format is that one can read it at one’s leisure, instead of being forced to listen/watch a fixed duration recording.
    Finally, let’s be brutally honest. Very few people are photogenic enough to be on TV anyway… and the vast majority of the beautiful talking heads on TV ain’t all that bright in the first place.