Video production has changed. Cameras have gotten smaller. Lighting has gotten cooler and less intrusive. But production really changed for me when I switched almost exclusively to audio.
Written by Lee Schneider
I’ve been all in for podcasting the past few years and I am loving the lightness of it. Production is not usually something you associate with “lightness.” Usually, production is about lots of equipment, lots of people, lots of tech. When I worked in TV we always had lots of gear to tote around. We set up lights that made people squint. We fussed with the background. Even when the cameras got smaller our footprint was still big.
Podcasting On Location and In the Studio
Going on location with a podcast is different. All the gear fits into a backpack. The people we interview are relaxed. They are having a conversation, not giving an “interview” and therefore under a lot of pressure. This means the interviews are better and more genuine.
When we record in a studio, everything is already there. Hosts can be hosts. Interviewers can interview. An engineer handles the recording. Just one person doing tech. It’s so much better that way because it’s less formal. No “hair and makeup.” Real conversations. Even when the conversations are not face-to-face, when we are recording someone remotely, the conversations are still intimate and connected. Something about not having the camera eye in the way makes it easier to talk.
Podcasting With a Script
Dramatic, true-crime, and fiction podcasts have more possibilities than ever. First, they are getting popular, with Homecoming and Serial, S-Town and Ars Paradoxia making it to the top of playlists. Podcasts like these free creators to dream up a scene that couldn’t take place anywhere else but in an imaginary audio environment. As I wrote recently in an article for Cult/Tech in Medium,
Podcasts are telling the stories of the future — the compelling, baffling, comic, strange, dramatic future coming up fast. Perhaps it is because in podcasting your listeners’ budget for special effects is infinite. You can create things in sound that you can’t in visuals. Like reading, the mind is the theater.
Diving deep into a sonic environment is one of the great pleasures of podcasting, whether you are a listener or you are the creator of a multi-track audio experience. I was amazed when I discovered the super-dense audio world of Radio Lab and hypnotized at the cinema-without-pictures audio world of Homecoming. Homecoming was like listening to a movie soundtrack. The world of Homecoming jumped into the mind’s eye and persisted there like an afterimage.
The pleasures of podcasting can include video, but video reinvented. On-location video with high production values and a minimal footprint is a skill that takes practice. Since I consider myself a refugee from “normal” television production I have been evaluating video podcasting carefully. One of my new productions on deck for this year will include short segments of on-location video and I plan to include studio segments with video as well.
When you get down to it, it’s the flexibility and light footprint of podcasting that I like best. Flexibility on the production side, light footprint when you are on the move, and endless invention in post-production, where you can create engaging conversations with just two voices, or dive deep into audio environments with multi-track edits.
Thanks for reading. Click to find out why I do this work.