Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Pod/Vodcasts - a guide

For a guide on divshare, see this post. This post builds on previous posts (and there is a links list on the AS cwk blog too).

The two formats are quite different beasts - podcasts, as audio only, are more basic while vodcasts are for aspects which really need/will benefit from visual material. Thats not to say podcasts can't be sophisticated: mini-radio shows in effect!
Podcasts, named after iPods (remember, these were initially audio-only), are typically MP3 audio files provided by websites to attract, entertain and inform an audience. (This tripartite list has a lot in common with the classic definition of public service broadcasting)
There have been some phenomenally successful podcasters - Ricky Gervais' podcasts for The Guardian broke records, and eventually saw him hive these off to subscription only, making a bundle of cash in the process!
Film production companies (and bands too) commonly use podcasts to get people talking about a film long before it hits the screen.
Podcasts usually incorporate some discussion, though solo podcasting isn'tunknown! At its simplest, you'd initially podcast on your group, your individual pitches, what your production idea is, and how (research...) you settled on this, noting key influences (films, directors etc), then discussing upcoming pre-production steps. You'd then post (at least) weekly updates on what you've done/whats happened since your last podcast, and whats upcoming (you can podcast on any specific aspect at any stage though!).

You can make it more interesting by working with other groups, interviewing them (properly introduced as the director, cinematographer, producer [or other roles] and their production company name given [state "film title" is to be distributed by Indie outfit "company name"]). You interview them for your podcast, they interview you for theirs...and both share the files, presenting their podcast as an interview feature (possibly on a separate standalone production company blog - I'll do a separate post on this!).

The key to podcasting? Remembering to include both info and entertainment; think of your blog not simply as an academic exercise, but a realistic web presence for YOUR actual film production! Like any blog in the real world, you've got to incentivize an audience to listen to your work...and be so gripped they'll be counting the days until the next episode!!! Not least, that means a post title that includes some basic info on what the podcast is about, and some text in the post to help coax your blog reader (again, think of the world beyond your Media teacher!!!) into giving up their time to click play and listen!
Podcasts are about info, but also...
Will (m)any people really want to listen to your 5+min stream of consciousness???
Make sure you edit the mp3, take off any "right, are you ready" - "are we recording" comments and blank air.
Aim for around 2mins (tho' some will justify longer, up to around 5min podcasts).

Some key points on podcasts:
  1. check its an mp3 file; if not, convert into mp3
  2. use upload sites such as divshare to put it online, then...
  3. embed the file into the blog (so that your blog user simply has to click play)
  4. edit off any pauses at the start/end; edit out other pauses halfway through too!
  5. limit the length - have mercy on your audience! pithiness is a challenge, also reflected in the miserly 2mins you get for your film openings when you've all seen most actual openings are much longer!
  6. use podcasts to keep your audience up to date with whats happening in the production - if you subscribed to the podcasts but never looked at the blog, could you still have a fair idea about you've been blogging about?
  7. you can also have a lot more fun though: experiment with radio-show style podcasts, including presenter/s, perhaps even jingles; consider interviewing others and then being interviewed, as film-makers, yourselves!
  8. check your blog post includes description of whats in the podcast, and...
  9. try to include persuasive language, give people a reason to listen!
  10. 3 key words: attract, entertain, inform - the first refers to the fact that podcasts are typically...
  11. a marketing tool

Okay, so thats some points on podcasts; what about vodcasts?
The previous posts include a series of links and embeds; you can also look at past blogs from IGS students and students from elsewhere.
Obviously the key difference is the added aspect of visuals.
This doesn't mean plonking yourself in front of a webcam, hitting record and rushing to upload a half hour of your insights into film!!! As a Media student you need to be a little more ambitious. Basically, this means combining some possibly simple, single-take of yourself/group discussing some aspect of your work, then editing into this still images and/or video clips to illustrate whatever you're rambling on about discussing with great style, knowledge and eloquence!
You might look to replicate a studio set-up, a discussion-show format - a couple of comfortable chairs, pot plants, bottle of water and you're flying! Again, examples are provided on the previous vodcast posts:

As with podcasts, not only are these attracting marks, but they should help to drive real-world traffic to your blog! Promote your work on Facebook etc! Once on YouTube think about the tags that will help your videos come up in search results!
Videos on your blog can be very brief updates - a few seconds on how a shoot went, how you've achieved a special effect, a software tool you've used - the possibilities are endless. Vodcasts are more challenging undertakings, fusing your voiceover/commentary with a range of inserted images/video clips/footage to illustrate your topic and content of your speech.
Again, think about length, and what would reasonably sustain someone's interest - if you've recorded waffle, edit it or re-record!
There are many, many themes you could pick out for vodcasts, listed below. Many sites - not least Film Guardian etc - feature weekly or monthly vodcasts with star commentators, often discussing specific topics but frequently also with special guests; you could of course invite some other young filmmakers to appear as special guests!

Some possible vodcast topics/themes:
  • shoot diary
  • the director's vision
  • a guide/visit to locations
  • applying make-up/creating SFX
  • set dressing/mise-en-scene/costume
  • shooting a [specific, eg killing] scene
  • cast(ing) and characters
  • rushes [ie, early footage]/test footage/audience feedback
  • the evolution of a film idea!
  • sample audience response
  • our favourite films/the films which most influence us [in general]
  • influences on this production
  • genre overview ['an overview of the slasher genre' - following ideas would have sim titles]
  • genre: key directors [or even just one!]
  • genre: key films
  • genre: cinematographic conventions [framing, colour filters, steadicam, dutch anngles etc]
  • our top 5/10 [genre] films/posters/DVDs/actors/taglines/themes/soundtracks/killers/locations/comebacks/sequels/remakes...
  • a guide to [genre] in 2011
  • why do people watch [genre] films? We ask...[state range of people asked! you could always vox pop outside a cinema...or ask your fellow 6th formers]
  • marketing a [genre] film
  • [any other specific aspect of genre: use the books, even a single chapter from one could help greatly inform - even inspire! - a vodcast]
  • the editing process
  • new media and the contemporary film-making process
  • film distribution + exhibition in the digital age
  • company idents/designing our idents
  • the role of titles/our titles
  • the role of a producer/director/cinematographer [or other]
  • our top tips on researching, planning, shooting, editing, marketing and exhibiting a film opening
  • AS Media coursework: the steps involved
Each group should aim for 3+ vodcasts.
Please pass on full quality .mov files to me once you complete each!
Again, there's plentiful scope here to be creative - have fun and balance the entertain and inform!

Two final, but important points:
  1. you'll find yourself exploring issues around many of the above in your Evaluation - you can certainly recycle (ideally re-edited of course!) vodcasts from your R+P for the Eval!!!
  2. yes, vodcasts help garner higher marks, but your work on these has a value beyond Media Studies - these are potentially brilliant marketing tools in the promotion of YOU! Whether for Uni or job applications, you're demonstrating an impressive skillset with polished multimedia such as this, all available on your own blog AND YouTube channel!!!

After all that you deserve a quiff-centric's about an Elvis podcast?! Click through to

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