Friday, 11 September 2015

The Art of the Vodcast

I have previously burbled on at greater length about vodcasts - here. This post will be less detailed.

In the context of coursework, podcasts which summarise research are great ... as you can re-edit these for your Evaluation, including comparison with what you actually produced/did.

A vodcast is a podcast with video. It is likely to include your voice, though you can use titles to the same effect.
A mini GUIDE TO GOOD VODCASTING PRACTICE: brief, pithy, well illustrated, creative, expressive, analysis, terminology, concepts, opinion, titles, chapters, top ten, short clips, fair usage copyright law, mix audio levels, limit face time, branded, ident, channel watermark, target audience, tags, YouTube, links lists...

It will be quite brief. About 2 minutes is good; 5 minutes is starting to push it ... and don't go beyond 10 minutes. If you can't fit all your content into that time limit, think about how to split it up into themed chapters.

Brand your vodcasts, as I do. Once you've created a basic 'opening title' sequence for one, you can copy/paste the sequence into any future vodcast and simply edit the titles. I also recently started adding a watermark, in the style of the company or channel logos you see on TV, asserting my brand but also ensuring my work can't be ripped off!
I've created quite a few vodcasts, and will be adding more - a playlist is embedded below

Visual material is key: whatever point or theme you're explaining/exploring, you should illustrate on screen where you can. By all means film yourself in a simple close-up, or in a mock-up of a TV chat show (or other creative approaches), but don't keep your face on screen throughout.

Screenshots, titles and video clips should be gathered up, put into specific folders with file names reflecting the content. If you do this, you can drag/drop directly into Final Cut Pro X and tags will be added, and your folder structure maintained, making it much easier to find what you need.

Clips from film and music video, or other copyright content, should be kept brief to stick within the legal framework of 'fair usage': so long as you're using short clips, this is fine. Use too much footage and you'll find YouTube kicks your work off. Only use the specific copyright material you need to make a point. Furthermore, only use its audio where you need to. Freeze frame at points if you don't need to show continuous footage.

Downloading such material from YouTube is straightforward - see simple guide. Remember, this should be done only for the purposes of creating edited work.

Chapter titles help to break up the footage and make it more user-friendly. using a 'top ten' format sometimes helps.

Take care with audio levels: depending on how you've recorded your voice it might be MUCH lower than the other material you're using; listen through and try to adjust audio levels of clips to get a fairly even level throughout.

Consider throwing in an ident to close the vodcast, as TV shows tend to.

Think about your target audience: have you made the tone fun as well as informative?

Look for good student examples, and look at my examples too (you'll notice my style evolved over time). I add tags to attempt to drive an audience to my work when I upload these to YouTube, and I'd encourage you to do the same - challenge yourself to get more views than anyone else! You may even get a YouTube invite to be a content partner (that has happened with some past Media students' YouTube channels!).

Add vodcasts to a vodcast links list on your blog AND a links list for the topic of it.

Here's a playlist of my vodcasts on various aspects of film openings and the Media coursework generally (there is a separate list for A2 coursework vodcasts on music video work); I will be adding more vodcasts over time ...

Over to you...

Over time I've learnt myself what works best in vodcasts, and have gradually introduced these ideas in my vodcasts. Many earlier examples could be better!

  1. PLAN, PREPARE, ORGANISE: Gather any clips, pictures, screenshots you'll need into folderSssss - if you split content across multiple clearly named folders, Final Cut will use folder names as tags if you import by drag and dropping. Likewise, if you make sure image files have a clear name, it will be MUCH easier to find what you're looking for. Run VLC recordings through Handbrake beforehand, and use these converted files.
  2. AN OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE: Final Cut provides a range of decent title sequences; pick one, customise it (change font, size, colour, positioning, add music...) - next time you can simply copy/paste this from one project file to another. The actual title text needs to be clear on what the vodcast is about!!! I tend to number mine, and identify them as 'a DB3 vodcast'.
  3. SHORT, CLEAR INTRO: Explain the topic and the structure, perhaps sum up the resources used.
  4. SEPARATE SECTIONS/THEMES/TOPICS WITH A PLAIN TITLE SCREEN: Something I've belatedly started doing, but it helps. Don't go overboard, but a short pause between topics is good practice, and a title screen helps to do this.
  5. COUNTDOWN FROM 10?: Numbered sections are useful, and 10 (or 5) are good numbers to aim for. If you're covering more than 10 key points can you combine some? A 'top 10' might also include 'other points' where you very briefly touch on more that you've not covered as a major topic.

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