How 21 fiction podcasts are making video work for their shows

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Video podcasts are all the rage. This blog has said so over and over and over — surveys show that YouTube is the most preferred platform for podcast listening, and many podcasters have gotten an outsized reach by posting short-form video to platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

But this all puts fiction podcasters in a bit of a bind. Are we supposed to start filming movies now? One of the biggest strengths of audio drama is the lack of a visual, which makes for a more intimate and immersive listening experience. The expectation is that a listener’s imagination fills in the story, leading to endless possibilities that video — even Hollywood-produced video — would only stifle. But there’s a way to give fiction podcasts a visual element while keeping listeners’ imaginations intact.

Video for fiction podcasts is inherently going to be a different ballgame than video for interview or chat podcasts. Fiction podcasters are probably not recording every episode live in a way that can be easily uploaded to Youtube. The majority of audio dramas consist of multiple takes across different recording sessions, cut together in a DAW and layered with music and sound effects. So video for fiction must take an alternate route.

I gathered examples from nearly two dozen shows to illustrate the many ways fiction podcasts are making video work. These videos generally come in one of three forms, and the one — or several — you choose should be based on your show’s needs, budget, and skillset.

Record or import audio, make edits, add fades, music, and sound effects, then publish online, export the audio in the format of your choice or send it directly to your hosting service.
Create your podcast from start to finish with Descript.

The visual trailer

Videos for fiction podcasts are in peak form when it comes to the trailer. This is likely because creating a video for a two minute audio clip is an easier task than doing it for a full episode. 

Some shows go the route of animating their trailer — just look at Kingmaker or The Boar Knight. The nature of animation suits the fantastical nature of both these audio dramas. Creating a live-action video for either show would require expensive CGI, but the hand-drawn animation is more charming and less expensive. As a kid-friendly audio drama, the Boar Knight especially works in an animated format — it’s reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Other podcasts use stock footage for their “live action” trailers, including Human Error, VALENCE, and Someone Dies In This Elevator. Stock footage pairs well with trailers that include many different clips of characters speaking or quick-changing scenes, because short specific clips are much easier to find than long clips precisely matching your audio. The Human Error trailer is a great example of this.

Another frequent use of video in fiction podcasting is the crowdfunding campaign pitch. Most crowdfunding platforms encourage creators to create a video about their work to drive interest, and many creators do just that. Small Victories is an example of an engaging crowdfunding video, made with kinetic typography that catches the eye and keeps you watching. Kalila Stormfire’s crowdfunding video starts off with intriguing episode clips with related stock footage, and ends with a video of the showrunner Lisette Alvarez pitching the season to you directly.

But sometimes trailers and crowdfunding pitches go all the way with live-action footage. Re: Dracula filmed a simple video to go along with their trailer and crowdfunding campaign that depicts important objects from the story. The best live-action podcast video I’ve seen is by Meteor City, who filmed a cinematic trailer for their second season crowdfunding campaign. This type of trailer works well for shows that are set in the present day and lean towards the slice of life drama, as it makes building a set and creating costumes much easier — but if you’re feeling ambitious about doing this for your sci-fi/fantasy alien-octopus saga, don’t let me stop you! 

A word of advice for your trailer and crowdfunding videos: keep it short, and make sure the quality is representative of your podcast. It’s rare someone will stay through an 8-minute crowdfunding pitch, and if your trailer has poor audio quality or distracting background noises, folks will be less likely to tune into the podcast itself. 

The short-form video 

Short-form video for platforms like Instagram and TikTok is a great tool in any podcaster’s arsenal when it comes to marketing their show, and it’s no different for fiction. 

Some shows rely on behind-the-scenes content; for example, Starship Q posts clips of recording sessions. Audio drama naturally has so much going on behind the scenes, and drawing back the curtain can make your audience feel even more invested in the show. You could show your composer creating music, your sound designer adding sound effects, or your director during a live recording session. Short interviews with your cast and crew could be another great option.

Episode clips are a popular choice for fiction podcast videos as well. Static “audiogram” videos with captions and a waveform can do well, but going the extra mile to create visuals for your clips will make them even more successful. For example, Tales from the Stinky Dragon uses character puppets to play along to parts of their podcast. C.S.W. of Incarnation Read films short live-action clips of his horror show to go along with the episode audio. Compare his videos to the Sidequesting trailer, with its unchanging background and single waveform. Both are fun, but I’m guessing the former keeps your interest longer. 

The (gasp) full episode

But this is all small potatoes compared to the arguable holy grail of video podcasting: the full episode video. Videos of full episodes do exist for fiction podcasts, but in a simpler form than nonfiction. Borrasca uses a repeating clip with a landscape scene from the episode as the visual on screen. What Will Be Here uses the episode cover art with an animated waveform. 

But if the work it takes to create a compelling video is what’s keeping you from showing up on YouTube, don’t sweat it — your video can be as simple as you need it to be. If I Go Missing the Witches Did It opts for a still image of their cover art as the visual for their videos, without any waveform at all. 

Videos for fiction podcasts can also be a great opportunity to increase accessibility. For example, Realm created ASL videos of their show Elfquest that show two interpreters on screen. Love and Luck uploaded captioned videos of all their episodes. When putting episodes to Youtube, I recommend not relying solely on the auto-generated captions. They can be a good starting place, but they’re not a replacement for accurate subtitles. (If you use Descript, you can easily export your transcript as a subtitle file that can be uploaded to YouTube.)

Just try something

Posting a carefully crafted and edited video isn’t your only option. Live streaming can also be used to bolster engagement with your fiction podcast. For example, Tin Can Audio produced an experimental audio drama, Anamnesis, entirely live on Twitch over eight weeks. Travis Vengroff of Dark Dice will often stream editing sessions of his audio drama. Hello From The Hallowoods recently held an online live show for charity using Tiltify. Many TTRPG podcasts will also play sessions live. 

There are also thriving audio drama communities on video based social media platforms. You’re only a quick search away from finding hundreds of fiction podcast recommendations on TikTok. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing short-form audio dramas that only exist on the platform. The space is constantly changing, and I think fiction podcasting will find success in video because the format is so adaptable. If you’re making an audio drama, don’t look at nonfiction podcasts for your video ideas — push the envelope and try something different.

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