Starting a video podcast: A guide for beginners

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With all the good news around podcasting – exploding listenership, ad dollars pouring in, Ira Glass achieving immortality – there’s also one totally vexing news cycle: what to do about video podcasts. You keep hearing you need to make one. But chances are, you haven’t, and for good reasons: it’s hard, it’s expensive, it probably takes everything you’ve got just to get your audio episodes done. 

So let’s talk about video podcasts because, quite frankly, there’s a lot to unpack. What’s the benefit of a video podcast? When did they become so popular? Are they inherently paradoxical to the art form that is podcasting?

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What is a video podcast? 

Don’t overthink this one. A video podcast is exactly what it sounds like: a podcast with video. (Please don’t call it a “vodcast.”) The video element could be as simple as a static image or as complicated as a fully-produced documentary-style interview. 

Video podcasts are mostly going to be distributed on YouTube, plus maybe Vimeo, and podcast websites. Most podcast directories don’t play video podcasts or allow you to upload them to their RSS feeds, so there isn’t really a true video podcast platform — yet. Spotify is building out a video podcast feature, but it’s only available to a handful of their top shows at the moment.

Adding a visual element to your podcast means more time in the editing booth, possibly a lot more. But, with all the different ways you can add that visual, you get to decide just how much more time you want to invest. 

And as with all things craft- or content-related, there’s a basic trade-off: the more time and effort you put into it, the better the output. Although, with video podcasts, it’s not quite that simple. There are options that are easier to do and can still accomplish a lot of what you’re trying to achieve by diving into video. 

If you’re looking for some workflow tips, we’ve got that covered in a separate post. But if you’re looking for a primer on video podcasting, with a full breakdown of all the options out there, you’re in the right place. Here’s a rundown of the different kinds of video podcasts we’ve been seeing in the wild. 

Static image

Effort level: Very low

Example:

This is the easiest option out there. It just requires some simple video editing software so you can put an image over your audio. We know a video tool that makes it super-duper easy (it's Descript, in case that wasn't obvious). The image could be a logo or an image of your guest, or just something relevant to your content. You could even go a step further and add captions or a waveform to make it feel dynamic like a video. 

But, like all things in life, you get what you pay for. It’s not as engaging for listeners as some of the other options, since it’s basically just a way to sneak audio files onto video platforms.

PRO TIP: Up your game with a short looping video or GIF instead of just using a static image. You’d be doing equal amounts of work for a much more interesting visual. (Check out Wondery's Even The Rich for an example.)

Remote interview recording (talking heads)

Effort level: Low

Example:

Pre-pandemic this probably would have been seen as lazy, but these days it’s basically the norm. 

This is the easiest way to do remote recording, so it’s a good default if you can’t get everyone in the same room together. It doesn't require any special gear beyond a laptop, since you’re basically just going to record a Zoom call for it. 

You’ll be putting a lot of trust in your software and internet, though. If either one fails, for any person in the show, at any point of the recording, you could be left with gaps in the episode, or no episode at all.

In-studio recording

Effort level: Medium

Example:

There’s a lot to be said for the energy emitted when you record in person, and an in-studio recording is a great way to share that energy with your listeners. And, as far as effort goes, it sits at a very happy medium. 

You’ll need to set up at least one camera to record the conversation; if you want more angles you can always add them, but be aware that multiple cameras makes for far more complex editing. Video podcasts using the multi-cam method usually have a wide-angle shot of the whole studio and a camera on each individual speaker. 

Spoiler: cameras are expensive. Plus, video editing can have a steep learning curve — though, again, if you’re using Descript it’s considerably flatter. Oh, and to record in a studio you need…a studio. That means you’ll probably have to pay for time in one. You’ll have to invest both time and money to see the full payout of an in-studio recording.

Interview & B-roll recording

Effort level: High

Example:

Once you start adding B-roll, is it even a podcast anymore? Call me a purist, but it feels like we’re treading into television territory at this point. 

That said, this is by far the most engaging form of video podcasts. It’s a great way to show the audience the content you’re talking about, so you can capture their attention on multiple levels. Viewers will stay far more engaged when they can rely on both seeing and hearing the story you want to tell. 

It will require a lot of effort in post-production, though, and you’ll likely end up spending even more time on the video side than the audio. It could also get expensive, depending on whether you need a camera to film the B-roll yourself, hire someone to shoot, or have to pay to license it from the web. 

Animation

Effort level: VERY high

Example:

Honestly? Don’t even think about it. Animation would be so ridiculously time-consuming, unless you’re getting paid for it or getting a degree in it, just don’t bother.

But hey, we’re all for you doing something just to prove us wrong. If you want to go for it, you’ll need to get your hands on some drawing and animation software. Or, if you want a more “hack-y” version, you can always draw a few simple images or characters and then keyframe them around in any video editing software. Or request a higher credit card limit and hire an animator.

So why bother?

Regardless of which method you chose, making a video podcast inevitably means more work. That said, we’re happy to report the extra work can pay off. 

First of all, as you may have heard, YouTube now draws a bigger podcast audience than any other platform. For that reason alone, you should be thinking about some kind of visual element. Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons. 

Get their attention  

One of podcasts’ main attractions is the convenience of an audio experience. You can listen in while folding laundry, running errands, or working out. You’d think adding video elements would be counterintuitive, but it actually works out in your favor. Viewers are inherently more engaged in video consumption because of the attention it requires. 

Play to their strengths 

Humans are largely visual creatures. Body language and facial expressions can provide more information than spoken language alone. Also, some people just prefer consuming video content. By adding a visual of the people talking on your podcast, you open yourself up to a bigger audience and give yourself more ways to convey your ideas.

The gift that keeps on giving 

When you put the work in and create a video podcast, you’re giving yourself hours of content that can be cut up and repurposed across all social media platforms. After all, video is the best-performing content type across all social platforms. 

Because video just works better on social media. These platforms are optimized for video, not audio (and barely even text). All of them have videos set to autoplay, muted by default. Adding video to your podcast means more eyes on your content across all social channels. 

You’ve convinced me. Now how do I make a video podcast? 

We thought you’d never ask. 

Step 1: Decide on the visual

Hopefully you read enough of the sections above to realize there are a lot of options here. Pick whichever one interests and excites you the most. And the good news is, you won’t be stuck with your initial choice for all of eternity — you can experiment with an easy static image to get the hang of it and try working your way up to something more challenging. 

Step 2: Capture the video

The work here all depends on what you went with in Step 1. If you’re doing a simple image or GIF, your first step is to create that visual. If you’re going with the remote interview, you just have to make sure you hit “record” during your call. And that everyone’s internet works. And they’re well lit. 

In-studio recordings or interviews will require a lot more setup. You’ll have to figure out how you want to angle cameras, and make sure the room you’re filming in is clean with plenty of good light. 

Step 3: Edit it 

Once you’ve edited your audio, sync it with whatever visual you went with. If you’re doing a recording of an interview, it’s gonna take some work to line everything up. Here again we’ll note that if you’re using Descript, you can edit the audio and the video in the same project — otherwise you’ll need two different editing tools, and have to export, import, and all that awfulness. 

If you can find ways to incorporate fun edits and effects, you can create an even more engaging piece of content for your audience. Even simple things like zooms, cuts, and transitions can raise the production value of your podcast. 

Step 4: Design a thumbnail 

It’s tempting to let the video platform pick a random still from the recording, but you have to resist. You don’t need to spend a lot of time making a super fancy thumbnail, but if you want to get clicks you’ll need some sort of customization here. 

Here’s a great starter option: take a still from the video, add your logo, and write the title of the episode in bold text. Feel free to dress it up from there if the spirit moves you. 

Step 5: Upload and share

You’ve recorded the audio and video, you’ve synced it up, and you’ve made a fun little thumbnail. All that’s left is to send it into the world. Wherever you upload it, and YouTube is a no-brainer, make sure you share it out across all of your social media channels. 

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