Category: Opinion

Why Edit Your Podcast?

picture of a Shure microphone by the other Martin Taylor

Why has the podcast stalled in the imagination and daily lives of the digerati? Podcasting began a decade ago but really took off in 2004 and 2005. Since then the uptake in podcast listening seems to have leveled off. Why is that?

There are two kinds of podcast: re-purposed content from elsewhere (eg. NPR, BBC, etc) and unique content created only to be delivered in podcast form. The quality of content from professional radio creators is, as you would expect, excellent both technically and in content value. The more niche podcasts are much more hit and miss (much more miss than hit, unfortunately). This is largely due to one podcast personality (who shall remain nameless) whose format was (and is) to get two or three people talking for an hour or so on a particular topic with the loosest of planned structure, and smallest amount of preparation possible. He takes that recording that no one seems to edit except to put some jingle music and adverts on the beginning and end, and then he releases it. A stable of these shows has been created and the formula has often been repeated but does it work?

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Attacking from Behind

I’ve been noticing a trend in the marketing of some also-ran products, of attacking from behind. This seems to go against everything marketeers hold dear; never to admit that you’re number two (or worse). Yet we’re seeing some big names employing this strategy, including Microsoft, attacking the dominance of the iPad and Google search, and Samsung taking on the iPhone. In the American market, there is no denying the dominance of Apple phones and tablets and Google search. In fact, they have become synonymous with these markets. You don’t search for something, you Google it and the default smart phone choice is the iPhone. So what have you got lose by taking this position?

Let’s take a look at the examples:

Up First: Microsoft Surface v Apple iPad

I actually think Microsoft did a pretty good job here, especially, if you’re intimately familiar with the iPad ads they reference (and who isn’t?). I doubt it will make consumers want the Microsoft Surface more than the iPad but that’s down to the product not the video. And their argument is weak; there’s no PowerPoint but there’s Keynote, Haiku Deck and Google Presentations. The problem here is how far behind they are and how inferior their product is. Interestingly, they don’t seem to mention Surface anywhere, although we all know that’s what their Windows 8 Tablet is. Did they damage their tablet brand too much with their premature release of Surface? I think it will take more than this kind of ad to make in-roads into the iPad market, but they really have nothing to lose at this point.
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Freesound: Give & Take

Zoom H4 Recorder

If you’re a filmmaker at any level from just starting out to an industry expert you know that, in the edit process you always find a few sound effects, foley or ambient noises that you’re missing. If you’ve been in that situation you’ve probably been to freesound.org. Freesound is a constantly growing library of Creative Commons licensed sounds. If you’re looking for something their search engine usually returns a few hits of sounds that might be useful and it is often quicker and much more convenient than digging out your field recording equipment and hunting down the sound for yourself.

That said, I’m sure lots of us have a few eclectic sound recording languishing on our hard drives that we recorded for one project or another. If you have something you’re willing to share the process of uploading them is a little geeky (ftp) but they do have a web interface too and it is a simple way of uploading a bunch of files at once. You simply upload your files, then describe and tag them and then wait a couple of days for them to be approved. What’s in it for you? What goes around comes around and what good are those files you’re hoarding especially if you’re not going to use them again. I just uploaded some of the sounds I’ve collected in recent months and it felt good to share. I hope other filmmakers will consider doing the same and freesound will become an even more comprehensive and useful resource for everyone.

Pocket Cinema: Is That a Movie Studio in Your Pocket or Are You Just Pleased to See Me?

iPhone on TripodThe promise of the HDSLR is the democratization of video and filmmaking. The idea is that, that new DSLR you just bought for stills can make amazing HD video files so why don’t you just start making a movie?

The reality is, before you begin you need to buy a new tripod and head, rail system, matte box, follow focus, video monitor, viewfinder, shoulder mount, sound recorder, microphones, lights, computer and software if you want to take it seriously. And that’s just the gear: there are new technical skills to learn and you can’t man all that gear yourself so you need help, plus you need something to work on worthy of all that expense and hassle and suddenly that promise of anyone being able to make a movie get’s paralyzed by the work and expense involved.

Which is why I was inspired when a friend suggested I listen to a BBC radio program on Pocket Cinema. Sadly the show isn’t available for you to listen to anymore but the nub of the show is what creative filmmaking people are achieving with the the most modest of gear; a Flip or their cell phone or, at the very most, a consumer camcorder. Little in the way of crew or gear or hassle – filmmaking in its loosest, cheapest most accessible form. Click for more

Deciphering Craigslist Creative/Crew Ads

I’ve been trawling through the Creative and Crew Ads on Craigslist for the last couple of months trying to get attached to a cool project. Even though I’ll work for free for a project I believe in the signal to noise ratio is massive. I’m starting to understand how to filter out some of that noise; if you’re in the same boat here’s how I’ve learnt to translate the various ads so far:

  • Producer wanted = need someone to get money for us
  • Good for student, recent grad or enthusiast = you won’t get paid
  • Credit & copy = you won’t get paid
  • We don’t have much of a budget but this gig could lead to more lucrative work = you get paid now or in future
  • Wanted: camera operator with own gear = director/DP just found out how much camera package rental is and think they can get both you and your gear for next to, or absolutely, nothing
  • Wanted, editor to complete this project: 75% complete = we thought we could do it ourselves with a pirated copy of FCP but we’ve messed it up so bad we’ll never get it done
  • Ground floor opportunity = you won’t get paid
  • High profile festival potential = we’re submitting it to Sundance along with 25,000 others – they’ll accept it right?
  • Will be a great addition to your portfolio = you won’t get paid
  • Deferred Payment = you won’t get paid
  • Simple gig, 30 minutes tops = we’ll pay you for 30 minutes work, not your traveling time, prep-time, setup time, break down time, waiting around time – pencil in the day, here’s your $30 – now you will be editing that for us won’t you?
  • Experienced director = I’ve read The Idiot’s Guide and watched Extras

Your mileage may vary but I’ve sent out countless emails, for which I’ve only received a handful of replies, none of which have led anywhere. Bitter much? Yes sir, I am.