In A Beginner’s Podcasting Guide, there’s a reference to using video hosting sites SplashCast or YouTube for audio podcasts. (See the section Should I Have a Podcast Series Logo?) Most podcast hosting sites offer free and paid plans, usually with unmetered bandwith. So plans are usually based on the amount of disk space your podcast files take up. But free or not, while you can upload a podcast series logo, audio podcasts don’t really convey your visual branding. (This is especially important if you’re on a podcast sharing site that syndicates content, and where members are encouraged to use other members’ content on their sites.) There’s a way to get around this, as I discuss below.
NOTE: This article makes the entire process look more complicated than it actually is. The article merely tries to give you as much information about your options as possible.
Alternate Podcast Hosting Approach
The alternative to typical podcast hosting is to use video hosting. “How’s that?, you say. Well basically, you are taking your audio file and attaching one or more visual elements that reinforce your visual brand. You’re not really producing a video, per se, but you will have images attached to a podcast, should a listener wish to view something.
Here are the benefits in turning your podcast into a “video”:
- You’ll have a visual brand associated with your podcast. How you do this will depend on your requirements. Suggestions:
- Display a personal/ company/ series logo.
- Display a screenshot of your home page, with the logo clearly visible.
- Use one or more images/ illustrations relevant to the podcast in question, with a logo watermarked in one corner (bottom right is often best).
- If you use SplashCast, you get additional benefits:
- Higher quality audio/ video than for most video sharing sites, including YouTube.
- Automatic listing of an episode in their directory.
- An embeddable, brandable, borderless player.
- Dynamic updating. So if other sites embed your “shows”, any change you make to them will be automatically updated. (With YouTube, I believe you end up with a brand new URL, thus no dynamic updating.)
- Options for displaying an entire podcast series in the player’s menu. (It’s automatic, if you keep adding “shows” to a “channel”.) This can be a big plus, especially if you want to place your entire series in a single player in the sidebar of your site. (YouTube now has “related video” thumbnails at the bottom of their player, but I’m not 100% sure that you can filter out other people’s videos from the list.)
- Video sharing sites are generally free to sign up with and use. There are usually no limits on uploads and bandwidth usage. (However, there was talk last year of a premium plan for SplashCast. Not sure where that’s at.)
- Video embedding into your site/ blog is sometimes easier – but not by much – than podcast embedding.
There are some drawbacks with this approach.
- Getting crass/ rude comments about your “video”, or lack of.
- Not giving listeners the benefit of using podcast downloaders such as Juice Receiver (multi-platform). Juice and programs like it make downloading podcasts to your MP3 players (iPod, Zune, etc.) relatively simple. You can even program them to auto-check podcasts you’ve subscribed to and then download audio files during “off hours”, which you define. After that, you offload the files from your hard drive to your media player.
You can’t prevent #1. There always “haters” who have miserable lives and need to vent. For #2, you could produce two versions, one for regular podcast hosting and one for video sharing sites. This allows you to embed a player for each episode in each associated post page. You can also use the video version to display a player in the sidebar, reinforcing your visual brand.
The image above is part of a screen capture of a sidebar that has a SplashCast player embedded. Unfortunately, the Flash player embedded in the post (for a single episode) doesn’t want to appear in the screencap, so you’ll have to see the page in action at Filmzee, to get the full effect of using both an audio hosting option and a video hosting option.
What You Need
This is a list of what you’ll need to produce a “video” version of your audio podcast.
- Recording equipment – any one of these:
- A portable digital recorder.
- A USB microphone.
- A regular mic and a USB audio interface.
- A regular mic, XLR cables, and a professional soundcard that accepts XLR inputs.
- You can also use a mic that connects directly to your computer’s microphone port, though they typically tend to be of lower quality.
- Audacity audio editor, or something similar.
- Audio sequencer [optional], to arrange intro/ extro, music, and vocal tracks. It just depends on how complex your arrangement is. If you’re recording straight voice, then Audacity might be enough.
- Video editor. You can probably get away with something like Moviemaker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac), but it depends on how each handles the integration of images with audio. If the end result is that your image is only visible for a few seconds before a blank screen appears, then you need different software. Other options:
- There are 30-day free, fully-functioning trials of Sony Vegas Pro and TechSmith Camtasia Studio available.
- The free Camstudio does not have the editing capabilities you need – at least not the last time I looked.
- Sony Acid Pro can function similar to Vegas Pro, at least for the purposes of this article, and there’s a 30-day fully-functioning trial available. However, because of BPM issues that produce voice warbling, only use a single final audio track. Do not use Acid to sequence/ arrange multiple vocal tracks, unless you have a consistent BPM across the music tracks.
- Other products to consider: Final Cut Pro (Mac) and Adobe Premiere.
- One or more images/ illustrations and/or a brand or podcast logo.
- A SplashCast or YouTube account, or whatever video sharing site you prefer. In terms of quality, SplashCast is better, but in terms of visibility, YouTube probably still has the advantage. However, since you’re after a way to “display” your audio podcasts on your site, it probably doesn’t matter.
If you are smarter than I am, you will not download all the video editor trials at the same time. Stagger the downloads so that you can go several months using free high-end software. (I’m not sure of how long Premiere’s trial is for, but if it’s 30 days, then you potentially have 90-120 days of free video editing software before you have to settle on one.) Just make sure you remember to export all your work into various file formats, so that you can reproduce the work in a different program, if necessary.
After your audio recording has been trimmed and mixed down to MP3 or wave (see the Beginner’s Podcasting Guide), you have two main options for producing your video:
- Single image or logo.
- Open your video editor with a new session.
- Add/ drag’n’drop your final audio file (WAV or MP3) into your edit window.
- Add the image at the beginning of the audio timeline.
- Complete the action necessary (depending on which editor you’re using) to extend the rendering of the still image across the entire audio timeline. You do not want an arrangement that only displays the image for a few seconds, then displays a blank screen. Some software cannot do this, though I cannot at this time give you a blow-by-blow rundown, so you’ll have to try for yourself (beyond the packages I’ve mentioned here. I’ve tested in MS Moviemaker, Camtasia Studio and Vegas Pro.)
- Render (output) the “video” in whatever format is available to you, including .AVI or .WMV.
- Depending on the service you’re using (SplashCast, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), convert to an acceptable video file format. I find that of .AVI, .WMV and .MOV, the .WMV format produces the smallest file sizes.
- Upload your file to the video sharing service.
- Follow the video site’s instructions for embedding a media player in your post and/or sidebar.
- Multiple images. Follow the process above, but place the images at different points along the audio timeline, as if producing a slideshow. The same caution applies as for a single image. You want any one image to show for the entire duration of the audio timeline, not “image, blank screen, image, blank screen, etc.) Again, how you achieve this depends on the video editing software that you’re using.
You can watermark multiple images with a smaller logo, if you want. A video screencast of the process in action using Vegas Pro is shown below.
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If you’ve watched the video screencast above, you’ll see that the general process of producing a “video” version of an audio podcast isn’t all that complicated. The only thing you might have to be concerned with is very high volume or branded-player use of SplashCast, for which I believe there’s a payment requirement. But this might only apply if you want to use a branded player. Their price structure is not spelled out, but you can contact them through the form on their Benefits page.]