Christian Media

Podcasting – The Quality Question

Reader David Druckenmiller, from Inertia Films in Atlanta asked an interesting question in a response to this blog about the quality issue in podcasting. After seeing the wide range on my video podcast – from seeing my rather crude podcast from Cannes, France to some recent ones that feature more editing and effects, David wondered about sacrificing quality and where we draw the line. The truth is,
I’ve spent my life trying to encourage quality – particularly in faith-based media projects. When I started in TV back in the 70’s, most people producing religious programming were doing garbage. And it’s been a long road, inspiring people to spend the money on quality. In Los Angeles, where I live, we have 500 cable channels, and my experience indicates that most people take about 2-3 seconds to decide which channel to watch. So no matter how important your content is, if it’s not packaged well enough to keep them tuned in, we’ve failed.

However, quality always takes a back seat to the message, and very often, the message is better expressed with gritty, less than perfect video or film. Think of the camerawork of NYPD Blue and how important the style is to the stories. Or look at many of today’s commercials – especially comedy spots – the handheld camera, fluorescent lighting, sparse set design. The commercials are going for an authentic, real presence, and to make it a lush, beautiful expression would undercut the message.

My podcast from Cannes was an example. As much as the content I was talking about, that podcast was about technology. I set up my MacBook Pro laptop at the grand hall at the Cannes Advertising Festival – literally on a balcony rail outside the conference center. I did the podcast looking into my iSight camera and using the mike on the laptop. After I shot it with the laptop, I walked across the street to the Carlton Hotel and up-linked the Quicktime file through the hotel lobby wireless connection. Steve Yao, our editor, downloaded it in LA, edited the open and close, and up-linked it that night.

Sure the quality wasn’t perfect, but that’s an amazing thing to happen. Immediacy, convenience, and global availability. How far we’ve come from the days when I carried a 2-inch videotape machine on the back of a pick-up truck to shoot video on location!

Here’s the key – always make sure issues like quality, technology, and equipment work in service to telling the story. Films like 21 Grams, Man on Fire, and others are fllled with out of focus shots, low end quality, and bad edits. But those “problems” are integral to telling those particular stories.

Quality is a wonderful thing. It’s why I’ve invested in High Definition video, and Avid edit bays connected by fiber. When a project calls for quality, I’m all over it. But when a story is better told through raw, authentic techniques, then that’s the direction I’m moving.

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4 Comments

  1. Dan

    The Cannes Podcast gave me the feal of running into Phil on the street and having a casual converstion. I totally liked like it! In my opinion PodCast are more 1 on 1 then watching a TV show. Mainly because you are most likely watching it from a small IPod screen or on the computer. I agree 100 percent baout having the best prod quality possible but in some ways its nice to see something simple but informative.

  2. Verbosity is anathema to my ears. If it can be said in three minutes instead of thirteen. Three minutes = better.

  3. Thanks for the post and comments. A discussion of “style” and “quality” for the sake of “story” is a good one. I guess I am more interested though in hearing why known producers are podcasting or YouTubing in the first place. As this phenomenon cools down… or continues to heat up?, where is it going and how can it be used to advantage?

    I’d be interested to hear examples.
    Do you feel The Change Revolution podcast is helping your cause? what evidence do you have?

    I posted a television pilot we did a while back to YouTube as an experiment.
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Sixn0fpd2BE

    It has good controversial subject about a serial killer turned Christian. We did no promotion what so ever just chose some interesting key words. In two months the various segments have received about 7000 views and generated some interesting comments. OK so that is interesting but I am wondering how to generate funds out of this – not to get rich but to make more programs. Could compelling Christian world view content drive sales via this distribution model, i.e. $1.99 a download at AppleTV quality or is that a just a dream?

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