“Lights, camera, action!” You might not associate that famous phrase with podcasting since it’s traditionally been an audio-only medium. But we’re witnessing the growth of video podcasts, and creators are harnessing the power of the moving image to give their shows a new layer of creativity and widen their reach.
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As video podcasts compete with other kinds of visual entertainment, there’s an important fourth step in that checklist that can make your video podcast pop: Lights, camera, action, edit.
Video podcast editing might sound tough. Don’t worry, though—you can produce captivating episodes without being a professional editor. We spoke to Donnie Beacham, a video producer for The Ringer, to cover the fundamentals of editing video podcasts, mistakes to look out for, and more.
So, where do you start?
Choose a video editing software you’re comfortable with
Video editing software is the foundation for episodes that look polished and professional. You can get away with uploading a raw video file and calling it a day, but software gives you advanced tools to make your video “pop.”
There are several video editing software products you can choose from, depending on your budget, experience level, and features you need. Video editing software might also come built into your computer, depending on what type you have.
Regardless, Donnie recommends testing your options (take advantage of those free trials) and choosing the software you’re most confident with. “Getting comfortable with the program and the shortcuts within helps editing speed and allows your brain power to go towards the creative aspects of editing, as opposed to the technical.”
He also recommends choosing software that has plenty of online learning resources in case you ever feel stuck.
“Being able to access easy-to-understand tutorials when facing obstacles works hand in hand with increasing comfort with your software.”
Sync your audio and video
One of the most common mistakes Donnie sees with new video podcasts is that the audio and video are out of sync. When you have video files from a camera and audio files from an external microphone, they’ll likely be out of sync when you upload them into your editor.
This can disrupt the experience for your audience, so it’s important to align these files before you start editing. Some advanced editing software comes with an auto-sync feature, but if you don’t have this, you can line up your audio and video manually.
“An easy tip to be sure your video matches your audio is to find a line with a hard ‘P’ or ‘B’ that you can visually match up with the sound,” says Donnie. This creates a point of reference to match your sound and video. Another trick is to clap at the beginning of your recording.
That creates a spike in your audio file so that when you import your audio file into your video editing software, you can pinpoint where you started recording.
Donnie recommends monitoring your sync across the whole recording, not just the beginning, since audio and video files can be finicky. “Keep an eye on the sync throughout the edit, just in case it slips later in the episode,” he says.
Use coverage and transitions to keep viewers engaged
When your audience tunes in to your video podcast, they might expect more than a raw, unedited video—especially if your episodes are on the longer side. A few simple effects can go a long way in moving the conversation or story along and keeping viewers engaged.
Donnie recommends two techniques that are relatively simple to implement in post-production but make a big impact on video podcast episodes:
The coverage technique refers to recording from multiple camera angles, so you have options to choose from while assembling the final cut. For a video podcast, that might include a wide shot of you and/or your collaborators, close-ups, and more, depending on how many cameras you’re shooting with.
In post-production, alternate between shots to focus on who’s speaking, capture a distinct facial expression, or simply to add rhythm to the video and make viewers feel like they’re part of the conversation. There isn’t a golden rule for shot length, so use your best judgement to find a nice rhythm. You can also watch other video podcasts you admire to get inspiration.
A video transition connects one shot or scene to another, ideally creating a more streamlined viewing experience. This can be as simple as a basic cut, where one shot instantly follows the previous one. You can also use title cards or graphics to mark the beginning of a new segment within an episode, for example.
“When you switch between topics during a recording, there may be a few seconds of ‘dead air’ that you want to get rid of,” explains Donnie. “With a simple swipe, you can clear out the pause while also letting the viewer know the subject is changing.”
Embed media into your video to add context
One of the great things about video podcasting is that you can show and tell your audience at the same time. This comes in handy if you’re referencing a news clip, discussing a video, or sharing a new product you’ve launched (just make sure you have permission to use these sources or they are free-use).
When you embed a photo or video on top of your primary footage, it’s usually called an “overlay” or “picture in picture.” The exact instructions for how to do this will vary depending on what video editing software you use. However, this is a very common editing technique, and you should be able to find tutorials online quickly.
In addition to providing viewers context for what you’re discussing, Donnie points out that embedding external content within episodes is also an opportunity to clean up any bits of unnecessary audio.
“If media is being used with a voiceover, take advantage of the host(s) not being on screen by editing out any stumbles or ‘ums,’” he says.
Use color grading to enhance your footage
Color grading (or color correcting) is the process of adjusting the colors in your footage to make it more visually appealing, achieve an artistic effect, or both.
You can use color grading to adjust the video’s contrast, balance, saturation, hue, luminance, and much more. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of color grading tips, but you can start with these fundamentals:
- If the footage has a lot of natural light, decrease the shadows to create contrast
- Increase the highlights to get good exposure
- Boost your saturation to make the colors “pop” a bit
- Correct your video’s white balance
Color grading is more art than science, so you may have to tinker a bit before you achieve the aesthetic you want. If you want to ensure the best possible colorization with minimal effort, opt for a video editing software with automatic color grading.
Color grading is especially important if you assemble footage from two different sources. “When hosts or guests are recording at two separate locations and their lighting differs, be sure that their temperatures match as closely as possible,” says Donnie.
Create a click-worthy thumbnail
A thumbnail is a still image that previews what’s to come in your video podcast. This is an important tool to attract viewers and tease the value of your episode, so it needs to capture attention.
In other words, you need a thumbnail that stops thumbs.
Creating thumbnails may not fit directly into the category of video editing. However, since thumbnails can play a big role in your podcast’s viewership, Donnie recommends editors and creators pay close attention to them.
“I typically use screenshots of the hosts along with an image associated with one of the key topics covered in the episode,” explains Donnie. Thumbnails can also include your podcast logo, cover art, or episode title. As you produce more content, you’ll get a feel for which thumbnails correlate with more engagement. Ideally, your thumbnails will have a consistent look so you can establish your brand and create a sense of familiarity amongst your audience.
“It’s important to use images and headlines that grab attention without being ‘click-baity,’” says Donnie. As a rule of thumb: don’t make any promises or claims you don’t deliver on in the episode.
Always stay a student
Mastering video podcast editing doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t get discouraged if your first few episodes aren’t Hollywood-level productions. Remember: published is better than perfect.
Most importantly, make sure you set aside time to learn so you can hone your craft.
“As with most aspects of production, video podcast editing is constantly evolving,” says Donnie. “Watch and follow along with tutorials in your downtime—it will facilitate growth and prepare you for unseen obstacles lurking around the corner.”