The 2020 Wine Media Conference, August 20 – 23, may have been virtual this year but it was as robust as ever. My talk explored vodcasting, a catch-all term for prerecorded video segments that feature a host/s and guest/s designed to be published across several online outlets and social media platforms.
Vodcasting is where podcasting is headed. In July, Spotify announced that it added video content creation for its podcasters. Viola, they are now vodcasters. One of my favorite wine industry podcasts is Levi Dalton’s “I’ll Drink to That” but watching Levi record a podcast would be like watching paint dry. A vodcast needs to be visually compelling.
Superb vodcasting relies on the quality and reliability of your recording software and internet connection. By adopting a format for your vodcast that works towards the goal of ‘one and done’ and requires little or no editing, you can create media assets that have value and be prolific.
In my talk I covered basic technology and best practices however, I didn’t address looking your best on camera. You’ll find tons of tips out there on how to do that with the simplest being “Use the fix up my appearance-setting when you’re recording a vodcast on Zoom.”
The final questions is what to do with your content once you’ve created it. The 2020 Wine Media Conference offers plenty of guidance. There are sessions like those by Phil Pallen who breaks down Instagram, Scott Fish from 32 Digital dishing up straight talk about SEO strategies and Kelly Wagner offering social media savvy.
Optimizing the video and audio quality of your vodast
Wifi for all its splendid convenience can be unstable. When you’re recording a vodcast using your preferred video conferencing platform, use a wired Ethernet connection. If WiFi is your only option, work within 20 – 30 feet of your router which is referred to as the “overpowered” zone. Range extenders are handy but they don’t make your signal stronger, they simply extend it.
Bandwidth requirements for recording using video conferencing tools are a minimum of 6 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 10Mbps. If there are other users sharing your network, you’ll need 10Mbps to 20Mbps which provides enough ‘headroom’ for everyone’s traffic. For optimal video and audio quality, minimize the load on your network when recording a vodcast.
Clear the Decks
I’ve adopted a simple housekeeping routine for my computer prior to recording a vodcast or video conferencing which includes closing any applications that may be running in the background, closing open browser tabs and turning off notifications. I’ll usually have Powerpoint running to share slides but if the presentations are overly large and tend to lag, I’ll use a correctly-displayed pdf instead.
Low battery power will cause performance problems so always plug in. Typically, when battery power starts getting low, your laptop will prioritize processing and powering the screen over powering devices like webcams. If your CPU can’t keep power to your microphone and camera stable, the quality of your vodcast will suffer.
Audio and video conferencing via VOIP software requires a lot of processing power from your computer. It has to both encode and upload audio and video to the service you’re using in real time. This is heavy lifting for your machine so expect battery life to be brief.
The single most helpful tool I’ve added to my system is an externally- powered Universal Serial Bus (USB) hub. Every external device I own is connected to my computer by USB and my laptop just couldn’t power them all resulting in an unstable system that caused audio latency and frozen video. With the addition of an externally-powered hub, my set up is now very stable and my computer is freed up for running and recording using my video conferencing software of choice.
The Allure of High Definition
80% of US households have a High Definition television set and consumers are used to seeing High Definition video. As such, I consider this a priority for optimizing the quality of your vodcast.
My Logitech HD webcam C920 is mounted on my monitor at eye level and the dual microphones deliver clear stereo sound. The 16:9 aspect ratio means I can’t switch to standard format in some video conferencing platforms. The 16:9 aspect ratio requires a rather large green screen; mine is eight feet by seven feet to be exact. I’ve made a green screen that I can put up and take down in less than a minute and it’s been key to the polished, higher production value of the Planet Grape Wine Review vodcasts I produce and host.
Improving Audio Quality
When vodcasting I don’t want a visible microphone in the shot so getting the quality sound I need from my webcam is a bonus. If there’s unavoidable background noise, I’ll resort to earbuds that have a microphone. A low-profile desktop speaker like a Jabra is another option as well.
One of the easiest ways to get good audio is to record in a furnished room. My small office has a carpet and some soft furnishings but it’s my fleece green screen that works as an acoustic panel. If you have a space with a lot of hard surfaces, you can strategically position stand alone-acoustic panels to improve your sound quality.
As the host of a vodcast it’s absolutely key to get lighting right but it’s a lot harder when it comes to your guests. Even celebrities are frequently seen in video segments with less than ideal and truly unflattering lighting. My goal is consistency and I like the look of warm LED bulbs (3000K – 3400K) the best against lighter backgrounds. You can adjust the warmth of your adjustable but cool LEDs using a standard photography gel filter; Rosco Sun comes highly recommended.
Vodcasting Formats for Success
When you’re presenting virtually you lose any advantage you might otherwise have from being in person with your audience. Your content and the quality of your video recording must carry the day. As a writer, I’d rather spend my time writing a script than editing poor-quality video. In fact, the format that I enjoy using the most requires little or no editing. Most video conferencing platforms have some simple editing tools but the InShot video editing application comes in handy for on the fly-editing.
Vodcast Format #1 – Slow Wine Guide Virtual Visits
What: 15 to 30-minute hosted segments where winemakers describe the three wines that are being listed in the 2021 Slow Wine Guide.
Why: We could not make winery visits this year for the guide due to shelter in place restrictions and recording virtual visits was the ideal way to help promote the wineries participating in the guide now and in 2021. The recorded segments are a high-quality media asset that are currently being vodcast on several websites and social media platforms and will continue to be used through 2021.
How: The information gathering portion of the interview and any housekeeping is done upfront before I begin recording. I’m only recording the last 10 minutes of the Zoom conference call. By that time I’ve established a level of comfort with my guest and they’ve had a chance to rehearse some of their talking points.
I typically taste along in the background while the winemakers talk which gives me something to do and keeps them doing most of the talking. Using a consistent format means little or no editing on my part and allows me to produce more content. The recordings are uploaded to social media within minutes and archived both on the cloud and an external hard drive.
Vodcast Format#2 – Planet Grape Wine Review Vodcast Series
What: Two to 20-minute segments on seasonal wine and food topics targeted at the hospitality industry.
Why: We saw a demand for video content for the hospitality industry which looks underserved.
How: Segments are closely scripted for time management and to prioritize messaging. We typically record two or three at a time and use a green screen to help provide context for the topics and to add visual impact and a higher level of production value to the segments.
Our Premiere Napa vodcast has about 140 views which is very similar to Wine.com’s recorded segment featuring Frog’s Leap, Grgich Hills and Tablas Creek wineries. There’s plenty of opportunity to expand the online reach for these segments.
I’ve shown you two possible formats to use as a model for your own vodcast and offered some ideas about low-cost gear that performs well and will help insure that the quality of your recordings. The vodcasts that I’m producing and hosting are successful in terms of production value and a return on the investment in the amount of time required to produce and publish a valuable media asset. The sky’s the limit as to what you can do with your vodcast content once you’ve created it. Happy vodcasting.