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5 Reasons I Prefer Audio to Video


It has taken me a long, long time to jump into video production. Even now, I am not enthusiastic about it, and I much prefer audio. Video versions of my podcasts have been put up on YouTube, but not in the past many weeks…I just can’t seem to commit to it. I thought long and hard about this for about 15 minutes and came up with five reasons I prefer audio podcasting to video podcasting and web TV.

1. I have bad hair days

If you have seen me at various conferences or seen any of the videos that I’ve produced, you’ll recognize the hat that I always wear (it’s in my profile photo at the end of this very article as well). It’s become a bit of a running joke that nobody has ever seen me without it. Well, there’s a reason for that.

Bad Hair Day

Me, last Tuesday.

I’m not the most self-conscious person in the world about these things, but just enough that I am not often eager to jump in front of a camera—not without my trusty black Kangol, at least.

2. Video is more expensive to produce

Well, yes, you could do a video podcast with a camera built into a laptop and the internal microphone. You could do one using that camera and a cheap USB headset, certainly. It won’t look very good, but you can do it. If we’re talking high-quality audio podcasts vs. high-quality video podcasts though, video is more expensive. You’ll want to get a decent camera for a hundred dollars or more. Storage is going to be an issue, unless you want to use YouTube or a similar service. Video files run very, very large. Storing and serving them from a media host or from a service like Amazon S3 can add up. You may want to spend some money building or decorating a set, whether it’s just a room in your house or someplace else. Don’t forget lighting! Without proper lights, your video will look grainy, washed out or out-of-balance, and that can have strange effects on your appearance.

Bad Hair Day

This is also me in poor lighting.

Everything that will be seen on camera needs to be considered.

3. There’s more acting involved with video

You’ve seen it on television and in movies. A character is talking on the phone to someone he is not enjoying talking to, so he starts rolling his eyes, making gestures and generally expressing himself in ways he wouldn’t want the caller to see. No doubt you’ve done this yourself—who among us hasn’t silently mimed smashing the phone to bits when talking to a girlfriend or boyfriend? Nobody, that’s who.

Web TV or video podcasts make it impossible to express annoyance, irritation or “OMG WHY AM I TALKING TO THIS IDIOT?!” with a guest or co-host because that camera is always on. Even if you’re not doing the conversation via live video, your show will be seen by the other party later on. Every moment of your show now requires you to be an actor. You can’t look disinterested. Your gaze can’t wander the room, you need to look like you’re paying attention at all times because it’s not enough to pay attention in your headphones, now you have viewers judging your performance. I myself have considered acting lessons.

But Clooney won’t return my calls.

4. Video takes longer to produce…

Different audio setups will have different files to work with, but for my setup, I record a WAV file that turns out to be anywhere from 500-800 MB per show, depending on the length of the episode. I edit that WAV file in Adobe Audition, apply a filter or two, and export the show to MP3. The whole process takes maybe five minutes, and that’s if I stop to check Facebook while I’m working. Video, on the other hand…

The first time estimate. I’m not waiting for the update to get a more dramatic screenshot, sorry.

This is Adobe Premiere rendering an episode. The show was a bit over an hour long, and it took three days to finish. Each video file (mine and each of my two co-hosts) was over 2 GB. My computer isn’t state-of-the-art, it’s a 2009 Macbook Pro with 8 GB of RAM, but still…three days. Sure, I can make the video’s dimensions smaller, or I could just not do picture-in-picture with my co-hosts, or I could skip the intro and the graphics…but if you’re not doing a good-looking video, what’s the point?

5. …because video is more complicated

Well, it’s like I said. Picture-in-picture, intros, graphics. In order to make a professional-looking video podcast, you need professional-level elements, and you need to be able to put them together. Editing video is a lot like editing audio; it’s all done in multitrack editors. The software is a lot more complicated when editing video, however. Audio and video tracks are often separated, insertion of elements is more complicated with video. Filters, transitions and effects abound in video editing, whereas audio filters and effects are less numerous.

Convince me.

So, here I am, audio podcasting guy totally dissing video (though totally not dissing people that do it because frankly, I’m jealous). What do you have to say to someone like me that isn’t really keen on video? Do you think you can convince me to double down and push video versions of my shows? I want to hear from you in the comments below. Let’s talk about video.


  • patrickallmond

    If you go video you can hit every type of reader all at once. You are  a triple threat. That is the route I plan on going. 
    1. Record the video and make your set up as easy as possible. One camera, simple mic, one shot.
    2. Record your podcast at the same time
    3. Get the audio from either transcribed into text for $1 or less per minute. 
    Now for every session you have a video, audio which can be used multiple places, and text for your blog posts.The ultimate in repurposing your content. 

    • danielmclark

       @patrickallmond For a one-man operation on a shoestring budget, transcriptions are still out of my price range… but soon. They’re great for Google juice.

      • JTDabbagian

         @danielmclark  @patrickallmond How does Youtube’s auto-transcription thing work? If you can set that up it might help. 

        • Daniel

          That’s a great question, I wish I had an answer. I’ve never tried YouTube transcriptions.

  • RickWolff

    Two other factors in favor of audio:• Your audience can do other tasks that involve eyesight (like drive) while listening to audio.• Fewer megabytes to get the message out means you’re not that guy clogging the Internet. Kind of a cyber-ecological argument. 

    • danielmclark

       @RickWolff Exactly! I’ve been saying that it’s the most portable form of media because you don’t need a screen or internet access to consume it. Only music – CD’s, MP3’s – is as portable as podcasts.

  • NEMRTLibrary

    Another reason audio has a greater overall impact than  video is that sound stays in the memory longer.  I once heard an interview with an actor who had voiced the leader of virtually every youthful leader in 1960’s Saturday morning cartoons, and realized I had sat at attention throughout the discussion, as if waiting for orders. His voice still had power over me that those images never could.

    • danielmclark

       @NEMRTLibrary I think you’re right – and until they figure out a way to get smell into stuff like this, that is probably the dominant sense for triggering memory!

  • JTDabbagian

    I prefer neither. Like you said, video takes way to long to produce, and on the viewer side of things, I can’t digest content quickly by skipping to what I need to know, unless I know EXACTLY where the content I need is…and usually, I don’t. Audio has the same problem. I don’t learn well from hearing or seeing; by reading it instead, I can learn better by executing it myself…even if only in my head.

    • danielmclark

       @JTDabbagian That makes a lot of sense when you’re trying to learn something specific, but what about entertainment?
      I totally agree with you about learning things. I actually hate it when I go searching for a specific problem and the top results are videos (audio rarely shows up in the results, I find). If I’m trying to figure out how to set a certain filter in Audition, for example, I don’t want to sit through a 15 minute video waiting for an answer that really could have been put into 3 sentences of text with a screenshot.

      • JTDabbagian

         @danielmclark For entertainment, I do watch the whole thing. But that’s just it…I’m watching to be entertained, not to learn something. And yes, totally with you with the videos on working things like Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Audacity; what could be said with one paragraph and a screenshot takes 5-7 minutes with video, and that’s if listening conditions (voice, sound, display, etc) are optimal! 

  • WordsDoneWrite

    George Clooney and potato creatures in the same post? You amaze me every time, Daniel.
    There is also so much more to video. Just because you have a camera, doesn’t mean one will produce compelling video. It’s something that one has to learn to ensure the audience is visually captivated. Sure, this happens with audio, too. However, there’s a lot more responsibility and factors that can come into play while producing a solid, visual piece.
    Thanks for the points. All worth considering if someone is thinking of starting a podcast versus a web series.

  • sbeasla

    @wordsdonewrite Thanks for sharing all this podcasting info. I hope you’re having a great week 🙂

  • extremelyavg

    I think those are all good reasons to do audio and not video, from the point of view of the content creator.

    Let me add one from the point of view of the content user, video is painful to watch in most instances. The production quality is horrible, the lighting isn’t good because most people don’t have high end lights and are bathed in the glow of their monitor.

    Now, let me add one more thing, I prefer the written word to the audio, because of the same reason. The production quality is often dreadful. Most people don’t know how to string together a sentence without 3 uhms, 2 you knows, and a bit of stammering. It is unbearable.

    So, I rarely listen to pod casts, watch even fewer videos, and read a lot of posts. That is just me. I’m likely in the minority, but I wanted to put in my 2 cents worth.

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