Needless video

by scotslawstudent

I own an iPod Nano. This is not to show off about my latest toy, it’s actually one of the very first iPod Nanos from 2005. I keep using it because it still works and it was quite a lot of money at the time. It does sound, photos and it plays Brick. On the other hand it doesn’t have a touchscreen and it doesn’t run Apps. These are things that I’d probably use if my iPod had them but I’m not bothered enough to buy a new one. The one thing that I’m currently disappointed about is that it doesn’t do video.

the original iPod Nano

The original iPod Nano has a tiny 1.5″ screen and really is only supposed to let you see the name of the song that is currently playing. I don’t really want to watch video on the thing. What I do want to do is copy video podcasts to it. I think this is acceptable because in many cases the video podcast is just a podcast which has a video with it. The video element is seeing the speaker talk to a camera or something else which is nice to have but not enough to add extra content.

A podcast is effectively a recorded radio show which you can download. It can have interviews, fiction, non fiction and so on as long as it is recorded and published as a digital file for download. CharonQC does a very regular, good legal podcast – “law casts” naturally – which illustrates the concept very well. A video podcast – tenuously a “vodcast” – is simply a video file rather than an audio file.

Quite a good example is the really good, highly recommended David Mitchell’s Soapbox which can be effectively summarised as the guy from Peep Show complaining about things. They are speeches which are jazzed up by superimposing Mitchell onto a thematically suitable background, for example in “Waste” he is pictured sitting in a bin. Beyond that the real meat of the content is the speech. It’s just that it could work as a audio file too and if it was an audio file I could put it on my iPod and listen to it while I’m out and about.

This simply comes down the issue of choosing your medium when you prepare a presentation. A podcast about learning to paint is something that benefits from having a video whereas an audiobook does not (an audiobook which adds enough visual content to benefit from having video is called a movie). I think most people’s work will fall in the middle of those extremes and the judgement call has to be made. The take home lesson for today is that it’s important to realise that there actually is a judgement call to make.

The broadband revolution, improved processing capacity and the reduced cost of data storage means that the technical difference between making a podcast and making a “vodcast” is now reasonably narrow – downloading a 20MB video file is now only a couple of minutes, will disappear into a terabyte hard drive and will not strain a quad core processor. If you’re in this position, technologically you really may as well point a camera at stool in front of a blank wall and talk into it. I’d encourage you to avoid picking video because you may as well instead of because it’s better for what you’re doing. A good option if you want to have the best of both worlds is simply to do both, strip the video using your favourite video editing software and just post the sound in a separate download.

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