Video For Radio - Why You Should And Why You Shouldn't
February 10, 2015
The UK's Absolute Radio film all their sessions for online use: but is there more you can do?
Radio and video are merging. More than ever before, you need some great video to go alongside great radio. But you need to do it right.
Let me show you what I mean - watch this clip of Kyle and Jackie O's first few minutes on Sydney's KIIS 1065. Some amazingly good audio: big, ballsy, exciting. And on the video… Jackie O shuffles a few pieces of paper, sips some water. As radio, it's amazing. As television, it's really rather dull.
Turning live radio into good telly is hard work. It's fun looking back to December 1980 and an experiment of some live news radio that also went out on the TV on BBC Scotland - but it's also clear that the conventions and language for radio doesn't work too well for television. You can see reports having to be read live, rather than on tape; clips of interviews being accompanied by still photographs or a photograph of a reel of tape going round; and a complex amount of captions and slides to jazz-up rather dull television. The output of the station was probably compromised by the picture element: and that's a shame.
Some stations do live video really well - Italy's RTL 102.5 does some amazing things, as do Mike and Mike on ESPN - but for most stations without a TV-style budget it looks poor, and something that can detract from your brand rather than enhance it.
I'd really recommend, therefore, that you don't do live video. Instead, concentrate on producing shareable stuff from what you're doing.
Constantly run automatic video cameras, and then share the best bits on social media. UK station LBC does this exceptionally well: clips of the London Mayor at his bumbling best, taken and shared on services like YouTube. Run high enough quality video, and you can also give it to television networks, too. TV channels are very unlikely to rerun simple pieces of audio, but supply video as well, and you can get considerable coverage. LBC's output is heavily branded, and nicely put together.
The benefit of sharing highlights, rather than live radio, is that you can post-produce them to make them look great. Stick a camera at both ends of a radio OB, and edit the visuals on afterwards, and you can make a great radio interview look like great video, as this example from Absolute Radio clearly shows. You don't even need to use proper cameras: a few smartphones could have done the trick here (and probably did).
Doing live visualisation is difficult to do, and in many cases can harm the output of the radio programme: presenters find the cameras irresistible, and the radio listener is forgotten (yet is considerably in the majority). Just because you can do something doesn't always mean you should.
Yet, well-produced clips after the event can considerably help the shareability of radio; and also its permanence. Radio is ephemeral: broadcast and then, largely, forgotten. To capture the best bits of radio, and place these on services like YouTube or Vimeo, makes it easy to share fantastic pieces of radio: and doesn't change the station sound. There is, after all, a reason why we're called radio and not 'audio television'.