The Anatomy of Podcasts. Pt. 1: Over-editing.

After a heavy couple weeks of introspection, I want to get back to something a little more mechanical. I really appreciate the response to my last blog. Honest to goodness, I love you all.

I'm going to start a series talking about non Duckfeed podcasts and how they illustrate different principles of the medium. I need to throw a heavy caveat in there, however. Firstly, everything I say in this series is a matter of taste. If I extol a virtue or damn a vice, it's because I like it or dislike it. There is no accepted canon for podcasting. There are few universal best practices and like everything we do, I can only speak to my experience.

The second big caveat, which ties into the first one, is I'm not putting anyone on blast. In a couple of entries I'm going to talk about things other podcasts do that I don't care for. This doesn't reflect on them as people or podcasters and isn't meant to hinder anyones enjoyment of their work. It's simply me continuing my journey to the center of myself, figuring out what I like and why.

So, with that in mind, let's talk pacing. And more specifically, let's talk about Rachel and Miles Explain the X-men. We recently covered 3D Dot Game Heroes on BSC and that game is made for podcast listening. The music is good but there is enough quiet exploration that having some talk on in the background is all but mandatory. I've been in a Podrut for a while, unable to branch out into anything new but 3DDGH was the game that forced me to dig deeper. On a lark, I decided to download Rachel and Miles Explain the X-men and listened to the first 10 or so episodes while playing. And it's good...but...

If you've never heard it, the podcast is a husband wife team explaining X-men related topics and history, sometimes issue by issue, sometimes character by character. I LOVE the X-men. It was the first comic I got heavily into and I have a lot of affection for it to this day. The content of the podcast is more or less made for me. So, why those ominous ellipses above?

Pacing. If you've never heard it, Explains is an almost aggressively edited affair consisting of rapid fire short sentences between the hosts. From time to time there are digressions and jokes, but the whole thing feels tense in a way I just don't care for. Hosts hurry each other along, they're snarky asides come so quickly that it feels almost inhuman. It's like the podcast equivalent to an Aaron Sorkin walk'n'talk where you can hear the edits to make it sound more snappy.

When I say I hear the edits, I mean literally. I don't want to come off as an elitist (I'm sure you guys have heard edits I've made) but when you suddenly hear a shift in the silence between words, you know that someone has cut out an Um or an Uh or whatever. That's FINE but it happens ALL THE TIME in Explains.

The result is a little too polished for my taste. I have a future entry planned on the concept of Friendship Porn, a term that, as far as I know, I coined, that refers to the "buddy hang" feeling you get from a good podcast. I get absolutely none of that from Explains. The hosts put a lot of energy, it seems,into creating a facade of fast, clever snark and lorebits and the end result is incredibly distancing. Based on what I know of the hosts, it seems like I might get along with them or that I should like them but none of that comes through in the show for me.

I think over-editing is one of the first things I shed as I learned audio editing. Part of this was a function of practicality as I did more and more shows. However, there was a clear transition from Oh Shit, I Can Make Myself Sound as Articulate as I want! to Oh Shit, No One Actually Sounds Like That! This is Awful! I think I realized that with my creative output, a portion of what I'm "selling" (shudder) is myself and that over editing, creating a breakneck slamjam of fast talking audio was a way to obfuscate myself or at least intentionally construct myself in a way that made me feel uncomfortable.

And again, I don't mean to put Rachel and Miles on blast. I think I like them, I think I like the podcast. There is a wealth of great information within. But guys, relax a little bit. I don't come to podcasts to get facts and snark wiki-blasted into my brain as fast as possible. That's like shotgunning a beer. I'd prefer to sit back and hang out with some friends.

Next time, I'll be talking about a podcast that does this bro hang thing extremely well. I hope to see you there.