Podcasting Through Rose-Colored Glasses & Bunny Ears
You may call them a frivolous waste of time, but filters and effects on pics, videos, and streams have become a staple of how we communicate. But not in podcasting, oddly enough. Will that change?
#nofilter, because it's really hard to apply filters to audio. Well, ok... that's not strictly true. If you listen to the audio of this episode (see above), I’ve applied lots of filters to the final audio. But if you’re able to detect the filters I applied to the audio, it means I did a bad job of applying those filters. Done right, most people should never know a talented(?) audio engineer was tinkering under the hood.
But most often, when we apply filters on our Instagram photos, Tiktok videos, and even Twitch streams, we want them to be seen. Take the filters away, and the base photo looks… well, if not boring, then certainly different. Adding filters and effects on pictures and videos are designed to fundamentally change what people see. I’m not talking color correction, exposure adjustments, or subtle enhancements. I’m talking puking rainbows and giant eyeballs that a nocturnal lemur would be jealous of.
Where Are The Fun Filters In Podcasting?
If we podcasters want to change the sound of our episodes, our vocal tracks, the music, or the effects we use in our shows, we can do that with the tools we have at our disposal. But they’re a blunt instrument for most of us. And the best of us only use them to make subtle changes or to fix problems. That’s not fun.
Sure, we can pitch the voices on the episode up or down. Yes, we can make equalization changes to adjust the timbre/tamber to impact the overall tone. But that’s not fun. Worse, unless we really know what we’re doing, too many adjustments tend to mask or muffle the information being conveyed, making it difficult to hear what’s being said.
That's probably the biggest hurdle fun filters face in the audio and podcasting world. We strive for clarity first and foremost. If you can't hear the dialogue or vocal bits to a podcast episode, it's not an enjoyable experience. Think back to a television program you’ve watched where they disguised the voice of some whistleblower. It often sounds so garbled and confusing that the producers add in subtitles just for that segment. Nobody wants to listen to that. That’s not fun.
Making Your Own Fun Podcast Filter Isn’t Worth The Effort
Have you ever tried to recreate a filter from TikTok or Instagram by using an image editing tool like Photoshop? It’s possible, and every one of those filters probably started life by some artist applying various filters and effects in the tool, with a developer coming along after to automate the process in a one-click fashion.
Programming aside, just getting Photoshop to recreate that goofy look takes many, many minutes. If not hours. Doable? Sure. Doable for the 37 photos you want to post on the way to the parking lot? Not so much.
The same holds true for the digital audio workstations (DAWs) we used to make podcast episodes. We could apply literal bells and whistles to our audio files, but it just takes too long. We have no “one-click” filters to apply. Other than some presets designed by musicians trying to emulate the sound of music recorded in different eras or with different amplifiers, we don’t have easy-to-apply filters to make our podcast episodes or elements sound different at the click of a button.
Podcast Filters Need To Add, Not Distract
When you're scrolling through your feed filled with fun photos and videos with wacky filters, you only have to watch them for a few seconds. Never minutes. Podcast episodes don’t last a few seconds. They last minutes. Sometimes hours. If your favorite podcaster found a way to add in a fun filter, would you still find it fun after 15 minutes? Two hours? I'm skeptical anyone would find listening to an hour-long episode voiced by a convincing Roger Rabbit all that compelling
Fun filters on pictures and videos make the shared content fundamentally different from the original content. They make it weirder. They make it more serious. They make it funnier. Whatever the difference is, it’s transformative and, subjectively, better.
If we’re going to apply fun filters to podcasts, they need to do the same. They need to take an episode from “meh” to “wow!” at the click of a button.
Fun As An Alternative Podcast Format?
Looking at the mediums where fun filters have been a success, they share one thing in common: incredibly short formats. Perhaps that’s what is needed here: an offshoot format of podcasting designed around short-form, heavily-filtered content.
I know of quite a few apps floating under the radar that are exploring this nascent niche. Some are laser-focused of building “TikTok for audio”. Others are experimenting with making better use of the microphone on the mobile phone that's with us every moment of the day.
Maybe that’s the key? “Make a podcast episode with your mobile phone” has been a promise (largely unmet) of many companies over the years. But let’s face it: episodes made with a phone just don’t sound that great. Yet with the exception of Twitch, every visual medium that has successfully incorporated fun filters has been mobile-first. In both production and consumption.
Would the addition of fun filters be the piece that’s been missing from new short-format audio apps? Would content made and shared with one-touch fun audio filtering create community and (oh gods) virality seen in the image and video sharing space? I’m not sure, because it’s hard to imagine what “fun audio filtering” means. It’s hard to envision what sorts of stories lend themselves to extremely short-form audio content. Should it be more compelling than sounding like you’re a bunny rabbit wearing rose-colored glasses? Yeah, probably. But then again… history has proven frivolous to be quite popular.
I tend to not bet against creative people. I think there might be an opportunity to do something like that with podcasting. But I know I’m not the guy to come up with it. Predicting the future is hard. So is figuring out what will click with the next generation of listeners. So I’m not counting this out.
Speaking of wild things in the future, I envision you, right now, firing up your email client or starting a direct message and sending one person a specialized note that tells them about Podcast Pontifications. Don’t assume they know. Don’t keep this to yourself. Help me spread the word, please.
And if you really like crazy notions like this that you just don’t get from any of the other podcasts for podcasters you probably listen to, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra and show your support for this program.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.