Changing My Approach to Podcast Editing

Every episode of Fallout is Dragons, my first tabletop roleplaying podcast, was about 2-3 hours long. Same for the SpudShots and other random stuff I run like Stars Without Number. The reason for that is because, well, I wanted to keep the whole session intact. Why wouldn’t we want to keep the whole game archived, so we can relive the whole session whenever we want?

But starting up Dusk City Outlaws has put that philosophy into question.

I’m considering making far more aggressive cuts in my podcast editing process. Removing not only background noise and dead air, but lots of the crosstalk and dice rolls (except for anything that makes us laugh). Just focusing on the story told in the session by our characters. I’m confident I could tighten up each episode by at least an hour with this goal in mind.

Why now? Because I’ve started a new series and I want more people to see it, which… as weird as it sounds, wasn’t really the case with Fallout is Dragons. I was just putting those sessions up and if people liked to listen to it, great. But Dusk City Outlaws is new and, frankly, doesn’t have the benefit of ponies, which had the power to overcome the intimidation factor of a 3-hour audio file.

What would that mean for players and listeners?

  • It’d mean that the whole session would no longer be preserved in podcast and video format. I’d just be presenting the story that we told.
  • The RAW file (at the $5 Patreon level) and Twitch.tv livestream archive would be the only ways to hear the whole session.
  • It would take longer to get the episodes out. I’d probably want an extra week so I can balance the time with my other projects.

But the sessions would be a much easier listen, I think.

Honestly, to me this seems like a pretty obvious and noncontroversial change: Putting more effort into editing down the recordings instead of throwing basically the whole thing up onto the web. It’d make file sizes smaller, it’d be less intimidating for new people…

I just want to get some feedback on the idea. I’m not planning on implementing it right away (I’m rendering for the new episode of DCO as I write this, edited the same as usual), but maybe a couple of episodes down the line I might make the change.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Changing My Approach to Podcast Editing”

  1. I think shorter lengths is the right call. I can binge a 90 minute podcast in no more than two sittings during my typical workday, but a three hour podcast has to extend to 2-3 days, and having that many interruptions pulls me out of the immersive experience.

  2. I don’t know if this is the answer, but it’s a consideration.

    Critical Role, arguably the most successful form of D&D livestreaming of all time, doesn’t edit out anything. People seem to love it not only in spite of, but BECAUSE of the cross-talk and back-and-forth.

    Then again, these are professional voice actors, and they know how to entertain. So that should be taken into account too, I think. 😛

  3. For myself, I don’t really care about the length of the podcast. I’m as willing to listen to a 1 hour session as I am a 6 hour one. I’m sure by this point that if you counted all the hours up, I’ve spent several weeks doing nothing but watching ItMeJP’s RollPlay series, which are usually 4 hour episodes.

    Now for others it might have more of an impact. A 90-minute episode is more accessible than a 180-minute one, this is true. But how much more accessible? You could argue that 80% of people who aren’t already invested aren’t going to watch/listen to something that long anyway. 1 hour, 3 hours, either is too long for most people.

    Podcasts, on the other hand, have a distinct advantage: you never JUST listen to the podcast. You almost always do something else at the same time. I can sit down at work, put my earbuds in and fill the next 6-ish hours (accounting for interruptions) with whatever I want. People listen to podcasts while driving, while running, while working, while gaming, and in all of these situations length really isn’t a factor.

    Then there’s the effort on your part to consider. The question shouldn’t be, “do the viewers want the episodes shorter?” it should be, “does making the episodes shorter [in this way] have enough of a benefit to outweigh the effort required to do it?” Cost-benefit. Now, that’s something only you can really say, but I wouldn’t think so. Editing is a time-intensive process at the best of times, and heavier editing requires even more time on top of that.

    As for cross-talk, inane chatter, and dice rolls, I honestly think that’s half the fun of tabletop RPGs in the first place. It’s one of the things that gave Fallout Is Dragons its unique charm.

    If you think that the sessions are too long for the audience, have you considered just shortening the session? Not through editing, but just literally saying “We’re going to aim for 90-minute sessions guys, a little overtime is fine”?

    Or maybe talking with the players (individually or as a group; whichever seems most appropriate to you) and saying, “hey, I know that we’re all here to play a game and have fun, but let’s just remember that there’s an audience watching as well.” That’s the thing that makes shows like Critical Role, MissClicks, and RolePlay so successful: They always remember the audience. Things like not having dead-air, be it by ceding the spotlight when you don’t know what to do, making a joke, having some of that ‘pointless’ chatter, all serve the purpose of keeping that audience engaged.

    Yet another options is instead of reducing the length of each episode, maybe splitting episodes into multiple parts. It can be as simple as telling people “we’ll have a five-minute break about halfway through so you can get a drink, go to the toilet, etc” and then making each episode have a part 1 and a part 2. You haven’t actually shortened it, but you’ve broken it up into more digestible pieces and if you let players know there’s a break point somewhere ahead, you’ll often find them asking for it when there’s a lull or a naturally break point.

    Those are just some alternative suggestions I came up with.

    Honestly, I think you need to better define the problem before you leap to the solution. Is it a lack of engagement with the audience? The slow growth of that audience? The quality of the product? The effort it takes to make it?

    tl;dr If length is the problem, there are other options available than heavier editing, but IS length the problem?

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