Podcast Imaging: What is it and how does it work?
Everything but the talking, imaging is what makes your podcast sound unique and different to anyone else's. We go through what imaging is, and how to find the imaging that's right for you and your show.
A lot of the podcast-y type folks I work alongside and deal with in various online podcasting communities don't really use the word "imaging". And I don't have a problem with that, particularly, the only reason I use the word is because I worked in radio before I made the jump to podcasting. And in radio, it's a word we use all the gosh-darn time. Why? Well there really isn't any other catch-all term to describe what we mean when we do say the word 'imaging'. So I'm going to make podcast imaging a thing. Let's run through what it is, why it's important, and what a good imaging package can do for you.
What is imaging?
Imaging, is everything but the talking (mostly). It's your intro. It's your outro. It's all the things that help your listener to understand the identity of the show. If you're a regular listener to the Jet Streamer Podcast, then you'll recognise this episode where we play a few examples. The main types of imaging are:
Your show intro
Let's say you're on your daily commute in to work on the train, and you spot a podcast that looks interesting in your favourite podcast app. You press play. How long before you decide it's not worth your time and you move on to something else?
I'll wager that's it's less than 10 seconds.
Your show intro is there to give the listener a good idea of what the podcast is about, and a reason to keep listening past that initial ten seconds. It also helps to generate those happy feelings when you cue up your favourite podcast, and to that extent it's kind of ritualistic- I still get happy when I hear "Wasps" by Emperor Yes, because that means it's No Such Thing as a Fish time, hooray!
Your show outro
More than just the mirror of your show intro, this is the spot where you should be promoting all your social media, previewing next week's episode, reminding people to subscribe, giving them your Nan's favourite recipe... pretty much anything that you want your audience to remember, as it's the last thing they'll hear.
Sweepers, bumpers and stingers
Weird names, useful types of imaging. These are those things you might have heard on the radio which will be anywhere from about two to seven seconds. It might say the name of the show, the name of the station, or something funny- or have no voiceover at all. The important bit is that it's used to cover up a transition- from ads to talking, or music to ads, or between talkback topics.
There are subtle differences in radio world (a 'sweeper', for example, goes between songs, while a 'bumper' goes between a song and an ad), but operationally, for podcasters, they're pretty much the same things. It's useful to have a few in the bank to insert into your show when the time is right.
Segment intros, 'best of' montages, applause sound effects, the promo for your Patreon page...
You get the idea.
Why use imaging?
Apart from the individual reasons given above, there's a couple of reasons why you should incorporate imaging into your podcast.
Establish your show identity, style, and tone.
Let's say you ran a podcast to help business owners with accounting. You could run an ultra-serious accounting news podcast chock-full of factual information about the latest tax breaks available for small business, along with industry trends. Or, you could run a lighthearted accounting podcast that concentrates on the basics of accounting, along with some guest anecdotes about some of the worst mistakes accountants have seen small businesses make. Two totally valid concepts, right?
And as I'd imagine you've probably caught on by now, two completely different imaging treatments. You might want the first one to sound like a 6pm news programme, while the second might want to be a bit more upbeat and fun. Along with your hosting style, your imaging can help support the tone you're trying to get across to the audience. And as we've already established, it helps make your show uniquely 'yours'.
It's so much quicker.
Let me repeat that for the people in the back. IT'S. SO. MUCH. QUICKER.
Rather than trying to get your intro perfectly timed every single time you sit down to edit... rather than putting the voiceover together with your show preview together every week, rather than trying to get it to fade out perfectly every time... why not just have that sitting there, ready to drop straight into your episode?
Most often this will come in the form of a 'top and tail', which is a piece of intro music (say, 30 seconds, for example) overlaid with a ten-second voiceover at the start (the 'top') a gap for you to speak into, and then another ten-second voiceover to finish. This works really well for show previews, promos, and so much more, but the general idea can be copied across your intro, your outro... It's how the Jet Streamer Podcast goes together every week, and it's genuinely a lifesaver when you've got a million other things to do but that podcast episode's gotta be released on schedule.
It's a great starting point to getting your podcast sounding really professional.
Look, I get it. Not everyone has the means to get their podcasts professionally edited and produced. But with a professional imaging package, you've got the building blocks right there to make a great sounding show. Just drop in your intro and outro around your already edited dialogue, maybe even a segment intro for your "_______ of the week" segment... and hey presto! A professional podcast that sounds like you've put time, effort and care into it- which your audience will appreciate.
So what imaging should I get?
At the very least I would recommend getting a professionally done intro. After all, a lot's hingeing on that first 8-10 seconds, so that's where your investment should go. An outro is next on the list, which will help 'bookend' the show and remind people of what they've just listened to. From there, it really depends on your show format and structure, but it's worth having a think about what you'll need and having that chat with your imaging producer.
How does it get produced?
You and your imaging producer will sit down and have a chat about the desired 'feel' of your show, the content, the subject matter and any creative visions you might have. From there, it might be up to you to come up with a script, or your producer may be able to help you with this. You can record the voiceover for it yourself, however I would recommend you give it to someone else- it sounds more professional to have a voiceover artist introducing you! Go with someone your producer recommends, or there are plenty to choose from on an online marketplace like Fiverr.
From there, your imaging producer will choose music from their library to fit your needs, tastes, and the style of show (or, if you've selected a producer to make you a customised jingle, they'll compose you a piece of music all your own). A good producer can make the music 'fit' the timing of the imaging, so the whole thing sounds beautifully seamless. After putting it all together, your new imaging should be delivered to you as files ready to go into your favourite recording software, or used by your podcast editor.
It's worth it!
I hope now you've gained an understanding of this really underrated aspect of podcast production. So it's time to jazz up that podcast with some imaging!
As you can probably guess by now, Jet Streamer offers imaging packages so you can take advantage of all the benefits you get here. Why not check them out?