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Visualising Radio

Last week saw the launch of another in the ‘Made Simple’ series for the Guardian – an animated guide to Rewilding, where I interviewed George Monbiot then Scriberia used animation trickery to make it pretty:

One the reasons I like it is that the visuals add extra meaning to Monbiot’s words. When he hints at something, like at 2:24, the visual make it explicit – so rather than re-enforcing his views, they elaborate.

Simple really. But anyone who has seen the cartoon version of the Ricky Gervais podcast will have seen how it can go wrong. The original audio recordings take you to new places, paint a picture in your mind’s eye. The TV adaptation simply does that for you. I’d much prefer video to challenge what I’m hearing – creating a dissonance between what I hear and see.

Anyway, here’s my top 5 of the best visualised radio productions out there today (working title):

1. Watchmen Motion Comic

An audiobook using the Dave Gibbon’s artwork, animating layers with simple movements and the occasional pan zoom. By far the best adaptation of the original; available for free on YouTube.

2. NPR Radio Pictures

NPR commissioned a few of these but this is the first I saw (and my personal favourite). I love the way it Krulwich plays with what we’re seeing; sometimes prompting and then reacting to the visuals.

Now let’s face it: animation is expensive. If it costs as much – and sometimes more – than the original production, it’s not a sustainable way to promote a radio programme.

3. TED Talks

It sounds obvious, but live events are perfect for the video treatment. But TED talks has been popular in both audio and video form – and the secret is that they are not inherently visual: no powerpoint, no visual aids at all, just a speaker and an audience.

So really, video is an enhancement, not a necessity. You can check your email, be distracted by a nice summer’s day – you won’t miss a thing. Which brings me nicely onto…

4. TV-AM

Or, in fact, any morning television.

Who watches television in the morning? Exactly. Everyone is getting ready for work/school, or in the case of undergraduates probably still asleep. So morning television is produced as radio with pictures – with lots of interviews, music, news and weather updates.

This was an argument put forward by my old mentor Sam Steele when we were at E4 Radio. The idea is that any new station would have to compete with this audience, perhaps more so than Radio 1.

5. Stanley’s Parable

OK, so not strictly radio either. But there is something wonderful about a game (a Half Life mod available for free here) where sound is so important and the visuals are rudimentary. The story and ideas are superb; I urge you to give it a try.

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