How to produce a web show that can help build your brand
Anyone – really, can produce continual or episodic infotainment to lock in with a crowd and add value in some form or another. A web show is a great way of building a community. In this post we’ll break down a show called CHAT ‘N BIETJIE BALL (a weekly rugby show) and get down to the brass tacks of how it’s put together.
Some stats for our web show: CHAT ‘N BIETJIE BALL
Facebook data for 26 episodes recorded two weeks after last episode aired.
What is a web show and how can it build your brand?
A web show is a relatively new (but under-utilised) format of content that is produced for the web and social media platforms. In South Africa, we are barely scratching the surface. It allows you to use your voice to communicate your expertise (or as in our case – sometimes, the lack thereof) to entertain an audience while divulging info on a topic.
They come in all shapes and sizes, and that is the beauty of this medium. We have been producing conventional television shows for many years and one major take away from producing a web show is the fact that you are not bound by any format. For television, you have to allow for ad breaks and hitting minute markers along the arc of your narrative. For a web show, the only format that you have to stick to is the one you have created for yourself! It brings along a massive amount of freedom, but too much of anything is never a good thing so it’s always a good idea to channel your thoughts into your own, strictly defined parameters and stick to it!
Here are a couple of things to get right when producing a web show:
STEP1: Get the talent right
We started the show with Jonathan from @RadioRaps who met @TheRealPottie at a golf day that they were hosting together. Today they are massive influencers in the South African comedy scene, and our show is now available on @Showmax. It has even attracted the attention of a sponsor in the shape of @Vodacom – a worldwide cellular service giant, but the truth is that the show has, in essence, always been the same about what it offers: Braai chatter about rugby… The first couple of seasons of Chat ‘n Bietjie Ball (CBB as we now refer to it) are appalling from a production point of view. The sound was bad and the camera work shoddy at best – all shot and recorded by one guy. But the first 50 episodes or so was really just a foundation for us to “feel” our way into what the show was to become.
In the 2018 season we wanted to add some credibility to the cast and Elma Smit (@Elmakepelma) was an obvious choice. Not only did she bring balance to the off-the-wall antics of Jonathan and Pottie, but it was refreshing to see how her voice of reason lifted the boundaries of the show to transcend the perception of what “a conventional rugby audience”, was thought to be.
The gold is the chemistry between these three, highly talented individuals whom we are now lucky enough to call our friends.
STEP2: Get the tech right
Technically you just have to get 3 things right:
A) Is for audio:
The audio needs to be as good as you can get it on your budget. Even if you are shooting the content on mobile phones, get a mic suitable for the application and use software to merge the audio and video later. It is a long-known fact that sound on low, or no-budget projects get neglected and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars (if you can’t have a soundie to thank) that you made the effort. For CBB we mic up our three presenters with Rode link lavalier kits – film-style. This means the mics are hidden from sight under their clothes. We use Rycote Overcovers and Rycote Stickies to mount the mic on the sternum of the actor. 90° Upwards. Every actor’s voice is dual-recorded (two recording tracks into a ZoomF8 field recorder) one at a higher level – metered to clip at -6db as well as a safety track recorded about 5db lower – just in case they feel the need to raise their voices – It’s about rugby after all. After we have edited the episode it is then mixed so that only the best audio makes it to the final cut. If Jonathan is speaking, with Pottie and Elma silent, the viewer only gets to hear Jonathan’s audio track. The other tracks are mixed-down to an inaudible level. This creates a crisp, clear audio dialogue track that will follow the conversation from one actor to another.
We use Adobe Audition to mix audio with as it seamlessly integrates with all other Adobe software.
Here you can see the audio tracks, backup tracks and the Sound effects layer.
B) Focus and framing:
Focus and framing. The majority of our audience will be watching the show on their smartphones, so we have to take the delivery device into consideration for everything we shoot. That’s also why the animation effects cover the entire screen when we highlight player names or content generated by viewers.Three cameras capture the action for CBB. We try to shoot wider tight shots and we use two different types of Canon models matched so that the grading won’t eat up the deadline. This helps to create an easy viewing experience with nothing jumping out and distracting the viewer from the content itself. The blacks should look equally black in all three frames, the whites should look equally white and the colours must have the same tonal quality throughout.
C) Light up:
The scene should be well-lit. If you don’t know what that means you should think of the frame as black-and-white information and try to offset the natural light with reflectors in darker areas as to even out the contrast of what you are seeing. Even a piece of white cardboard just out of shot, bouncing light back from the dark end of the room, can work magic! If you are using your mobile phone, expose (tap the screen to get the phone to settle on an object) for the highlights like the sun coming through the window or bouncing off of an actors face. If the light on the actor’s face is “burning out” it is probably because the camera exposed for something else in the frame.Tap on the actors face and make sure nothing jumps out. We shoot CBB in our studio and it sure beats trying to manipulate the sun and cloudy patches that used to wreak havoc with continuity back when we shot the show in lapa’s, tennis courts and swimming pools… We use two LED brick panel lights, A Kinoflow Mini Diva with a diffuser and a 2K LED Shark with a large softbox, again – to soften the light on the actors and set.
STEP3: Cut ruthlessly!
Once you have everything ready, don’t be afraid to kill the darlings. “Killing the darlings” is a term editors use not to allow your indulgences to lead you by the nose. Ultimately you are competing for people’s time – an increasingly valuable commodity – and you are competing with; every other piece of content ever made. It is now possible for people to watch anything they want, anywhere they want. Respect that! Make sure that every 5 seconds they choose to look at your work, will be 5 seconds worth their time. If it means that you have to direct the actors to get to the point faster, do it. If it means that you will lose a great joke for saving them 10 seconds to wade through what may eventually seem like an eternity – do it. It will pay off in other ways.
We typically record about 22 – 25 minutes of content per episode, and yet, the average length of CBB is 8.5 minutes. Cut to, and constantly feed your edit with pace, pace and more pace.
STEP4: Give it away!
This model to show the relationship between making it about the community and making it about the brand. For CBB the brand is Radio Raps. Not sure if we mentioned the term “Radio Raps” once in the 26 episodes we produced in 2019. It’s not about that – it’s all about the community.
STEP5: Make it pretty.
To quote Peter Parker’s dying uncle: “With great power comes great responsibility”. Every content creator has a responsibility to produce things as good as he or she possibly can. If you ever think: “It’s good enough…” It probably isn’t. In a digital age, we now create things that could hang around for hundreds of years. Don’t be the guy who didn’t take out the cup in the background or who forgot to level-out the couch. We have learned this the hard way. It matters!
STEP6: Be patient…
Creating a show to fuel a brand is a marathon – not a sprint. There will be times when you will feel disheartened about not getting the numbers that you were hoping for. Forget about the numbers. This is not about numbers it’s about establishing your brand as a credible source of whatever it is. It is about the one middle-aged guy in Bothaville responding to your audience question in a way that his pronunciation of “Lizo Gqoboka” becomes part of the narrative of your show and a KPI in the culture of your industry.
We have never “boosted” CBB – ever. Getting 40 000 views from true fans is a much more sustainable model than throwing $100 at it to get 200 000 views from people who are indifferent. Indifference is the real enemy when it comes to your brand. Whatever you do – make your shit count for something!
John-Henry is the founder and owner of The Media Farm and has been creating television, films, music and digital content for more than 15 years.