Ze Frank is using Kickstarter to bring back The Show, his brilliant video podcast. Except this time, he’s calling it A Show, because of course it’s a different thing.
One of the many things I loved about the original Show was that it was the first video podcast I’d seen that felt really made for the extreme constraints of the video iPod.
Often, episodes would have Frank almost entirely in tight closeup, filling the frame, as if he were inside your iPod, talking to you. When there were cuts, they were just cuts in place, with no change to the angle of the shot. Sometimes, there would be a smash cut, in the same way that 30 Rock uses a smash cut to another scene to set up a punchline - but it would just be to Frank, doing something different, or making a funny face.
At the time, most of the video I watched on my iPod was either made for a larger screen originally (like 30 Rock), created by people who were used to framing shots for a larger screen (leaving me watching very little people talking), or created by people who didn’t know much about film and TV editing at all (leaving me watching a static medium closeup shot of someone just talking). This meant the video felt either far away or deeply dull. The Show was (almost) never dull, and it was very up-close and personal.
While I’m not going to downplay Frank’s skills as an entertainer, master of ceremonies, and duck wrangler, I think part of the reason The Show garnered such a large and enthusiastic fan base was that it used the constraints of the small screen as an advantage, to build a relationship with an audience. It used those constraints and those tight closeup shots to make something that felt so directly addressed to you, it was easy to relate to and connect to - and from there connect to the larger community Frank worked hard to build around it. It used those constraints so well that Frank appeared at the SxSW Interactive Awards in an iPod costume, joking that no one would recognize him outside that frame:
Frank ended The Show a year after it began, back in 2007. A lot has changed since then, including the devices on which we’re likely to watch a video podcast. I’m backing A Show on Kickstarter because I really liked the original, but I’ll admit I’m also curious to see how or if the way Frank does the show evolves to meet the challenges of the wider range of screens it’ll be watched on in 2012.